2010 Luke’s Gospel
Jesus Teaches About Our
Key Verse: 16:25 "But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’ "
In last week’s passage, Jesus urged that each person must decide whether to love God or money. But the Pharisees sneered at Jesus because they loved money and deceived themselves that they pretended to love God too. However the reality was that they failed every day to love God and to be concerned for the needy around them. In order to open their spiritual eyes, Jesus told the story of a rich man and a poor beggar, Lazarus today. The story teaches us what God values and what worldly men value, as well as the results of both. We also get to see the heaven and hell, which is the great reality. Jesus wants us to learn a godly value system and to live before God in light of eternity. Let's consider this passage in three parts.
First, a rich man and a poor beggar, Lazarus (19-21). Let us read verses 19-21. “19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” Here we should not be mistaken by thinking that every rich person is evil, or every poor people are good. There are plenty of poor people who are godless and wicked. And there are many rich people who are godly. Looking at verse 19, we learn about the life style of a rich man. He was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day! Not only that, he probably had best everything; best houses, best cars such as Aston Martin and Lamborghini, many beautiful wives, and roomful of designer clothes and shoes from Gucci and so much more than you can imagine. Whenever and whatever he desired, such as eating fine foods or traveling to the places, it was done for him in an instance. Whatever he pictured and imagined, it could happen. What a life he was enjoying! Don’t you sometimes wish to live such life? Now let us look at the life style of a beggar named Lazarus, and contrast. Looking at verses 20 and 21, we see that first of all, he had no house, but he was living at the gate of the rich man’s house. He was covered with sores because of mal-nutrition and dirty life style. He never was able to eat something that he wanted to. Instead he was always longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. But even that was difficult for him because the rich men’s dogs were the first to eat the leftovers from the dinner table. Verse 21b really shows how pathetic and tough his situation was. Even the dogs came and licked his sores out of pity and affection. Lazarus’ social status was a little lower than even the rich man’s dogs.
In this parable, the rich man is unnamed, while the poor beggar is named Lazarus. This suggests that Jesus had a personal relationship with the beggar. This tells us that we must live lives in a way that we can be known by Jesus. Although people may not recognize and acknowledge us, we must be recognized by Jesus by building a relationship with him. Although we might be looked pitiful to some people, we are precious children of God. Amen. If the rich man had cared for the poor even a little, he would have used his wealth wisely, and God would have been pleased. But the rich man was too selfish.
Although we do not have bottomless luxuries, we cannot deny that we are living in the riches and blessings every day. At least no one here longs for something to fall from the desk to eat something. No one here sleeps at the gate of someone’s house. We are living in America, which is the one of richest countries in the whole world. God has blessed our forefathers and blessed America so much in many ways. However we must pray and struggle to keep our hearts pure and humble before God. And most importantly remember God and count the blessings he has given us at all times. Let us pray to have the heart of sharing and giving rather than holding back what we have for our selfish life. It is okay if you have no money. We can use our time, compassion, and most all our hearts. Let us pray that we may be alert to help the "Lazarus" who is put at our gate. Then God will see, and recognize us later when we go to his place.
Second, two very different eternal destinies (22-23) One day, the beggar Lazarus died. It was the end of his extreme hunger, painful sores, and shame. This actually gives us hope that the sufferings and hardship will eventually end. There is no mention of Lazarus' burial probably because he had none. Perhaps he was thrown out in the streets. However, in heaven, Lazarus' death was big news. As Lazarus breathed his last, God commanded his angels to go and wait upon Lazarus. These angels were powerful and glorious. They treated him with great respect as they sped away. Then, in an instance he was at Abraham's side. This meant that he was now in the kingdom of God (Lk 13:28). There, Lazarus was welcomed into eternal life in the presence of God, and stood side by side with Abraham. Now Lazarus could enjoy an abundance of good things. But most of all, he was in the presence of his Lord, who had loved and served him in his time of need. It was the day his dream came true, and he was really happy.
The rich man also died and was buried. His death was big news on earth. It was announced everywhere; in newspapers and on television. His funeral was a huge social event like that of a celebrity. However, as this grand ceremony took place, what was actually happening to the rich man? Look at verse 23. "In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side." At the very moment that he died, the rich man went straight to hell. One moment he was among family and friends in his luxurious room. The next moment he was in a place of terrible torment. His material goods were all useless to him now. Wherever he looked there was only torment. So he "looked up." Then, in the far distance, he recognized Abraham. And right next to Abraham, he saw Lazarus. What a surprise! He has been blinded by his greed, and only now did he begin to be aware of others. But it was too late! This is Jesus’ clear and urgent message to us; we must not seek and indulge in pleasures and ignore God and the needy people. Otherwise, we might be the ones surprised and shocked to be in hell.
People don’t like to think about death. Especially for us, teenagers and early 20s, our death seem so far away that it’s never going to come. But the truth is we all die regardless how old or how young. And it is never early to think about our death and more importantly the afterlife. People of this world do not want to think about after life. They offer themselves to follow the sinful desires and the pattern of this world, and hope that that the physical death is the end of everything. But Jesus is very clear in his message today. There is death, and after death, we are once again alive in our spirit. And there are only two alternatives: heaven or hell. One minute after each person dies, he or she will be in heaven or hell. And how does this get decided? One's eternal destiny is determined by how we live in this world.
Third, the justice of God, the total separation of heaven and hell, and the way of salvation (24-31). In verses 24-31 Jesus tells of a conversation between the rich man and Abraham. There are three main points that we do not want to miss.
In the first place, God is just. The former rich man was in great agony. He was burning in a terrible fire that would never end. So he cried out to Father Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and to cool his tongue. He did not request to get out of hell, but to receive a little comfort. How did Abraham answer? Look at verse 25a. "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things....'" Abraham's words of truth revealed God's justice. The former rich man had received what he valued on earth: money and luxurious living. That was what he really desired, and that was what he received. He had no room in his heart for God. God had been shouting at him through Lazarus' suffering to stop and help the needy, but he had ignored it. He had lived a totally selfish life. Now he had to face the consequences. God is the God of justice.
On the other hand, Lazarus received bad things on earth. These bad things were not a result of his choice. They were his given situation in life. He suffered from hunger, poverty and disease. But through these sufferings, he sought God and received spiritual help from God. He made a personal relationship with God. From a human point of view, it seemed like his life was only suffering. But God knew his heart and was pleased by his faith. God wanted to reward him. God did not reward him fully in his lifetime. God saved his true reward for the life to come. It was in heaven that he could be comforted forever. His eternal reward was far greater than his sufferings on earth. Saint Paul said, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Ro 8:18). Here we learn that God is well aware of our sufferings and hardships that we go through daily. God knows our heartaches and the secrets that we keep in ourselves. Although worldly people do not care about our hard work in the Lord, God knows our passion and credits us with great blessings. Do you believe this? Let us believe this, and work hard in the Lord this summer! Amen.
In the second place, there is no relationship of heaven to hell. Look at verse 26. "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us." When we study Abraham's words carefully, we learn that there may be some who want to trade places. Those in hell want to get out to avoid the torment. Those in heaven may miss their loved ones and desire to go and visit them, going to hell to do so. But no one will be able to cross from one side to the other. One's eternal destiny is settled at the time of death and it is final and irreversible.
In the third place, those who listen to the word of God will be saved (27-31). When the former rich man heard Abraham's words, he began to beg that Lazarus go to his father's house on earth so that he might warn his five brothers. He did not want them to come to the place of torment with him. Even though he lived a sinful life, he had compassion for his brothers. He eagerly desired that they would not join him in the eternal punishment. How does Father Abraham respond?
Abraham told him, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them." Moses refers to the Law of God. Together with the Prophets they make up the Old Testament. So Jesus was telling the man that his family members had the Bible and that if they took its teachings seriously they would find the way to be saved. Yes, Bible has power and authority to bring even a lost soul back to the kingdom of God! How precious the word of God is to our souls! How valuable is the time we spend in Bible study when we combine it with faith that leads to obedience. Jesus said in John 5:24, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." When we believe and obey the word of God, God gives us eternal life the moment we believe. The rich family in the story had this precious word of life. Now it was time for them to make their decision.
Knowing this, the former rich man pleaded with Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn them to repent. Abraham said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (31). Many unbelievers in this generation stress that they will believe in Jesus if they get to see Jesus in person. But it does not work that way, and they are making all the excuses that they can. God has already given us the Bible which teaches us the way of salvation. We must believe and obey the word of God now. When we do so, we receive eternal life from Christ at that very moment.
We need to all ask ourselves an important question today, and consider this carefully. Are we ready to enter the kingdom of God? When God calls us today or the world ends today, where are we heading? Heaven or Hell? If you are not sure, let us start praying to make sure that we will go to the paradise. Most importantly, we must know that everything starts from our sincere repentance of our selfishness and all sorts of sins. Then, Jesus will grant us the forgiveness as well as the assurance to enter the kingdom of God. Amen.
Today Jesus challenges us to have a godly value system that guides our decisions in this lifetime. We learn to treasure the word of God, for it gives us eternal salvation. May God bless us to love God, to love God's word, and to use our money to care for the needy people around us.
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