Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”
“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
Luke 16:29-31 (NIV)
Read: Luke 16:19-31
Consider: Jesus told the story of a beggar and a rich man, both of whom died and their destination could not have been more different. Notice that the beggar is named as Lazarus, while the rich man goes unnamed. Is Jesus thinking of two particular people, or it is purely illustrative of a deeper spiritual point? It is impossible to tell whether or not Jesus is speaking of two actual people who died, but that is not the point of the story. Jesus told many parables about a ‘rich man’, the point of which was to illustrate that some people depend on their own success and wealth, rather than putting their trust in God (see Matthew 19:23; Mark 10:25). We need always to keep in mind that Jewish society at the time saw wealth as evidence of God’s favour and poverty (and/or illness) as a sign that the person was a sinner and was being punished by God.
In today’s reading, we are told: At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores …’ (Luke 16:20). To Jesus’ Jewish listeners they would look upon Lazarus’ poverty and illness as double evidence of his sinfulness. They would hold the view that Lazarus deserved all he got! Jesus’ listeners would also be amazed at Jesus telling them that the rich man ended up in Hades (Hell), rather than in heaven. Surely he must be wrong!
At another time Jesus spoke more openly about the difficulty wealthy people have in coming to God. In Matthew 19:23 we read Jesus saying: ‘… it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples who were with Jesus responded in this way: When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ (19:25). We then read Jesus’ response: Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ (19:26).
Returning to today’s passage we read of the rich man begging Abraham to send Lazarus to his family to ‘warn them’ of their fate (Luke 16:27-28). Abraham tells the rich man that: They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them (16:29). Now we come to the point of this story. We read: No, father Abraham, he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. He said to him, If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (16:30-31). Jesus would later die on the cross and rise again, yet he knew that even this powerful witness would not be enough for many people to put their trust in God.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man teaches us that while we are alive we have an opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation. The story also make it clear that once we die it is too late to make the choice to submit to God. Despite having the Old Testament that testifies of the coming Messiah and the New Testament that speaks of Jesus as the Messiah, many people are not convinced. The New Testament also tells us of Jesus rising from the dead and being seen by many people at the time.
So what about you? Are you convinced by the evidence? What are you waiting for? Now is the time to repent and accept God’s gift of salvation.
Seek the Lord while he may be found: call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7)
Pray: Father, we thank you that your message of salvation is seen throughout Scripture. As Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, he died and rose again as evidence of his power over death. May we trust the evidence we have and commit ourselves wholly to you. Amen