Parables of Jesus: Lazarus & Rich Man
Two men, Tom and Joe, have loved baseball more than anything their entire lives. One day Tom says to Joe, “If you die before me, promise me you’ll come back and tell me if there is baseball in Heaven.”
Joe agrees and makes Tom promise the same thing. About a week later Tom dies.
One night Joe wakes up to somebody calling his name. Scared, he asks, “Who’s there?”
Suddenly Tom appears and says, “Hi Joe. I’m coming here from Heaven. I’ve got some good news and some bad news. I’ll give you the good news first, there is baseball in heaven!”
Joe gets very excited, but then he asks, “What’s the bad news?”
Tom looks at him grimly and says, “I looked at the lineup and you’re pitching tomorrow.”
Last week we talked about the unrighteous steward and how he was a bad example to make a good point.
Today we are going to look at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Before we get too far, let’s get something out of the way. This is not the same Lazarus that Jesus raised from the dead after 4 days. The name Lazarus was common in that day; this is a story of a different Lazarus.
Jesus begins by contrasting the physical lives of these two men – the rich man and Lazarus
Not named but identified with the Latin word dives which means rich.
Jesus said the rich man was:
● Habitually dressed in Purple and fine linen
○ Purple was a symbol of wealth or royalty.
○ This man spared no expense in his clothing
● Joyously living in splendor every day
○ Fared sumptuously – he ate gourmet meals made with exotic and expensive ingredients
The name Lazarus means God helps
As we see from this parable God does help him.
Jesus says Lazarus:
● Laid at the gate of the rich man – he wasn’t able to work so he went where the money was. He knew he had a good chance of getting his needs met if he went to the gate of the rich man’s house.
● Covered in sores
○ He was in poor health and had wounds on his legs so the dogs would come and lick them.
● Longing to be fed with scraps – waiting for food
○ There was no silverware back then so they used chunks of bread as napkins to wipe their hands and threw them on the ground as waste. But that was what Lazarus desired, even scraps of waste because he had nothing to eat.
Notice the contrast between the two men.
The rich man had more than he needed. He lacked for nothing physically.
Lazarus had nothing and lacked almost every physical need. No food, no shelter, no appropriate clothing
But notice this, both men die.
They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes
Notice how differently these two men’s lives end
The rich man died and was buried – most likely he had an elaborate funeral with the mostly richly appointed amenities.
Lazarus died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. What an amazing exit to this life!
Quick note – this parable is not a commentary on wealth determining the eternal future of a person.
Although Jesus did say it was harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven it doesn’t mean that it was impossible. It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of the heart.
Many times people assume that the rich on earth will not inherit the kingdom of God and the poor on earth will definitely receive a mansion in heaven.
That is not always the truth.
The deciding factor is what they do with the grace of Jesus.
Our physical blessings are only temporal, but spiritual blessings are eternal. We can’t base our future on our present blessings or shortcomings, our future is based on our faith and trust in Jesus Christ!!
God knows the heart of the individual. Luke 16:15b says, “God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”
There are poor people who continue to reject the grace and mercy of God who will also end up separated from Him for all eternity.
There are rich people who love God and understand they are just stewards of God’s blessings and serve Him with everything they have!
Now let’s talk about Hades.
Hades – this is not hell. Hell is Gehenna
The greek word for Hades is the same idea as Sheol – the Hebrew word for the place of the dead. Sometimes described as the grave.
This was a place that existed only during the time before Jesus completed His redemptive work on the cross. Hades does not exist any longer. But it did during this time, so let’s discuss it.
Look at vv. 23-26
Both men have died and both are in Hades.
But they are having very different experiences there.
The poor man Lazarus is being comforted in Abraham’s bosom
The rich man is in torment and agony
And he was able to see Lazarus far off in the comfort of Abraham’s bosom. It’s interesting isn’t it? How the rich man who had every comfort in life is now begging even for a drop of water to ease his pain.
And the poor man who had to beg for even a scrap of bread is in the arms of the patriarch Abraham being comforted.
Jesus describes a huge Chasm that exists between them.
Jesus says the chasm is fixed. That helps us understand the permanence of our decision to either reject or accept the grace and mercy of our savior.
(insert picture of gospel tract showing the separation of God and man and the great chasm between)
Some of you have seen the gospel tract that depicts man on one side of a mountain and a great chasm between with God on the other side. There is no way for man to cross the chasm. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross to take on the punishment that was meant for us in order to bridge the gap and bring us back into fellowship with God.
The cross is the only way we can be united with God
Here’s the teaching point of the parable:
Once you’ve made your choice there is no going back.
We only have this life to respond to Jesus.
Jesus told His disciples in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Luke also wrote in Acts 4:12 “and there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
The rich man knowing his decision has been locked in asks Abraham for a sign for his brothers who are still living.
He asks for Lazarus to go to his father’s house to warn them to turn to the Lord.
His thinking is that if they see some type of sign like someone rising from the dead they will surely turn to the Lord.
But Abraham argues that if they won’t even listen to the words of Moses and the Prophets they won’t be swayed by a person raised from the dead.
There is no sign that will change the mind of one who has rejected the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 9:27 “and inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,”
There is no Hades, there is no purgatory or waiting place.
Jesus has come and fulfilled what God promised and we have this life to respond to God’s grace or reject it.
When our time on earth is over we will meet him face to face and we will either be judged for our works or forgiven because of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.
Be Bold enough to Speak about Heaven AND Hell
Heaven and Hell are both real.
We can look in the Bible and find out some details about heaven. Streets of gold, God wiping away all our tears, no more pain. Glorified bodies. People don’t mind talking about heaven. It’s exciting to think about and wonderful to know we have a place prepared for us where God dwells!
We must not be afraid to tell the world about hell.
It is not the most popular thing to discuss, but it is real and the world is perishing if we don’t share the good news of Jesus with them.
There is no need for salvation if people don’t understand that they stand to face the most horrible punishment imaginable. Hell is real and even the nicest, friendliest, people with the best intentions are bound for Hell if they don’t receive God’s grace and forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ.
It’s not about how much we have or how much we don’t have, but whether or not we trust Christ for salvation by grace through faith!