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Thoughts on the Rich Man and Lazarus

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  • Thoughts on the Rich Man and Lazarus

    What can we learn from this parable?

    Link

    -------

    What does this parable tell us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    I am sometimes engaged in debates on the final fate of people and particularly, the unbelievers. Do they go to a place of torment or are they annihilated? Sometimes, many people will go to Luke 16 with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to get some answers. It’s understandable, but this parable is really not about the nature of heaven and hell.

    Let’s start with the story. The rich man wears purple. The wording could indicate that this even goes down to his undergarments, the garments people wouldn’t normally see. Why does this matter? Because purple was the color of royalty and prestige. If you were wearing purple, you were a big deal.

    This man lives in luxury every day. Outside his gate though is a man named Lazarus. Note that the rich man has a gate which means he has a good living place. After all, gates were means of protection. This guy can afford some security.

    Let’s start with Lazarus being named. It would bring to mind Eleazar which means God has helped. Some people look at the parable having a man with a real name and say “No other parable has this so this isn’t a parable.” This is understandable, but it is mistaken. The reason Lazarus is named is to show him as a worthwhile and honorable individual. The rich man, who most people would look up to and admire becomes in the eyes of God a “What’s his name?”

    Lazarus meanwhile is someone who is sick and has nothing and dogs lick his wounds. Some people think that the licking of a dog was seen as medicinal. Either way, the message is that dogs are doing more for Lazarus than this rich man, who could clearly afford to help him.

    Lazarus dies and he gets a personal escort of angels. Note that what is said about his death is just that he died. Nothing. No one notices him. The rich man dies and is buried. Burial was important for one’s honor and it is also done by someone else. No one can bury themselves. The rich man is remembered when he dies.

    However, in the afterdeath, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man is in hell. The rich man now has to look up to see Abraham and Lazarus and in all of this, he still sees Lazarus as a tool. This also shows that the rich man was aware of Lazarus since he knew his name. His attitude remains unchanged and he still sees Lazarus as a servant and refuses to even address him.

    He does call Abraham, father, which indicates this was a Jewish man. He also doesn’t want to go to be where Lazarus was, but he wants to bring Lazarus to where he is. Lazarus remains completely silent. This time, he has an advocate and one great one to have, Abraham.

    Abraham also refers to the rich man as son, a familial name. It is showing a degree of care, but Abraham reminds the rich man that in the past, Lazarus had nothing and the rich man had everything. Now the roles are reversed. There is also a chasm fixed so that people cannot go back and forth. This should also be another indication the story isn’t literal. (What would happen if you fell down the chasm anyway? Would you “die” or would it be like a Mario game and you would just reappear where you started?)

    The rich man then asks that Lazarus be sent to his family of five brothers. Again, Lazarus is the servant. However, why does the rich man have five brothers? Jesus didn’t need to be specific. He could have said family and it would have worked. Why five brothers?

    Could it be because in the Old Testament, Judah had five brothers? Judah would be a picture of Jerusalem. Is this Jesus pointing out that Jerusalem itself is under judgment? Quite likely.

    Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man insists that is not enough. Many of us hear this today. It is a common argument today from skeptics that they need God to do something for them personally before they will believe. I have no reason to believe those people are really seeking. Most of them are not interested in diving into the best works they can defending a Christian worldview to see what they really have to say.

    It’s a shame to have some people miss out on God because they are caught in emotional arguments. These same people will often chide Christians for believing for emotional reasons. This is understandable as if atheists shouldn’t make eternal judgments based on emotions, neither should Christians. Many Christians could bear to read some scholarship as well.

    We all know skeptics who are like this. The problem they claim is that there is not enough evidence when normally, the evidence that is there has not really been considered. Sometimes God does give more, but why should He if someone isn’t considering what they already have? Abraham says the rich man’s brothers won’t believe even if someone rises from the dead.

    This is true.

    After all, I have also met a number of skeptics that have said that even if God is real and Jesus rose from the dead, they won’t worship Him. This is normally for an emotional reason. Odds are you have met someone like that too.

    This is not a parable about the afterdeath. This is a parable about those who God honors as well. That’s humbling too. Many of you who look up to me as a Christian to admire, and I hope I am, know my name from my writings and debates. Who is the real hero in the Kingdom of God though? It could be an unknown person that when they die, the world will neither know nor care. Meanwhile, those great celebrities who walk the streets of Hollywood and are known by everyone? They could be the ones that find themselves in a position of shame forever.

    If this is true, you should consider your choices carefully. Before rejecting it also, you should make sure that you have investigated it fairly and don’t just have an emotional reason. If you are a Christian, be living so that you will be honored like Lazarus was when your time comes.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)

  • #2
    I tend to make a different take on the parable:

    Maybe Jesus originally taught it as a parable of a rich man and a beggar. Father Abraham told the rich man that 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luke 16:31) But it was a few weeks before Holy Week that that very thing happened, with a person by the name of Lazarus.

    Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. (John 11:45-53, NASB)
    The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11, NASB)
    That event proving exactly what Jesus had taught, the name Lazarus most likely became connected with the parable.

    But who had five brothers? The high priest Caiaphas. Actually, they were brothers-in-law, sons of the high priest Annas (or Ananus), whose daughter Caiaphas married. Josephus writes,
    Upon learning of the death of Festus, Caesar sent Albinus to Judaea as procurator. The king removed Joseph from the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to this office upon the son of Ananus, who was likewise called Ananus. It is said that the elder Ananus was extremely fortunate. For he had five sons, all of whom, after he himself had previously enjoyed the office for a very long period, became high priests of God -- a thing that had never happened to any other of our high priests. (Josephus, Antiquities, (Niese 20:197-198; Whiston xx.9.1). Louis H. Feldman, trans., Josephus, with an English Translation In Ten Volumes, Vol. X (Jewish Antiquities, Book XX; General Index). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981). 107.)
    Last edited by Faber; 05-18-2021, 10:45 AM.

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