The sermon for our midweek service yesterday was about the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. One interesting fact about this is that it is the only parable where Jesus gives a name to a person in the story.
After Jesus had stated that it was not possible for a man to serve God and mammon, the Pharisees ridiculed him. They tended to be rather wealthy themselves and saw their prosperity as a sign of God’s blessing. Suggesting otherwise made them angry.
Jesus responded with this story. The way we know the rich man was rich was because it said he ate lavishly. In the era before gourmet groceries, that meant that he had enough land to grow his food, pasture his animals, and had the workers to work the land.
Lots can be said about the story but what is interesting is that the rich man had no compunction about suggesting that Lazarus should serve his bidding even in Hell. He wanted Lazarus to go tell his brothers that they needed to change their ways. Abraham responded that the brothers had the Law and the Prophets, and even should a man rise from the dead, they would not believe.
This ended up being true. Jesus had a real friend named Lazarus. Lazarus died, and Jesus raised him from the dead. The Pharisees, rather than seeing this as a sign that Jesus was the Messiah and they should worship Him, instead began to plot to kill him. Jesus knew what would happen. He chose to name the suffering man Lazarus to point ahead to what was coming. And Jesus was right. The rich Pharisees did not believe even when a man who had clearly been dead was standing, walking, talking, and dining with them. He couldn’t have spelled things out more clearly.
And when they did succeed in killing Jesus, and He rose again on the third day, they also refused to put their trust in Him and confess Him as the Messiah. They also saw many come back to life after Jesus was crucified. So they were surrounded with the very sign that Jesus pointed to in the parable, and as He said, they still refused to believe.