Lazarus and the rich man - a story of unbelief

277 lazarus and the rich man a story of nonsense

Have you ever heard that those who die as infidels can no longer be reached by God? It is a cruel and destructive doctrine, the proof of which is a single verse in the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. Like all biblical passages, this parable also stands in a specific context and can only be understood correctly in this context. It is always bad to base a doctrine on a single verse - even more so if it is in a story whose core message is completely different. Jesus related the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus for two reasons: first, to denounce the refusal of the faith leaders of Israel to believe in him, and, secondly, to refute the widespread assumption that wealth is a sign of God's goodwill, while poverty is proof of his disgrace.

The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus is the last in a series of five others that Jesus told a group of Pharisees and scribes who - greedy and complacent as they were - had taken offense at Jesus caring for the sinners as well and shared a meal with them (Lk 15,1 and 16,14). Before, he already had the parable of the lost sheep, which tells of the lost dime and that of the lost son. With this, Jesus wanted to make clear to the publicans and sinners, as well as to the resentful Pharisees and scribes, who thought they had no reason to kiss, that there is more joy in God in heaven over a sinner who begins a new life than over ninety-nine others who do not need it (Lk 15,7 Good News Bible). But that's not all.

Money versus god

With the parable of the dishonest steward, Jesus comes to the fourth story (Lk 16,1-14). Their main message is: If you love the money like the Pharisees, you will not love God. Turning specifically to the Pharisees, Jesus said, "It is you who justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts; for what is high in men, that is an abomination before God (v. 15).

The law and the prophets testify, according to the words of Jesus, that the kingdom of God has entered and that everyone is forcibly intruding (v. 16-17). His message is that as you value that so much, which is high on the people's agenda and not what pleases God, you reject his invoking call - and thus the chance - to find Jesus in his kingdom. Verse 18 expresses, figuratively, that the Jewish faith leaders renounced the law and the prophets who referred to Jesus and thus turned away from God (see Jer 3,6). In verse 19, then, in the previous four parables, begins the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus, as Jesus told them.

A story of unbelief

There are three main characters in the story: the rich man (who stands for the money - hungry Pharisees), the poor beggar Lazarus (reflecting the social stratum that was despised by the Pharisees), and finally Abraham (whose womb in Jewish is as much as comfort and well - being) Peace in the hereafter symbolized).

The story tells of the beggar's death. But Jesus surprises his listeners with the words: ... he was carried by the angels in Abraham's lap (v. 22). That was exactly the opposite of what the Pharisees would have suspected in a man like Lazarus, that such people as this one were poor and sick just because they had been condemned by God, and therefore after their death nothing but agony to expect hell. But Jesus teaches them a better way. Her point of view is just exactly wrong. They knew nothing of his father's kingdom and were mistaken not only for God's estimation of the beggar, but also for his judgment of them.

Then Jesus brings the surprise: when the rich man had died and been buried, he - and not the beggar - had seen himself exposed to the torments of hell. So he looked up and in the distance Abraham with Lazarus himself sitting at his side perceived. And he had called, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in the water and cool my tongue; because I suffer agony in these flames (V. 23 - 24).

Abraham, however, told the rich man in essence: All your life you loved wealth and did not have time for people like Lazarus. But I have time for people like him, and now he is with me, and you have nothing. - Then follows the verse that is so often taken out of context: And, moreover, there is a great gap between us and you that no one who wants to go over from here to you can come there and nobody from there comes over to us (Lk 16,26).

Here and there

Ever wondered why anyone would want to switch from here to here? Obviously, why would someone want to move from there to us, but to take the opposite path, does not make sense - or does it? Abraham turned to the rich man, addressing him with his son; then he said that not even those who wanted to come to him could do so because of the great gap. The revelation underlying this story is that there is indeed one who has overcome this gap for the sake of the sinner.

The bridge over the gap

God gave His Son to all sinners, not only to Lazarus, but also to those like the rich man (Joh 3,16-17). But the realm addressed in the parable, symbolizing the Pharisees and scribes condemning Jesus, rejected the Son of God. He sought what had always been the goal of his endeavor: personal well-being at the expense of others.

Jesus concluded this story with the request of the rich man, that somebody warn his brothers, so that this does not happen to him like him. And Abraham answered him, They have Moses and the prophets; they should hear them (V. 29). Jesus, too, had previously referred to it (see 16-17) that the law and the prophets witnessed it-a testimony that he and his brothers would not accept (see Joh 5,45-47 and Lk 24,44-47 ).

No, Father Abraham, then responded to the rich, if any of the dead would go to them, they would repent (Lk 16,30). Whereupon Abraham answered him: If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, then they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead (v. 31).

And they were not convinced that the Pharisees, scribes, and high priests who had conspired to have Jesus crucified, also came to Pilate after his death and asked him what the lie of the resurrection was (Mt 27,62). 66), and they tracked those who professed faith, persecuted and killed them.

Jesus did not tell this parable to show us heaven and hell as vividly as possible. Rather, he turned against the faithful religious leaders of that time and against hard-hearted and selfish rich people at all times. To illustrate this, he used the usual Jewish linguistic images to depict the afterlife (using the hell reserved for the godless and the existence of the righteous in the bosom of Abraham). With this parable, he did not comment on the expressiveness or accuracy of Jewish symbolism concerning the other world, but simply used that figurative language to illustrate his story.

His focus was certainly not on satisfying our burning curiosity, as it would be in Heaven and hell. Rather, it is his concern that God's mystery be revealed to us (Rom 16,25, Eph 1,9, etc.), the mystery of former times (Eph 3,4-5): that God in him, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty Father made flesh of At the beginning of the world reconciled with itself (2, Kor 5,19).

Therefore, if we are preoccupied with the possible details of the hereafter, this can only lead us further away from that very knowledge which was closed to the rich man in that story: We should and may believe in the one who returned from the dead.

by J. Michael Feazell


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