“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers– in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:22-31 NASB)
Have you ever thought about why the only character named never says anything in this parable? I have (shocker). I’m not sure I’ve figured it out, but I suspect it has do with Jesus (another shocker – can your heart take it?). Okay, duh, of course it has to do with Jesus, He’s the One telling the parable, but I mean beyond that. I think it has to do with the role of Jesus in our lives as believers.
What drew my attention to that possible explanation was the last statement of Abraham which obviously refers to Jesus’ resurrection. That reference to resurrection is more than the event, it’s the meaning. The reference is to the role it plays in increasing our faith, or at least the faith of those who already have faith. Did you catch that element? The brothers won’t believe someone rising from the dead if they don’t already believe Moses and the Prophets. Part of what the resurrection of Jesus does is increase the faith of His followers. I know, duh again.
What that got me thinking about was my own desire to justify myself (which is what Jesus accuses the Pharisees of earlier). Jesus justifies does He not? So I don’t need to justify myself. In this parable, Abraham fills that role. He justifies Lazarus to the rich man who ignored him his whole life. So Lazarus doesn’t say anything in this parable because he doesn’t need to.
What if I let God defend me? What if I followed the pattern of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, before Herod, and just refused to defend myself? Not very American of me is it? (and there was applause in Europe) I like to defend myself. I feel competent to defend myself. I waste my time defending myself! Think about it, I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus! What am I going to do to top Him? Better arguments, better understanding of the people involved, situation leading up to and following, what? I waste my time.
Lazarus is at peace. Perhaps he wasn’t at peace as dogs licked his sores. But in the bosom of Abraham he’s at peace. What would be the danger of living my life like that now? People would accuse me of pride and arrogance, but I’m silent. I’d be accused of baseless groundless belief, and I’d be silent. I’m a bad leader, and I simply take their shoes off and wash their feet. No PowerPoint slides, no graphics or charts, no clever bullet points, just silence. What if?
I used to live about an hour from the school I attended in Texas back in the 90’s. My wife and I would jet out of the house early and try and beat the rush-hour traffic into town to get to class. One day, the stress of it was particularly bad, I wasn’t able to drive my desired 65 in a 55, or whatever, and I just decided to drive 55…exactly 55. In fact I may have been a smidgen below that. Stress gone. I’m no longer competing for the next spot on the off-ramp, I’m no longer trying to keep someone from getting between me and the person in front of me I’m tailgating. Peace. Okay, I had to leave earlier to make it work, but not much earlier. As it turns out, 55 makes a pretty good average speed when the freeway is crowded. My point is this, once I stopped trying to make my own way, God made a way for me.
So I’m learning the lesson of Lazarus: There’s no need to contend for your own justice. This frees me up to do stuff like forgive others. I see my forgiven state much more clearly when I stop trying to cover up or explain what needs to be forgiven. Funny how that works. It’s something I need to repent of or actually repent toward. Stop defending myself. Go ahead and attack me. My Defender is my Master. I stand, or fall, because of Him, not my own ability to reason my way out of my predicaments. It’s scary to trust Him with that, but there’s so much peace that goes along with it. It’s kind of nice really.
So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be resting in the bosom of Jesus. You’ll have to talk to Him if you have any issues with me; He’s handling my personal “complaint department” today.
That was my view today, what do you learn from this parable?