Luke – Wide Open Doors!
“Ooh, that’s cold”, we say or feel when we are put down, left out, or kicked to the curb in thinking, saying and behaviors of those around us. When it happens in our church communities, it really takes us for surprise and breaks our hearts. Hard hearts in and out of the church setting are rough to take, tough to relate to and even harder to love.
But Jesus loved all people. He prayed for his enemies who would not listen. He prayed for those who only loved themselves. He prayed for those He healed who were only impressed by his healing. He prayed for those who watched his miracles, but were only impressed by what He could do, not Who He was. He prayed for those who did not believe and follow Him as the Son of God. So, maybe He told this story to help the religious elite and onlookers understand the outcome of their hard hearts. Jesus came to seek and to save lost people. The rich and famous, powerful and prolific can be among the lost.
Jesus puts our behaviors on the line. The line between life and death has only two sides. We love like Jesus or we do not. We care or we do not. We seek and desire to have the heart of Jesus or we do not. We find and follow Christ or we do not. Once we have chosen and live there until we die, we cannot cross back over the line after death. It’s too late.
The Truth about where hard hearts will take us is made clear.
Luke 16, New Living Translation
Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
24 “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.’
25 “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. 26 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.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
30 “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.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
DIGGING A BIT DEEPER…
Lazarus was sick and possibly crippled, because he was “laid” at the rich man’s gate daily (see Acts 3:1–2). The only attention he got was from the dogs! The rich man could easily have assisted Lazarus, but he ignored him and went on enjoying his recognition and his riches. Life was comfortable for him and he felt secure.
The rich man obviously had no concept of stewardship, or he would have used part of his wealth to help Lazarus. It is a mystery why he even allowed the beggar to camp at his front door. Perhaps he thought that providing a place for the man was ministry enough, and it may be that some of his wealthy guests occasionally gave Lazarus alms. Did any of them ever recall what the Old Testament had to say about the care of the poor, such as Proverbs 14:21; 19:17; 21:13; or 28:27?
“The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all” (Prov. 22:2). As John Donne said, death is the “great leveler.” The rich man died in spite of his wealth (Ps. 49:6–9) and “was buried,” no doubt with an expensive funeral. But when Lazarus died, he was carried to Abraham’s bosom. What a difference!
Perhaps the beggar’s body did not even have a decent burial, though the Jews were usually compassionate in such cases. Lazarus certainly did not have the traditional Jewish funeral, with its paid mourners, costly spices, and elaborate tomb. After Lazarus’ body was taken away, the neighbors probably said, “Well, we’re glad he’s not around anymore!”
Death takes place when the spirit leaves the body (James 2:26). But death is not the end; it is the beginning of a whole new existence in another world. For the Christian, death means to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1–8; Phil. 1:21). For the unbeliever, death means to be away from God’s presence and in torment.
This narrative refutes so-called “soul sleep,” for both the rich man and Lazarus were conscious, one enjoying comfort and the other suffering torment. It is a solemn thing to ponder one’s eternal destiny and realize the reality of divine punishment.
C. S. Lewis was told about a gravestone inscription that read: “Here lies an atheist—all dressed up and no place to go.” Lewis quietly replied, “I bet he wishes that were so!”
We must pause, pray, asking God to evaluate our own hearts?
Who are we ignoring that needs help?
Who are we?
What side of the line am I on?
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
You died and rose again to save us. Your heart led you to lay down your life for ours. Oh, what love is this! Transform my heart, mind and soul continually until my heart matches the desires of your heart. Help me to love like you love. Give me the eyes of your heart, Lord. Help me to think more like you so I will behave more like you.
In Jesus Name, Amen