9/25:The Rich Man and Lazarus
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Lately we’ve been getting lots of parables from Jesus.
Stories that Jesus tells to make some sort of point to either his disciples, or
some of his enemies, or sometimes even both.
These stories that Jesus tells are fictional.
They didn’t actually happen.
But at the same time, they acknowledge real truths.
Today’s story from Jesus is no different.
Jesus mentions a rich man, who is not named.
The rich man is feasting sumptuously every day,
And wearing purple (which was a color that was reserved for someone of
especially high status: like rulers and kings.)
There’s also a poor man in this story:
And the poor man is named:
Now, this Lazarus should not be confused with the Lazarus who was Jesus’
The one that he raised form the dead.
We can assume that Lazarus was a somewhat popular name at the time,
sort of like the name “Mary.”
The fact that Jesus gives the poor man Lazarus a name,
And the rich man is not named,
Perhaps as a sign of how God would honor Lazarus in his afterlife.
In the story,
Both men die.
And this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Death is just a fact of life.
No matter what you have:
No matter what you do:
It can’t save you from that most basic fact of human life.
But it’s after their death that the story gets interesting.
The rich man is in agonizing flames,
And the poor man Lazarus gets to hang out with Abraham near the water.
The rich man begs Abraham to give him some relief.
When Abraham refuses,
The rich man asks Abraham to raise Lazarus from the dead to warn his
brothers of the agonizing afterlife if they live the way he did.
How should we read this story from Jesus?
It’s a fictional story:
But we generally take Jesus’ fiction very seriously.
We try to live the Parable of the Good Samaritan;
We try to live the parable of the lost sheep, and the lost coin,
How should we live this parable?
It generally helps us to put a sort of analogy in the parable:
Placing ourselves within them.
We are the lost sheep:
God is the shepherd:
We are the person who helps the Samaritan.
We usually extend some meaning into our lives:
We are lost, God found us:
Now we should live and love like that Good Shepherd and accept
hospitality from Samaritans.
Who are we in this parable?
Are we the rich man who is ignoring the poor man?
Are we the poor man, Lazarus?
Are we the great chasm that has been set up that keeps Lazarus and the
rich man eternally divided?
Like with some of the other parables we’ve been hearing lately,
We could probably find ways to fit ourselves into many of the characters in
At least at one time or another.
But I’d like to point out a particular analogy,
That was suggested by one of my favorite preachers:
Joshua astutely points out that we are not the rich man.
The rich man, after all was VERY rich.
Jesus explicitly tells us that he is dressed in purple:
A color reserved for someone more rich and powerful than we could even
And we’re not Lazarus either.
Most of us have some sort of economic something.
We have homes and food.
So if we’re not the rich man,
And we’re not Lazarus,
And we DEFINITELY aren’t Abraham:
Perhaps we are the rich man’s brothers.
Remember: In the story:
The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to the world:
To warn his five brothers of the potential torment that awaits them if they
don’t turn their lives around.
Abraham replies by saying of the brothers:
“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets,
Neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
I love this analogy that we are Lazarus’ brothers.
I love that in this analogy,
Jesus comes off pretty funny and playful (even with such a dark story!)
Because someone DOES come back from the dead:
To certify the kind of living that God described through Moses and the
And that somebody:
Is Jesus himself.
We are the brothers:
And Jesus was sent back to warn us.
And Lazarus is at the gate.
The truth is,
As Jesus tells us elsewhere:
The poor will always be with us.
Lazarus will always be at the gate.
But what makes Lazarus LAZARUS,
Is that the rich man does nothing for him.
We have an opportunity to un-write this parable.
We, at this moment,
Can undo what Jesus describes in this parable, right here.
There’s an old rabbinical saying:
That darkness does not end when the sun rises:
Or when someone lights a candle.
Instead, darkness ends when you can look into a person’s eyes and see
When we look at another person and know that they are God’s beloved
That’s when the darkness will end.
We must see others not for what they’ve done,
Or what they can become,
But for their unbreakable status as a child of God.
That’s how we can undo this parable.
All the social improvement plans,
All the money we can give:
None of it will make any difference if we don’t understand this fundamental
The ones we dislike,
The ones we resist,
The ones we argue with:
Are God’s beloved children.
I was struck: in all of the media around Queen Elizabeth’s funeral:
Of something pretty amazing:
Particularly about the liturgy of most mainline churches:
Nomatter who you are:
Nomatter what you’ve done:
We all die.
And should we receive Christian burial in the church:
The same sort of prayer is said over every single person:
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, a sheep of
your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the queen of England,
Or the Poor Man Lazarus.
Or anyone in between.
We are ALL:
A sheep of the fold,
A lamb of the flock:
A sinner redeemed.
We are the rich man’s brothers.
Abraham somehow agreed to the rich man’s request:
As God himself rose from the dead:
And came back to our gate to warn us:
So that we might be brave enough to look at those who are calling for our
And now is our opportunity:
To see them (and ourselves) as the children of God that we all are:
Sheep of the fold:
Lamb of the flock:
All of us.
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