May 21, 2017
I’d Rather Be Lazarus than the Rich Man
Luke 16:19-31 (NASB)
“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 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.’”
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a warning to rich religious workers, not a description of hell. Parables are stories that parallel real life. In Luke 15-16 Jesus is confronting the Jewish religious leaders.
- Real life in the days of Jesus.
Jerusalem is ruled by two religious leaders, two powerful Jewish priests named Annas and Caiaphas. These men are named in Luke 3:1-3. Annas served as high priest when Jesus was young (A.D. 6-15). The other man, Caiaphas, followed Annas and served as high priest over Israel from A.D. 18 to 36.
- Annas had five sons and one daughter. His daughter married Caiaphas. Interestingly, every one of Annas five sons– as well as his son-in-law Caiaphas– served as the high priest of Israel during Annas' lifetime. Though Caiaphas was the high priest during the time of Jesus, Luke names both Annas and Caiaphas because Annas was the power behind the high priest of Israel. It was said that "Annas ruled the religious world," even though his own children were the chief priests.
- Annas and Caiaphas hated everything to do with Christ. Caiaphas particularly was the chief antagonist of our Lord. Caiaphas lived in a palatial mansion inside the walls of Jerusalem. He served as President of the Sanhedrin. If you saw Caiaphas walking around the streets of Jerusalem, he would always have his servants and attendants around him, and he would be dressed in the finest purple and fine linen. He ate the most sumptuous meals, drank the finest wines, always traveled first class, and lived better than the 'common Jew.'
- Jesus condemned the religious leaders and ignored the political leaders.
It is striking to discover that Jesus says very little about the corrupt Roman and Judean political leaders of His day. These leaders–men like Tiberius Caesar, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate–were all evil men. Yet, Jesus says very little publicly about any of them. In fact, when questioned about the supreme political leader (Caesar), Jesus simply says "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Instead of speaking against King Herod's abuses while on trial, Jesus is completely silent before him. It seems Jesus had little to say about politics but He roundly condemned religious leaders in His day.
- After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Caiaphas and Annas sought to kill Lazarus.
"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). Our text is directed at Caiaphas, the high priest.
- Religious leaders, above all people, should avoid seeking to become rich through ministry.
Caiaphas, the High Priest of Israel, is the rich man in Jesus parable. Caiaphas is the man "who lifted his eyes in Hades.” The rich man wears the robes the color of the High Priest (purple and fine linen).
- The rich man mistreats the poor man named Lazarus (just as Caiaphas sought to kill Lazarus).
- The rich man asks a messenger to go to his 'father's house' (Annas' house).
- The rich man had five brothers (Annas had five sons, Caiaphas was his son-in-law and considered his brothers-in-law to be his brothers).
- The rich man desires a warning to be given to his five brothers about their behavior. All five of Caiaphas' brothers-in-law – the sons of Annas– followed Caiaphas as the 'chief priest' of Israel.
- The rich man is told that they will not believe "even if someone rises from the dead" (just as Caiaphas and his five brothers refused to believe in Jesus after Lazarus had been resurrected).
You can view the video for this sermon HERE.