Sermon Notes, First Sunday after Trinity, 7 June 2015 Anno Domini
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (Luke 16:19-31)
The Gospel text for today, like every textual passage in Holy Scripture, not only bears counsel and guidance to those of the time of their being spoken, but also to us in our day. In the Reformation Church, all preaching was conducted expositorily – that is, the scripture passage itself was used as the outline, substance, and meaning of the sermon. Sermons were not built upon isolated verses often taken out of context. It is God’s Word we are to preach, not ours. In the sermon, it is the solemn responsibility of the preacher to draw direct comparisons to the manner in which the textual passage has direct bearing and meaning to us. God’s Word is not only history, it is also of present currency in our time and for ALL time. It is a Living Word to all who read and believe – but also to those who reject it and incur the curses and wrath that is sure to follow such rejection. Jesus taught in parables to make the Gospel clear and relevant to the people of faith. We must make our preaching relevant as well. The world is very frank in its expressions of evil, so why should the ministers of God be abstruse to the point of obscurantism in preaching?
The text for today is not only a Parable ensconced in real truth, but presented by Christ in a perfect compendium of much broader truths. These truths will escape the understanding of the heathen, but come as refreshing showers on a dry and thirsty land to those who love and cherish His Word. Many will refer to this account of the Rich man and Lazarus as merely a parable; but I disagree due to the fact that this is the only such parable that includes actual names of real people – not the least, Abraham! Before we look more closely at this great parable of Jesus, we must understand that Christ never uses a parable of things physical or spiritual whose principle is not consistent with the truth. This story of the rich man and Lazarus may be just as actual as it is figurative. God’s principles never change and neither does His truth.
From today’s text, there are two opposing personalities involved – a rich man (whose name is not given), and Lazarus, a poor beggar. As we explore the Deep of this Parable, I hope you will be asking yourself this question: “Which am I – the Rich man, or Lazarus?” A good friend of mine from the West Coast recently reminded me of the words of Solomon the King, “9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” (Eccl 1:9-10) Solomon was referring to newness of evil and wickedness – it has always been; but I aver that there does exist, in the Kingdom of Heaven, a newness that is readily and easily seen and defined – the New Creature in Christ that we all become as devotees and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And not only that, but our understanding may reveal new truths (to us) that we never observed in God’s Word before and after many readings. When I refer back to the numerous sermons and devotions I have delivered, or written, concerning today’s text, I am amazed at the newfound gems of truth that emerge with every successive reading of it.
One salient point that immediately comes to fore in this text is the reality of an actual Heaven and an actual Hell. Each reader of this devotion has his final estate in one or the other of these two destinations. Yet another point is this: God does not always provide material reward to His righteous in this world. The tables are often turned so that the wealthy are the wicked, and the poor, the righteous. It does not necessarily need to be so, but often is. Even a very righteous man may be corrupted when he comes into great wealth. He may forget the estate from which he has come, and dwell only on the improvement of his finances.
The deference which Christ shows to the poor man in giving him a Godly name, Lazarus, or Eleazar, is notable. The name means, God is MY Help. We have churches in the AOC in parts of the world in which every member depends upon God alone for the next morsel of food they consume. This Holy name imputes a righteous character to the poor man.
But what of the rich man? He is given no name at all. Why do you suppose this is so? Because if our names are not written in the Book of Life, then they are not written at all. In fact, there are no names in Hell. Why would you need a name there?
19There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day This man was filled with himself and cared not a whit for those around him. He had much more than he needed, yet was unwilling to share a morsel from his well-stocked pantry to a poor man diseased and dying. The love of wealth petrifies the heart and closes its gates of mercy. Christ only refers to this man as a “rich man.” He has no redeeming qualities that recommend him to God.
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores You may wonder why Lazarus is a beggar? Could it be a result of his complete helplessness due to disease. He could not help himself – he had to be helped. Someone must help those around us who are unable, due to tragic circumstances, to help themselves. Before the advent of utopian and socialistic philosophy, the Church and Community were the source of help – and still should be.
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. He desired no great thing – only to be fed the crumbs from the rich man’s table. These the rich man did not need, but it is doubtful that the rich man cared enough to give them to Lazarus. Even though men of means showered no mercy on their own kind, at least the dogs lived up to their reputation of loyalty. The dogs comforted Lazarus – not with food which they had not – but with compassion and love. Are we better than dogs?
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried How casually does the LORD make reference to that grave which awaits every beloved reader of this devotion. It shall come to pass that each of us shall die. Then what?
You will observe a great difference in the disposition of Lazarus after death, and that of the rich man after death. Christ says of the beggar (he) was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom Truly the destination of all righteous souls. Abraham is father, not only to the Hebrews, but all who believe in the Promised Seed – Jesus Christ! What a royal sendoff did Lazarus receive. Though a poor, sick beggar, he was honored with the dignity of being carried by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom. Angels are important heavenly dignitaries, but not so dignified as to ignore any soul that dies in Christ.
How does the honor paid Lazarus differ from the disposition of the Rich Man’s body? The rich man also died, and was buried. He was placed, not in the Bosom of Abraham, but in the depth of the earth – his eternal home, or ultimately, Hell. Instead of the angels carrying him to Abraham’s Bosom, the rich man lies in the cursed soil of the world. Quite well do the final words of a poem by Sir Walter Scott summarize the matter:
“For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.”
But Scott’s words do not fully reveal the extent of the tragedy of such a lifestyle – the fires of Hell await such a one the very moment his eyes are blinded by death.
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Christ does not leave the reality of hell open for question, but states the fact outright. There are fires in Hel, and torments as well. There are no medical stations there to relieve the pain for, in Hell, the character of its citizens rule – NO MERCY! The rich man can see Lazaraus “afar off” in the bosom of Abraham. Heaven is a far off place from Hell. But the wicked can see the delight of those in Heaven.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame The pride of wealth no longer dominates the rich man’s thinking. He takes no longer pride in his fine raiment for that was burned away the moment he was cast into Hell. The rich man begs for that which he had none of in life – MERCY! Lazarus is now rich, and the rich man a beggar. He begs for mercy to be delivered by the very finger of him to whom he granted no mercy. Hell is a hot dry place. The drought never ends there. It is interesting to note that there is no evidence that Lazarus is aware of the rich man’s condition in Hell. Such knowledge might dampen his joy in Heaven for he obviously was a man of compassion as opposed to the rich man. Hell is a place of torment. God sends no one to Hell – we send ourselves.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. We sometimes find men in conditions and circumstances from which we cannot extricate them, but we still should have what kindness we can have and show respectful regard. Observe with what sympathy Abraham addresses the rich man in Hell: He calls him “son!” It is possible that this man could have been a true son of Abraham as was Lazarus had he followed in that faith of Abraham in Christ. But he was more likely a son by hereditary descent and not spiritual. The temporary luxuries of riches born out of greed will avail nothing in Heaven. The pleasure is so temporary, and eternity so very long – endless in fact.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. We must recognize that the distance is so great between Heaven and Hell that none can pass to and from. No one has descended to Hell and returned to tell of it, and the same is true of Heaven regardless the cheap little books of commercial fodder marketed today. If you believe that you can visit Hell, you probably will do so for longer than you wish.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Even the wicked in Hell are aware of the lost condition of their loved ones. Does this give cause for pause? Those in Hell would do anything to save their loved ones (for the damned also love their own) from coming to such a place of hot torment.
. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. Have we, too, heard the voice of Moses from the beginning in Genesis? Have we heard and heeded the writings of the prophets and the Gsopel and Espitles that tell of Christ? If so, it is enough! We need no astounding signs to prove our faith else it is not faith. An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 12:39-40) Is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior enough for you, or do you seek cleverly designed signs of men?
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. Really? Christ rose from the dead and the obstinate, faithlees Jewish rulers still hated Him. Faith is based in hope and love, not sure evidence.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. If our faith is not founded on God’s Word, no other considerations are important. We believe because God’s Love is reflected to our hearts in the hope and reality revealed by Scripture. If our hearts are made of lead, the iron Magnet will not attract it. There must be a kinship (even if distant) in the heart that responds to the Call of God. Do you have that kinship?
Friends, let us consider this last verse more intently. The Jewish rulers claimed to be righteous and Holy, yet, their lives and conduct belied the fact. They constantly pestered Christ to show them a miracle because that would be their only foundation for faith; but miracles are not the foundation of faith – our faith is based upon the Person of Jesus Christ, and His Truth. The Law and the Prophets pointed, as surely as does the Holy Spirit today, to the Lord Jesus Christ! Even if One were to return from the dead, yet will they not believe if they have not known the Mentor of our Faith! Jesus Christ did, indeed, return from the dead, and the rulers of the Jews maintained their obstinacy of faith. They still did not believe! Christ and His Life, Death, and Resurrection are not merely historical facts, but are great stones of faith and remembrance to us. If we do not see our own privilege of eternal life in the resurrection of Christ, we may perish in doubt and loss of hope.
Today, the world and its so-called churches, are morally anemic and fearful to address sin and the devil as the enemy of our souls which they are. Our pastors are afraid to mention sin, or to criticize the secular arm, for breaches of the moral law. Until we identify the enemy and offer the means of biblical defense, what purpose do we serve as ministers and as Christian people?