In the first three books in the New Testament, which we call gospels, that tell the story of Jesus there are about forty parables. Parables are stories that Jesus tells that compares something in ordinary life with what is happening in the kingdom of God. Parables are always important, because they give us an insight into the very heart of God the Father. When Jesus tells a parable it is about something that is already happening now – not just some timeless truth.
Today we hear another parable that is unique to the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 16, Jesus tells us about two men – an unnamed very rich man – who acts like a king, dressing in purple and fine linen who feasts magnificently every day. At his door, but unnoticed by the rich man, is a poor man in a terrible situation. Unlike the rich man, the poor man does have a name – Lazarus.
Both of the men die and go to Sheol, the place where the dead wait for the resurrection in the Jewish understanding. But now there is a great reversal: Lazarus ends us in a place of comfort, while the rich man is in torment.
Remember, Jesus is regularly accused of welcoming outcasts and sinners. So it seems he is putting into practice now in the present world what will happen in the future one. The age to come is beginning to break into the present one.
So Jesus is reminding the Pharisees, as he continues to remind the church today, and anyone who is a great lover of money, that he is about bringing the law and the prophets to completion, and fulfilling the whole story and kingdom-mission of Israel.
There are only two parables that speak about a judgment of someone that leaves them in a place of torment. This is one; the other is the story of another rich man who ignores the needs of the many poor people around him when he receives a bumper crop and decides to build even bigger barns, rather than sharing the wealth. It really makes you think about how we can do more to let the kingdom of God come, and do everything now, ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
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