“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “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 16:19-31
Well this is a heavy passage for a Monday morning amidst a pandemic. Let’s put on the dry suit and dive in. I confess I am apprehensive where this will lead, but I will not take the Chicken Chute and float on by so here goes. Jesus is again teaching in word picture and parables. In this visceral vignette Jesus is describing two men, one who has everything and the other who seemingly has nothing. Of course this is the way it looks from the world’s perspective not the perspective of where God resides beyond the great river that no one can cross.
The rich man was apparently successful. He had fine linen to wear and lived in luxury. He dressed in purple so perhaps he was from a royal family or dynasty. That part is not clear. What is clear is that he was investing his life in the wrong “stocks”. He thinks he has been investing in Google when in fact he has only junk bonds worth nothing in the light of eternity. He was totally neglecting the things that matter in exchange for a comfortable coffin.
Lazarus on the other hand was by all earthly measures a “loser”. He was sickly, lame, and probably had no money or income. He was outside the rich man’s gate and apparently invisible to the rich man while they were alive. This will change after they both cross over and leave this earth. The crossing over process involved angels accompanying Lazarus into the undiscovered country and to Abraham’s side, but no one came for the rich man. He was simply buried in the ground and sank into “Hades” where he was apparently in perpetual torment by fire and thirst. His thirst is probably a consequence of his willful disconnection from the spring of Living Water that God freely offers to all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
The rich man is apparently able to see across the great chasm that separates him from Lazarus and Abraham. He pleads with Abraham “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ The rich man was clearly disconnected from his water supply, but I find it interesting that the rich man does not seem to be repenting of his earthly spiritual blindness, but rather follows the old habits of his earthly body – focusing only on his physical needs (water). I do not know what would have happened if he had cried out with with humility and repentance, confessing his thirst for God.
Abraham’s response is reminiscent of the concept of Kharma, minus the multiple incarnations part; “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” This idea of a great chasm separating heaven and hell, the earthly from the spiritual, is one that has come up many times, but not in this form. Most of the previous references talked about a river that no one can cross on their own power.
Jesus offers many glimpses of the spiritual realm, for those who have eyes to see, through the window between the worlds that He is providing. Abraham alludes to this when he says “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.” Well there is the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus came to bridge the great chasm and even with this amazing demonstration of love many will not be convinced. Jesus was laying it all out here, he would have to die, descend into Hades, and rise again to provide the bridge that people need to span the spiritual chasm that separates us from God.
Prayer: God help us to focus on the important spiritual things in life rather than on our physical needs. Help us to see the needs of others and work to meet those needs.