19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus tells us a parable about two men. One is filthy rich and the other is dirt poor. One was covered in fine purple linen like royalty. The other is covered in sores and slobber. One has the richest foods – the best meat, the tastiest baked goods, the ripest fruit, and the finest drink. The other would be content if he could simply have a crumb that fall from that smorgasbord.
Two men – one rich and one poor.
One man who would have had been wildly popular. The other’s only friends were the dogs who licked his sores. One man lived in a fabulous house that would have made the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. The other lives on the street. The curb was his pillow and the street was his bed.
Two men – one rich and one poor.
One man’s house would have been a feast for your nose. Think of all the smells in L&M Meats, Dakota Bakery, and Widman’s Candy Shop, and they’re all there. But even the sight of the other would have made you plug your nose.
One had every comfort, every luxury, every good thing that you could imagine in this life. The other had nothing.
Jesus tells us about these two men – one filthy rich and the other dirt poor. And the rich man ends up being Lazarus.
Both men die, and everything in this life gets stripped away. The rich man’s food, linens, and house are all gone. They weren’t really his to begin with. He ends up in hell and anguish. Lazarus’ sores, dogs, and slobber is gone, and he is taken by the angels to Abraham’s side where he beholds the face of Jesus.
Before he died, the rich man had probably not even noticed Lazarus watching and waiting for the crumbs from his table. But now, he desires that a tiny drop of water fall from Lazarus’ finger to give him the smallest comfort because, now, all the comforts, all the pleasures, everything the rich man had is gone. True riches are revealed. Lazarus has everything, and the rich man had nothing.
But this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Of these two men, only Lazarus has a name. The name Lazarus means, “one whom God helps.” As our Psalm said, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob” (Ps. 146:5). The rich man has no name, no identity, no Helper. He had only himself, which means he had nothing.
His request for a drop of water from Lazarus’ finger is denied. Abraham tells him, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus bad things. Now, he is comforted and you are in anguish.” If Jesus had not continued to tell this parable, we might think that Jesus is condemning wealth and extoling poverty. But that is not the point. God wants you to have the blessings that He has given you. We know this because of the 7th Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” No this parable is not mainly about the evils of being rich. Instead it is about faith and the Word of God, the Bible.
And watch this because it is so revealing: Abraham tells the rich man that Lazarus cannot help him because of the great chasm between them. So the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers about the horrors of his torment.
Abraham says, “Your brothers have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” In other words, they have the Scriptures, they have God’s Word. They have everything they need to know about the God who wishes they repent and believe, about the God who desires to save them, about the God who wants to be their Helper too. They have a God who wishes to give them a name and a place at His eternal banquet table.
We must listen to the Scriptures in faith. We all need to busy ourselves with God’s Word. We need to hear the Law that points out our sores and boils. We need to hear that our sins we are rightly judged by God as having earned and deserved hell. And we must believe the Gospel which raises up by its very words. The Gospel which tells about Jesus, the Savior of sinners.
When you have the Scriptures, you have everything. You don’t need another message from God. You have Jesus who has risen from the dead to preach to you, not about the torment of hell, but about His mercy and forgiveness.
When you have Jesus as your Savior, it doesn’t matter what you have in this life. Wealth, fame, comforts, luxuries all fade into the background. Because when you have Jesus, all poverty, suffering, sickness, and trials fall into their proper perspective. They will fade. They will vanish, and you can bear those things gladly and willingly.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, you have Jesus, you have the Scripturesu which tell you, “Once, you were a faceless nobody – a sore-covered beggar with no glory to call your own. Once, you had no name, no friends, no father. But because of Christ and His mercy, now, your sores have been taken away, and your anonymity is no more. Now, because of Christ and His cross, Your Father inu heaven knows your face, has called you by name, has taken you in His arms, and given you the glory of His kingdom” (Pr. Hans Fiene). Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.