Today's Lectionary Text
Luke 16:19-31“There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.
“The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’
“The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’ Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”
I’ve been preaching lately on the parables told by Jesus, and to conclude the series I chose the parable of the “Rich Man and Lazarus,” mostly because of a book I recently read: “The Case for Heaven,” by Lee Strobel.
Strobel was an atheist whose wife accepted Christ as her savior. Strobel — an investigative journalist — set about to prove her faith wrong. Instead, what he learned has turned into a series of books proclaiming Jesus as Lord, and Strobel is now a well-known evangelist. His book explores our hunger for immortality, the difference between our soul and conscience, and the realities we face of judgment for our sins without the intervention of Jesus on our behalf.
But one chapter really gripped my attention. It dealt with near-death experiences, and one tale in particular gave me goosebumps. A person goes into cardiac arrest in a hospital room and after being “brought back” provided a detailed description of the treatment received by medical professionals in the room. I think that’s pretty cool, but what was most impressive was this person’s description of a red piece of tape on the top side of a fan in the room. When someone took a stepstool or ladder to investigate, sure enough, they found a red piece of tape that nobody could have known was there.
I like the parable of the rich man and Lazarus because while Jesus may have exaggerated at times for effect with his audiences — references to logs in the eye or a camel going through the eye of a needle — when it came to serious topics, Jesus used real-world examples of very real places, things and circumstances to get his point across — a road between Jerusalem and Jericho, sons gone rogue, vineyards and seeds sown by a farmer, to name a few.
Add in Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross that he would be with him in paradise and the statement about many rooms in the Father’s house, and any of us who doubt or question the physical location of a place where we will be in the presence of Jesus can find real comfort and hope — a hope we are tasked with passing along to others.
Strobel is doing so with his book. May we do so in our discussions with others we encounter in life.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Loving God, we don’t deserve an eternity in Your presence, but You have provided a way for us to be with you anyway. We offer thanks for Jesus, and we offer thanks for the words of our Savior to provide the reminder of that opportunity to be in Your presence. Amen.
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