This morning we welcomed Ian Jones who preached from Luke chapter 16, verses 19-end, The parable of the rich man and the beggar. Ian began by telling us that if there’s one thing we can take for granted it is that we are going to die. The Pharisees took for granted where they would spend eternity, they judged by outward appearance. Jesus was speaking to Pharisees who thought to be rich was a sign of God’s blessing. They mistakenly believed that to be rich or a descendant of Abraham automatically gave them the right to spend eternity with God. But the Lord told them this parable to show God is not like Man and looks not on outward appearance but the changed heart. The parable was to show the Pharisees how wrong they had got it.
In the parable we see the contrast between the rich man and the beggar Lazarus – an exaggerated contrast. We see extreme differences in their respective positions. One is very rich, one is very poor. One has every reason to live whilst the other has nothing to live for in this world. The rich man was clothed in purple which was worn only by royalty. It was very expensive and very rare. Here is a man who was out to impress others. He wore fine linen, the kind of garment worn as under-clothes next to the skin, worn by a man wanting to feel good about himself. He fed sumptuously, living an extravagant, luxurious lifestyle. The beggar Lazarus sat outside the rich man’s gate, a large, ornamental gate showing the man would have had a large, extravagant house. We know what the man wore, what he ate – all about his outward appearance but nothing about his character.
Likewise, we are told nothing about the beggar’s character, just his outward appearance. He was laid at the rich man’s gate, illustrating that he was crippled. The man was full of sores and had no comfort. He had an awful lifestyle having to beg. He received very little, longing to eat the crumbs from the rich man’s table.
The extremes come to a head when the beggar and the rich man die. The beggar died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom. Nothing is mentioned of a burial, he was probably thrown on a rubbish heap and forgotten. In contrast, the rich man was buried. This would have been a state affair with people speaking about what he had achieved in his lifetime. Lazarus accomplished nothing but the rich man accomplished so much.
But the twist comes after death. Jesus tells us where the rich man and the poor man go, which is opposite to what people would have thought. They expected the beggar to go to hell and the rich man to go to heaven. This would have been a shock to the Pharisees. Today we are no different to the Pharisees, often making assumptions on outward appearances.
Why are we given the name of the poor man? Possibly it is because he was known by God. When we are told a person’s name in Scripture it is because it is important. God knew this man, he was important to God as an individual. God’s love was shown to him. It is a wonderful thing to know that a believer will be carried to the Lord when they die. Pain and suffering will be gone. When he died the rich man saw Abraham afar. The Pharisees looked to Abraham believing they were his descendants and this assured them a place in heaven. The rich man asked for mercy but it was too late. His position was fixed in torment. We see a view of life after death given by Jesus. The rich man asked for Lazarus to go back to earth to warn his five brothers but they had Moses and the prophets. They had the Word of God.
How is it for us today? It is easy for us to assume we will all end up in heaven if we live a good life. But we cannot take things for granted. Are we known to God or not? We came into this world as sinners. If we carry on in this way we will have an eternal existence without God. But if we want Christ in our lives and live day to day for Him we will have eternity with Christ.