TEXT: LUKE 16:19-310; 1 JOHN 4:16-21; GENESIS 15:1-6


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets – but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh; let him who has ears to hear – hear what Jesus speaks.


Their lives were so very different!  One was successful or had inherited well – There was a rich man.  He dressed to the T’s in a color that indicated respect and position in the community – who was clothed in purple and fine linen.  While most all of us feast on special occasions – a church picnic – an anniversary – seasonal holidays – everyday was special to this man – who feasted sumptuously every day.  His desire to be fed was satisfied with his abundant resources.  His life glitters and shines with fullness and fun!  He was independent and invested in positively enjoying life’s good things for himself!

Their lives were so very different!  At his gate was laid a poor man.  The word doesn’t mean that he was a bit below middle class but rather that he was destitute – an abject beggar!  His destitution included physical deformity or weakness because he couldn’t travel to a hopeful spot for begging on his own power.  Rather he “was laid” at the gate of the other man.  What weakened his physical strength we are not told, but his outward appearance also spoke of sickness – he was covered with sores.  His desire to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table was not satisfied.  Mercy from the other man was not given and therefore not received – Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 


Their lives were so very different even after death!    The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  No burial is mentioned for perhaps he was too poor for a funeral.  Abraham’s side is the place of eternal blessing promised through God’s Word - for Abraham is the father of the faithful – those given righteousness through faith in Christ (Galatians 3).

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – JUNE 22, 2014
TEXT: LUKE 16:19-310; 1 JOHN 4:16-21; GENESIS 15:1-6


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets – but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh; let him who has ears to hear – hear what Jesus speaks.


Their lives were so very different!  One was successful or had inherited well – There was a rich man.  He dressed to the T’s in a color that indicated respect and position in the community – who was clothed in purple and fine linen.  While most all of us feast on special occasions – a church picnic – an anniversary – seasonal holidays – everyday was special to this man – who feasted sumptuously every day.  His desire to be fed was satisfied with his abundant resources.  His life glitters and shines with fullness and fun!  He was independent and invested in positively enjoying life’s good things for himself!


Their lives were so very different!  At his gate was laid a poor man.  The word doesn’t mean that he was a bit below middle class but rather that he was destitute – an abject beggar!  His destitution included physical deformity or weakness because he couldn’t travel to a hopeful spot for begging on his own power.  Rather he “was laid” at the gate of the other man.  What weakened his physical strength we are not told, but his outward appearance also spoke of sickness – he was covered with sores.  His desire to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table was not satisfied.  Mercy from the other man was not given and therefore not received – Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 


Their lives were so very different even after death!    The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  No burial is mentioned for perhaps he was too poor for a funeral.  Abraham’s side is the place of eternal blessing promised through God’s Word - for Abraham is the father of the faithful – those given righteousness through faith in Christ (Galatians 3). 


Their lives were so very different even after death!  The rich man also died and was buried.  We aren’t told about the funeral but his wealth and position would indicate an impressive burial.  Perhaps the mourners were many – the funeral trappings ornate – and the eulogies numerous and long.  But eulogies easily miss God’s mark and all that glitters on earth is not gold!  And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he called out Father Abraham (He is a Jew who claims Abraham as his father) 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. 


This was not a cry of repentance but an arrogant request.  He demands service from the very man he refused to help with his riches in life.  He issues an imperative command – send Lazarus!   He who guzzled as much rich drink as he desired in life now begs for a few drops of cooling water in the burning anguish of hell.  In life he had refused God’s help – didn’t believe he needed it.  In hell he begged to become the one whom God helps.  But it was too late!  A classical word of repentance then falls on his ears – remember!  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.  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.’


Their lives were so very different after death and none may bridge the gap of that divide!  It is appointed for man to die once and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  For him, there is eternal separation from God and those whom God comforts.  Now he (Lazarus) is comforted here, and you are in anguish.  The words are striking!  The image is unsettling!  The truth is also for us to remember and to learn from. 


The rich man was not in hell because he possessed wealth.  Abraham also was very wealthy - as was David and Daniel and Queen Esther.  Lazarus is not in heaven because he was in poverty and need.  It is the love of money – not money itself that is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).  To be blessed by God with earthly wealth is not evil.  To idolize earthly wealth is evil whether one is rich or poor.  Had a beggar like Lazarus pined away with class envy and been controlled by self-pity and greed for gain in his poverty then he would have received eternal anguish.  Had one as wealthy as the rich man not been possessed by his possessions – but viewed them as God’s gift and used them in faith and love – he would have received eternal comfort. 


That brings is to the real and greatest difference between the rich man and Lazarus – the difference that matters for eternity.  After being told that none may cross the eternal chasm between heaven and hell the one in torment said – ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them lest they also come into this place of torment.’  There is an accusation concealed in his apparent brotherly concern.  The veiled accusation is that God didn’t do enough to save him from his eternal anguish.  Since God had apparently let him down – the accusation is that he should surely do more to wake up his five brothers before it is too late. 


But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’   Dear Christians – this is the determinative distinction regarding heaven and hell – the hearing of God’s Word.  Moses and the Prophets is shorthand for the Old Testament and as Jesus proclaimed on the day of His resurrection – they testify to Him (Luke 24:27, 44).  The lives of the rich man and Lazarus are so very different because of faith and unbelief in God’s Word. 


The nature of unbelief is that it does not expect good from God – neither feeling its great need - nor knowing how good and gracious God is.  The nature of faith is to expect all good from God and to rely only on God.  The name “Lazarus” means the one whom the Lord helps and every believer is a true Lazarus.  Abraham was 99 and his wife Sarah only a decade younger when God promised him – your very own son shall be your heir.  It could be translated – out of your inward parts – that is a son out of Abraham’s body.  God continued – number the stars…”So shall your offspring be.”  And he (Abraham) believed the Lord, and he (the Lord) counted it to him as righteousness.  Abraham (99 years old with his aged wife) believed God’s promise concerning his body despite every appearance to the contrary.


So did Lazarus – a sick, hungry, neglected beggar.  Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15) and even now – after his death – the word of his sores and hunger and misery serves us.  God’s pleasure with us is not determined by our monetary treasures or our health on earth.  God is pleased with His children even when they are in pain and sickness.  It is also true that God lays the poor and needy before us as treasures of a different kind – a treasure the rich man did not recognize.  In unbelief – absorbed by passing vanities – his belly as his god – he forgot to exercise love toward his neighbor. 


Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes from the dead, they will repent.’  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.’”  Beloved, death is not the end and God does not owe you a supernatural vision that this is the case!  He has spoken to you by Moses and the prophets.  In these last days He speaks to you also by His crucified and risen and interceding Son.


The nearer we come to the day of our death and to the Last Day the more cunningly the evil foe aims to make us doubt the treasure of God’s Word.  Our eyes lie to our hearts all the time about what is good and true!  Our old Adam pressures us to see earthly wealth and political power and popular favor and good health as indications that all is well.   Our heart is also prone to demand signs that God has not given while disbelieving the words and signs He has given.   Consider all the excitement over something said by someone who isn’t God and who hasn’t died.  As this struggle goes on it is so easy to have “compassion fatigue” – not wanting to see the mission on our doorstep – the many whom God would help with His greatest healing through the proclamation of the Gospel – as well as those He would help with almsgiving in their physical need. 


The Psalmist writes - If riches increase, set not your heart on them (Psalm 62:10).  In Proverbs we read - Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, Who is the LORD? Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God (Proverbs 30:8-9).  Neither you nor I have kept the godly way between riches and poverty.


So what is it that gives you hope that you will be comforted at Abraham’s side?  Only what comes out of Jesus’ side – blood and water!  Why should you who have failed to manage perfectly the treasures God allows you to use and have failed to fully help those needing mercy in your life hope to join Lazarus on the godly side of the eternal chasm?  Only because of another chasm God has decreed – the one between you and your sin!  As far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). 


The one true Lazarus was also a certain rich man who came down from heaven.  He had nowhere to lay His head.  The purple robe that briefly adorned His body covered a body torn open by flogging.  That robe was paired with a crown of thorns (John 19:1-5).  The dogs that surrounded Him did not lick His wounds in affection.  They were instead a company of evildoers who pierced his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16).  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich!” (2 Corinthians 8:9).


Who is it that gives you hope that you will be comforted at Abraham’s side?  He does – He whose blood cleanses you from all sin!  He is the judge who stands at the door ready to knock.  He has already served your judgment and now covers you with Himself (Galatians 3:27).  With all the authority in heaven and earth He commanded that you be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing is so certain – nothing is so powerful as God’s Word – even when connected with such a lowly thing as water.


The trumpet will soon sound!  When the Last Day is at hand Jesus bids you to straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).  Do you deserve it beggar that you are?  Oh, no, but your heavenly Father desires it for you.  He did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).  Your death in Christ is not an interruption of fellowship with your Lord.  In death you will be temporarily away from your body yet still present with the Lord (Luke 12:43; Philippians 1:23-24).  Judgment Day will be the first time you will experience God’s presence also in your glorified body (1 Corinthians 15). 


It is why the crucified and risen Lord continues to feed you with His body and give you to drink of His blood.  He comes to forgive you and feed you with the food that is needful for you.  He cannot disown His Word of promise.  Sinner that you are – you are also His saint – His holy one – His Lazarus – the one whom the Lord helps! 


Beloved – there are so many others to help in our time and place - in the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a