Reaping God’s Justice (The Tables are Turned)
Adult 1 Sunday School Class Luke 16:19-31 June 24, 2018
Theme: There is great concern for the inequities in the lives of the poor versus the rich. How will these inequities be resolved? The story of the rich man and Lazarus tells us that the poor will receive their rewards. Please interpret the meaning of the following verses.
The interpretation of the verses is in bold print which follows the original verse in regular print.
Luke 16:19, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.” Jesus begins His parable about the rich man and the poor man and starting with the rich man who was dressed in fine fabrics and stylish clothes. “sumptuously” refers to the rich and costly appearance of his garments. His clothes proclaimed his station in life.
*v.20 and 21, “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.” Here Jesus shows the dichotomy between the rich man in v.19 and the poor man in v’s 20 and 21. These two extremes will become poignant at their deaths in subsequent verses. Jesus was making a point to the Pharisees about the condition of the man called Lazarus (not the Lazarus in John 11:38-44) who was entitled to some pity or concern. However, the Pharisees felt, as many do today, who see the poor as being out of favor with God, and that they are responsible in whole or in part for their own condition.
*v.22,23, and 24, “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.” This reminds me of Matt 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many may be called, but few chosen.” Jesus shows the poor man carried off by angels to Abraham’s bosom, meaning paradise in the afterlife; whereas the rich man was just buried without fanfare which is a euphemism for Hades (i.e. hell). Now Jesus shows the reversal of fortune between the two men. The rich man who had denied mercy to Lazarus, is now asking for it in hell. In verse 23, it indicates that the physical distance between paradise and damnation is a visual distance away. Jesus uses imagery of the righteous souls go to Abraham’s bosom (heaven); while the souls of the wicked reside in the unquenchable flame of torment. There is an impassable gulf that separates the two. We must understand that our lives on earth are only temporary, but what God has for us after our earthly life is eternal.
*v. 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.” Jesus points out we should spend our time on earth following God’s Word, rather than living a self-centered life, and using God’s Word to fit our lifestyle and justify our religiosity (superficially religious). This was the practice of the Pharisees.
*v. 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.” There is an unbridgeable chasm between Abraham’s bosom and Hades. One cannot cross from his side to the other. Our study guide states that, “Death visits ten out of ten people and strikes both the poor and the rich— for one, the trials end; for the other, the blessings end; and for both, judgment begins.
*v. 27,28, and 29, “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” Jesus continues the narrative, the rich man in torment realizes that his brothers follow the same religious unorthodoxy as he did, and wants God to teach his brothers the Word, so that they won’t receive the same fate as him. Abraham said that his brothers can learn from Moses and the prophets. (The supposition here that Jesus makes is that his brothers probably won’t listen to the prophets and will follow the same Pharisaical beliefs as he did; thus, ending up in the same place.)
*v.30 and 31, “And he said, Nay father Abraham: but is 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.” Here the rich man is asking Father Abraham to send Lazarus who has died back to his brothers as proof of eternity with God. The rich man is in Hades because of his lack of humility toward his fellow man, and the Pharisaical beliefs he practiced. The Pharisees were a hard-hearted people. Even after they aided in the crucifixion of Christ, after His resurrection they became even harder. It doesn’t mean that a rich man can’t avoid Hades, but he must live out the first two commandments to love and obey God first, and second to love his neighbor as himself.