“Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’
But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'”Luke 16:22-31
One person didn’t like my final question from yesterday. “Why is Jesus “teaching” this stuff?” Is Jesus teaching error? To ask such a question seems somewhat disrespectful of the LORD. How can the One who said, “I am the truth” teach a lie? I addressed the essence of this issue when we looked Pilate’s question” What is Truth? In John 18:38 in Gem 113. Jesus gave the perfect answer to Pilate: silence.
To utter a single truth would have been to obscure the living truth that He was. By confining truth to a small verbal part of our lives we condemn ourselves to being a contradiction, which is to say we condemn ourselves to being untrue. I become a hypocrite if the verbal part of my life remains true but my inner life is false. If I am not living truly, my speaking truths makes my condition worse, not better, because it hides the corruption beneath the surface until finally my words and doctrines themselves are corrupted from within and are transfigured into lies. [Art Katz]
How can this One who is the Truth utter untruths. He can’t or He would be inconsistent with Himself and therefore false?
No Jesus is not teaching nonsense. Most commentators agree on this point even if they differ on the symbolism contained in this parable. It must be a parable; it cannot be a story, much less a true story. This event didn’t happen – namely Lazarus and the rich man. Rather Jesus has cleverly crafted a parable using the Pharisees own teaching against them. They would have recognized where it came from and been convicted by it. We will see as we pick it apart in subsequent days how impactful it would have been to them and how it would have left them defenseless. Their theological position was undefendable anyway.
Remember we have already established that this parable was spoken to the Pharisees themselves. (See Gem 1071). Notice that this parable of the Lazarus and the rich man runs right on from the end of the passage we looked at in 1071. This parable was specifically for the benefit of the Pharisees. The Pharisees view of the ones who would go to heaven and the ones who would be in hell are encapsulated in this parable but reversed. That is where the reversal comes. Not that God hates money and all who have money will have none in the afterlife, while all who had none in life with be rich in the afterlife. That doesn’t make sense. Neither was the fact that the rich man had lots of money the cause of him finding himself in Hades. Having money or not having money doesn’t determine the outcome. Rather the focus is on how you use it, but the focus here is on what the Pharisees believed. They believed that the blessing of God was associated with material blessings. It is the age old trap of wealth, health and prosperity being a sign of God’s blessing. Imagine their shock at this parable. What they expect is not in fact what happens. The ones they expected to be in paradise or at the Bosom of Abraham were the rich with material blessing. After all that is the sign isn’t it? Wrong! Furthermore, the Pharisees believed all ‘sinners’: publicans, tax-collectors, the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, lepers, people with other skin diseases, the mentally insane, would all burn in the everlasting fire. These people were clearly sinners because disease and sickness and the lack of material blessing marked them as such.
In addition to this, note the frequency of reference to being a Son of Abraham. The Pharisees also believed that Gentiles and Samaritans were doomed to the lake of fire too by virtue of being non-Jewish. The Pharisees’ teaching determined exactly who would go to be with “Father Abraham” (Luke 3:8), and who were destined for Hades. Only those who followed all the rules of the Law, and the extra laws of the Pharisees themselves would be with “Father Abraham” in the afterlife. “Our father Abraham” is a common phrase in the Jewish Mishnah (e.g. Aboth 3:12; 5:2,3,6,19; 6:10; Taanith 2:4,5). They prided themselves in the fact that they were sons of Abraham. They were the physical descendants of Abraham. But Jesus has been talking to them before in Luke (see Gems 822–825) about the new order, the new system. It is the same system Paul talked about when he said circumcision is not circumcision of the body but circumcision of the heart. These Pharisees were just not getting it. Note for yourself how many times in Luke’s gospel we have situations depicted when Jesus ate with people who He should not have been associated with. This has been coming for a long time. So many times they challenge Him about who he eats with – sinners and tax collectors. The filth of society – and the poor and destitute. Sure sign of the fact that they are sinners in the minds of the Pharisees. God’s blessing doesn’t rest on them. It is the rich, the respectable, the scribes, the experts in the Law, the rulers of the synagogues, the priests and high priests, and the Pharisees themselves who are heaven bound. All of the concepts in the story of Lazarus and the rich man stem from the teaching of the Pharisees themselves. It is the coup de grace of Jesus’ argument against their constant needling and opposition.
The Pharisees didn’t teach that the righteous went to Heaven. Heaven was for God alone (Psalm 115:16). The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body soul and spirit. The Pharisees taught a resurrection and judgement on earth. Abraham’s Bosom was the waiting room. All the sons of Abraham would be welcomed by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob into the afterlife. According to Jewish myth, espoused by the Pharisees, Zephaniah was able to cross by angelic boat from one side of Hades to another. Jesus contradicts this – “a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone else cross over from there to us” (v.26) Another contradiction is that in the myth Abraham, Isaac and Jacob intercede for those in torment in Hades. “As they looked at all the torments they called out, praying before the Lord Almighty saying, ‘We pray you on behalf of those who are in all these torments so you might have mercy on all of them.’ And when I saw them, I said to the angel who spoke with me, ‘Who are they?’ He said ‘Those who beseech the Lord are Abraham and Isaac and Jacob”. (Apoc. Zeph. 11:1-2).
Jesus was showing the teaching of the Pharisees to be false and holding it up to ridicule. Every one present knew, according to Pharisees teaching, Lazarus should have gone to Hades and the rich man ought to have been welcomed into Paradise by Abraham himself. This one clothed in purple, the symbol of royalty and privilege, a Hebrew son of Abraham was rejected by Abraham himself, the very one who ought to have welcomed him in. This is why some see it as essential that the rich man symbolizes the High Priest. The High Priest is rejected by Abraham, oh the ignominy. The mythical ferry boat across the chasm in Hades was not running that day. Interesting isn’t it, that Roman and Greek mythology included the River Styx as the entry point to the underworld? Don’t be sucked in by popular mythology! Truth is Truth. Yes even in the midst of the relativistic worldview of today. Paul specifically warned them to “Pay no attention to Jewish myths” (Titus 1:14) When the rich man asks Abraham for mercy he is refused. What a shock that is for this son of Abraham. Then he asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to his house to warn his family. No sorry there won’t be another Lazarus resurrection.
This parable was never intended to teach us about the specifics of heaven and hell; it is not a road map of what heaven is like. Rather it is a perfect example of satire as Jesus pillories the Pharisees, skewers them on the point of their own teaching and holds them up to ridicule. He exposes the Pharisees teaching for what it was – mythology. Notice at the end of the parable the Pharisees have slunk away.
Well I trust I have given you a plumb line for measuring fact and fiction in the Lazarus and the rich man parable. But we haven’t finished yet. There is more to suck out of it. Hang on to your purple robes and keep those sores covered.
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.John F Kennedy
Most people live in a myth and grow violently angry if anyone dares to tell them the truth about themselves.Robert Wilson
I become a hypocrite if the verbal part of my life remains true but my inner life is false.Art Katz
If I am not living truly, my speaking truths makes my condition worse, not better, because it hides the corruption beneath the surface.Art Katz
Jesus gave the perfect answer to Pilate’s What is Truth question. Silence. To utter a single truth would have obscured the living truth that He was.Art Katz