In Lev 18:16, we have what the Jews called the central commandment which is “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone amongst your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord”. These were the commandments quoted by Jesus to the Pharisees. If they had read into Lev 18.16, they would have realised the hidden message Jesus was claiming, “I am the Lord”, the master of the house in Luke 16:1-9 was coming back.
The Pharisees who were gatekeepers of the law failed in the Great Commandment because God was not the Lord of their lives. In Luke 16:14, the pharisees derided Jesus because He told them that they could not serve two masters. In luke 16:19 to 31, Jesus told another story to taunt the Pharisees where they were now the rich man in the story because they only loved themselves and not their neighbour nor Jesus as Lord. Through their unbelief they had rejected Jesus even though Jesus had resurrected from the dead. One is not saved simply being from the lineage of Abraham or being a person of faith. They could not see Jesus because money was their master. Do you believe Jesus as your Messiah, your Lord and Saviour!
When the Pharisses tried to trap Jesus for they did not believe, Jesus repeated them the central commandment. If loving others was the key in lev 18:16 then they should have read further “I am the Lord” which was what Jesus was asserting which the Pharisees regarded as blasphemy worthy of death. Jesus becomes a question and talked in parables when we reject Jesus as Lord.
The belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour will lead us to naturally follow the central command of loving Jesus and others. The reverse is not true. If we love the law, we love ourselves and our ability to abide, we could never really love others nor give our wealth away. If we love the great comandments without Jesus being the Lord, we are no better than the pharisees and are hypocrites.
In luke 16:19 to 31, the rich man’s name was not known whilst the poor man’s name was known, Lazarus. For the Jews, they would laugh at such a comedy for Lazarus is a name derived from Eleazer which means “God has helped”. Did God helped the poor man on earth when the rich seemed to be blessed instead?
It is said that all men and women are equal before God? But in this story, God doesn’t even mention the name of the rich man even though he is a person of faith (even a pastor in the modern sense) who proclaimed the law every day even the love comandments. Does God know you by name?
Is the parable about love and not giving to the poor? Or it is about unbelief in the Messiah, the Lord, that Jesus was condeming the Pharisees who in this story potrayed as the self loving rich man.
The parable descended into futher comedy when even the unclean dogs had mercy on lazarus and licked his wounds to help him with his sores. The Pharisees did not help lazarus camping at their gates because they considered him unclean when it was them who were spiritually unclean whilst ceremonially clean on the outside. God was looking inside, who was their Lord. It wasn’t Jesus, they love only themselves and their wealth. The law even the Golden rule doesn’t help nor justifies us. Rather it condems us as heartless and hypocrites. If we were wise like the rich man in luke 16:1 who knew he was going to loose everthing when the master of the house ie Jesus returns, we would have at least know the times and prepare as not to suffer so much.
So when Jesus the master of the house came back, they also didn’t let Jesus in even though He is the Lord. So we have Jesus at the gate and the poor man Lazarus with all the sores and the unclean dogs licking him, all rejected by the pharisees. At the gate, Jesus the Messiah met Lazarus and healed him. All are invited at communion but few came because the door in their hearts are closed because of unbelief.
The pharisees thought that they were priveleged and going to heaven because they were Jews and from the lineage of Abraham, yet at the end of their lives in this story, the rich man ended up in hell instead of heaven with Abraham. The rich man was shown as appealing to Abraham in heaven and not God because his only standing was being a Jew, a descendent of Abraham. But it couldn’t save him. One day on judgement throne, there would be many who would call upon the name of Mary, but there is only one name for which there is salvation. His name is Jesus Christ, the Lord. Whosoever believes will be saved.
In their agony in hell, another ridiculous scene was potrayed. The rich man now in hell was still believing in privilege and an entitled life, not asking for forgiveness to lazarus and repenting for his sins but asking Abraham to instruct lazarus. Even in hell, the rich man did not address lazarus directly!
There was a gulf now between heaven and hell and so lazarus could not come over to help the rich man when in his life on earth, the rich man cared not for lazarus. It would have been so easy for the rich man to open the gate and let Lazarus in. He did not. The gate was shut to lazarus and Jesus Christ.
We have those who say Jesus is the question rather than the answer, the Beta rather than the Alpha and Omega. Jesus did not appear at the gate of the rich man giving answers and proclaiming He is the Messiah with a large angelic army because the Jewish religious leaders had rejected Him at Nazareth and wanted to kill him. They had to believe by faith! Jesus becomes a question, a parable to those who had rejected Him in their hearts.
Jesus appeared with parables asking questions because the hearts of many are hardened with unbelief. Which Jesus do you want to see? He would not throw good food to swines! At the gate, Jesus appeared as the Messiah to the poor man. We do not know whether Jesus had healed him at the gate but we do know he believed and when he died, he went to heaven. In essense, his name lazarus meaning “whom God helped” became his destiny.
Now increasingly desperate, the rich man asked for lazarus to go back to earth to warn his relatives. But Abraham replied that if they had not believed the prophets they wouldn’t believe even if Lazarus had resurrected from the dead.
Are you lazarus or the unknown rich man? The rich man was not given a name nor known in person by God. The poor man met Jesus at the gate and even though poor in this life, was rich in the life therafter. Truly he became the person “whom God help”. Whereas the rich was a person who could help himself with all his wealth and even in hell acted like the master demanding God.
The gate between the rich man and lazarus became the gate between heaven and hell. The rich man did not open the gate because it would lower him to the same class as the peaseants. It was a divide that was easily walked through and temporal. He didn’t realise that true riches is in heaven and the ultimate divide is between heaven and hell.
In a parallel story, there was a religious man coming to Jesus who claimed that he had followed all the laws! Ie loving God and loving others. Jesus asked him to give up all his wealth because the root of the problem was unbelief. You will not go to heaven even though you gave up all your wealth, because the young man did not follow the greatest commandment which is loving God. Jesus Christ, God incarnate was standing right in front of him and he did not give him due honour nor glory.
There is a wide gulf between heaven and hell. Some even rejected the notion that a loving God would be sending them to hell. But they have forgotten that Jesus was standing at the gate, yet they didn’t let Him in. Just like the religious rich man, they thought Jesus is a good person only. Even with Jesus resurrected and coming back to life to warn them, they still did not believe.
The rich man thought that he was heading to heaven or at with God because of Abraham. That was why in the story, he was calling out to Abraham. Many attendees of the liberal mainline thought that they were going to be with God when they die because they follow Jesus greatest commandments. The rich man thought he was going to heaven because he was from the line of Abraham. Many church attendees thought that they are heaven bound just because they attend church or align with the good works of Jesus or call themselves Christians even though they dont believe Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. To some there is not even heaven or hell.
Ultimately, our beliefs not our works determine our destiny because our good works can never be perfect because we are sinners. Only by entering the Ark which is Christ can we be saved and reach the other side. Jesus Christ knocks at the door today. The rich man went to hell because
1. He thought he was going to heaven because of Abraham just as many people would deny hell on account of God being a loving God.
2. He would not have believed even if lazarus, a type of Jesus, was resurrected to warn him about hell. Ie he would reject the Gospel Good News of salvation from hell.
3. He was a Pharisees and claimed to keep the law and the love commandments but in heart, God was not the master. Even if God was not the master, he could surely be the wise man in Luke 16:1-10 who saw the master of the house coming, ie Jesus Christ. He knew not the times.
4. He was arrogant unlike the rich man in luke 16:1 who saw the times and knew the master ie Jesus was coming back and he would not be able to escape judgement, hence was preparing to make his life suffer less. Do we see the times that Jesus is coming back with the final destruction and judgement of mankind? or do we foolishly denies the day of judgement!.
5. God looks at the heart and not the outside standing be it a rich man or a pharisee, a person of faith. God doesn’t look even at our good works of love including giving money to the poor as Jesus asked the pharisee to do in order to taunt him. God looks at who you see His Son Jesus Christ. The pharisees rejected Jesus and wanted to kill Him after He declared Himself as the Messiah of Isaiah 53. Are we the same?
6. We are earthly minded and not as wise as the rich man of Luke 16:1 who knew he was going to loose everything because when the master comes back, the divide will not be between the rich or the poor, people who believe God or not, which race, religion or sexual orientation, it would be between whosoever who believes Jesus as Lord and Saviour, God the Messiah.
In conclusion, Jesus was telling the pharisees in parables to believe in Him as the Messiah if they were wise lest they go to hell but it would cost them much because following Jesus would mean being an outcast and kicked out of the religious faith with lost of wealth. The parable is not really about wealth but how much does believing in Jesus Christ would cost you? A small price to pay compared to everlasting torment the rich man is suffering in hell.
Jesus Christ the master of the house is coming back with judgement. Are you going to loose everything and suffer torment? Whosoever believes will be saved. Religion would not save us. The rich pharisee was clean on the outside because of religion and good works, but the poor man was clean on the inside by God’s grace alone. The poor man became rich in heaven for eternity.