Jesus speaks today, saying:
“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
Thus the rich man did not hear Moses and the prophets speaking to him about the care for the poor. The rich man did not hear that God demands caring for the poor, not because it is a requirement to get into heaven, but because when the Messiah comes, He will be poor and poorly treated.
Don’t fool yourself. Anyone can care for and love the poor and do it better than a Christian. Similarly, anyone can give to charity, even to a church, but this is not why you give to church.
Last week, we talked about how the belief in a Triune God gives us a different worldview and that, because God exists this way and interacts with us in only certain ways, that changes how we go about living our lives. The story of Lazarus and the rich man further explains this to us.
The first thing we need to understand, is that when Jesus tells His parables and stories and other things, He is speaking to the Church and to those in the Church. It is not unbeliever vs. believer and it is not “reaching out”.
Jesus has framed the rich man as a member of the church. The clues are that he is dressing in purple and fine linen, which are Church things. Purple as a king color and fine linen is what dresses up the altar. He feasted sumptuously from food that had no lack. This is yet another picture of the kingdom’s great feast.
The final give-away is that he recognizes Abraham as his “father”. The rich man is a member, probably in good standing because of his generous offerings. For obvious reasons, Lazarus is also a member so where is the disconnect?
The rich man is disconnected from Church. He has reduced Church to an offering plate. He has pushed his Church aside in exchange for those things which he believes to be God-pleasing, which turn out not to be. He has ceased to see how much he needs the Church and how intimate his relationship with it really is.
The rich man no longer owns his Church. He no longer weeps with it, celebrates with it, or lives and dies by it. His life is not invested in it except by the means of a check. He has never known the poverty of not having the Gospel. He has never known the sorrow of comforting someone for whom he can do nothing except sit there.
The Church, to him, is a country club; a weekend getaway; a waste of time. The reason he thinks this way is because the truth is too hard to bear. Because, if the rich man treats the Church incorrectly, then who does it the right way? Lazarus.
Lazarus, the poor. Lazarus the sick. Lazarus the beggar. Lazarus the helpless. Lazarus the worthless. Here is what you must become in order to be a true picture of the Church of your faith. Here is the example you are to follow in order to imitate Christ and be a true believer.
Do not be surprised and do not be surprised at your own reaction against this, just as the rich man rejected it. Do not be surprised, but repent. In
you are so far removed from poverty that you have never known need. You have
never known of a famine of the Word of God and you have never been so thirsty
for righteousness that you needed to start up your own church in a tent.
You are drunk on prosperity and you overlook the poor and yet your Savior was poor. Jesus was sick. Jesus was the beggar. Jesus was helpless and became worthless. Jesus left His prosperity and took up your cross. Jesus was laid in a stranger’s grave, covered with mortal wounds.
In this life, the wicked receive good things and the Church receives the bad, just as Jesus did. On this side of glory, the
is the sickly Lazarus. In this
life, evil is conquered by God on a cross. In this life, all are dealt with by
the blood of Christ. Triumphant Church
Partying hard and dressing fancy are not unforgivable sins and even if you don’t help each and every poor man in the world, the Lord is not going to strike you dead. The Lord is not just going to return and find you in sin, He sees what you do each and every day, already. He has no need to be sneaky about it.
Indeed, He accomplishes all these things through the cross. The public way we know and believe the love God has for us is Jesus, on the cross. The real and physical way God abides in us is in Jesus. Love is perfected with us, because Jesus died among us, on earth, as one of us.
Truly, as He is so also are we in this world. Jesus, the Crucified, still has the marks of the nails and the spear in His body and that is how we will look. In His life, Jesus was Lazarus. Yet, unlike Lazarus, the suffering and death of Jesus allow a pathway to be opened, from death to life.
Because of the Crucified and Risen God-man, Jesus, there was hope for the rich man and that same hope is for you. That hope is that, even though every investment we make in this world fails us, time, money or emotion, the heavenly investments we make do not. That even if we are made into paupers, through generous giving or through no fault of our own, our reward remains great in heaven.
Our reward is Christ. There is no purple or fine linen on earth that matches the baptismal garment Christ clothed you with in baptism. There are no excuses or fancy words that out-perform the life giving Word of Christ and there is no sumptuous feast that lasts to eternity, forgiving sins, except the Feast which the Lord lays out before you.
Our hope is that we are forgiven. Our hope is hearing the Word and believing it when it says not only that we are deserving of the rich man’s fate, but that for Christ’s sake, we are given Lazarus’ fate instead.
And even though the world treats us like Lazarus, we are comforted here as well as in heaven, because Jesus has spoken and His Holy Spirit gives us Faith to believe that we will be on the right side of that chasm.