14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in Gods sight. 16 The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. 18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 19 There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich mans table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abrahams side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire. 25 But Abraham replied, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us. 27 He answered, Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my fathers house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment. 29 Abraham replied, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. 30 No, father Abraham, he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. 31 He said to him, If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
A long time ago, I made the statement from the pulpit that I would rather conduct two funerals than conduct one wedding. The reason is simple. At weddings, everyone is happy. It is a joyous occasion. Two people, very much in love, are joining together. It is a time long awaited. Everyone can feel the excitement and share in the joy of it all. Quite frankly, the mood is such that one could say almost anything and people would leave delighted. I can just hear someone saying, Good word, at the end of the ceremony, even if a nursery rhyme had been recited.
It is not so at a funeral. People are not happy at all. Someone they loved has been snatched away by death, never again to be seen or heard in this life. And not only is there the painful reality of the loss of a loved one, but also the frightening reminder that we, too, must die. What one says on such an occasion is of great moment. This is why it is so sad when the gospel is not preached, for there is no hope apart from the good news that Jesus has died and has risen, so that we, too, might be forgiven of our sins and live eternally in fellowship with God.
An older woman and her daughter-in-law happened to be in the audience on this particular occasion, when I spoke of my preference for funerals. To my knowledge, I never met this woman. Nevertheless, on that day she turned to her daughter-in-law and said, When I die, I want you to call that man to preach at my funeral. She did die, years later, and I received a call from the daughter-in-law. She told me that she and her mother-in-law were Gypsies. She told of her mothers death, and of her request of years back that I deliver the funeral message. I did so, gladly. I delivered the funeral message from our text in Luke chapter 16. There was, to my knowledge, just one or two Christians. It was a tragic funeral because so few shared the hope of the gospel which this woman had found.
At the end of the service, I walked to the rear of the little chapel, virtually ignored by most of the people who had come. A young woman came up to me, a woman whom I doubt was saved. She said something very encouraging to me, however. Her comment on the message was this: What you preached was what my grandmother believed. I believe that it was.
When I preach a funeral message, I have always done so with the knowledge that I represented Jesus Christ, and with a sense of responsibility to proclaim the gospel, the good news of forgiveness and salvation in Him, which is the only basis for hope in the face of death. In addition to this, I also have the sense that I am speaking not only for God, but also for the one who has died, even if that person is not a Christian. I say with full assurance that the message I am bringing is that message which the one who has died would want me to proclaim. I say this, based upon the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We shall see why this is so.
This account of the rich man and Lazarus is of very great importance to every one of us. In recent years, there have been many who have died and then been revived, reporting their after-life experiences. I do not wish to doubt or to debate each and every experience. I do wish to say, however, that none of these experiences are inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, as this account is. Even the apostle Paul refrained from describing what seems to have been his life after death experience (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-5). This story of the rich man and Lazarus is, I believe, a parable, but its description of the fate of men after death is both true and unchanging. Let us listen very carefully to these words. If the rich man was not able to warn his brothers, he can warn us, if we will listen.
The Lord Jesus has been speaking to the crowds, among whom are Pharisees. They are not at all pleased with what they have seen and heard from Jesus. They grumbled against Jesus for receiving sinners and even eating with them (Luke 15:2). In response to this, Jesus told three parables, all of which dealt with the finding of something lost. While the Pharisees could identify with the rejoicing of one who found something material (a lost sheep or a coin), they could not rejoice in the return of a repentant sinner, even though all of heaven did so. This is because they hated grace. They did not believe they needed grace, and they did not appreciate it being manifested to anyone else, especially the undeserving (which are always the recipients of grace). If Jesus was out of step with the Pharisees, they were out of step with God and with heaven.
In chapter 16, the grumbling of the Pharisees turned sourto scoffing. This scoffing was the result of yet another parable, the parable of the shrewd steward. This steward was unrighteous. He had been squandering his masters possessions, but when he learned that he was soon to be unemployed, he became very shrewd, using his masters money to gain friends, who would minister to him in the future. While the master commended his wicked steward for his shrewdness, Jesus did not. Jesus taught that His disciples should, like the steward, make friends for the future, but in an entirely different way. The watchword for disciples was not shrewdness but faithfulness. In verses 9-13, Jesus laid down the principles which should govern the way in which the disciples viewed and used material possessions.
What especially angered the Pharisees, however, was something else. Jesus had identified this evil man as a shrewd man, when it came to money. The Pharisees, whom Luke now tells us were lovers of money (v. 14), were very shrewd in their use of money, in such an evil way as to make the unjust steward look like a saint. The steward ripped off a rich (and evil) master. The Pharisees were ripping off little old ladies, as Jesus put it in Matthews gospel, they were robbing widows houses (Matthew 23:14). That for which the Pharisees prided themselves, Jesus viewed as wicked. In His parable of the unjust steward, Jesus identified the shrewd as unbelievers, contrasting them with saints. Now, the Pharisees, who were proud of their skill in making money were mad. That did it! Grumbling turned to scoffing.
Jesus teaching in verses 14-18 is in response to the scoffing of the money-loving Pharisees (v. 14). He deals first with their fundamental (root) problem in principle (vv. 15-18). He then illustrated the problem with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (vv. 19-31).
The unity of the entire chapter is evident in many ways. The thread which unifies the chapter is money. The unjust steward used his masters money to serve his own interests, rather than to serve his master. The rich man will also use his money for his own interests, ignoring the needs of Lazarus, who lay at his gate. Both parables begin with virtually the same expression: There was a certain rich man (vv. 1, 19). Verses 14-18 enable us to understand the evil of these two rich men, which was descriptive of the wickedness of the Pharisees, by showing the source of their sin.
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
The Pharisees, it would seem, had previously been mumbling and grumbling to and among themselves (cf. 15:2). Now, however, they seem more vocal and more public. Their reaction has turned from discontent to disruption. They kept on scoffing,16so as to become hecklers of Jesus. His words on the subject of money had proven to be too much. Luke tells his readers here that the Pharisees were lovers of money, an expression which is found only elsewhere in the New Testament in 2 Timothy 3:2. Luke tells us this fact because it helps us to understand why the Pharisees would be so distressed by Jesus teaching on money in the previous parable and its interpretation. They loved money and they were shrewd in the ways they found to gain it, to keep it, and to use it to indulge themselves.
But what, specifically, were the Pharisees scoffing about? The text does not tell us exactly, and perhaps we would do best to leave it at that. Given the Lords words in response to their scoffing, we might conjecture what they would be scoffing about. They judged on appearances. Jesus was talking a great deal about money, and how to use it. They could well have said to themselves and others, Who is this expert on money, anyway? Who does He think He is? How much money does He possess? He is so poor that He has to have women of means accompany Him, to provide for His needs! They may very well have mocked Jesus teaching, based upon His poverty.
But you see, Jesus poverty was that which proved His qualification to teach on money. Jesus did not have money because He did not take money. He had no vested interest. He had no desire to get rich and to live luxuriously. Thus, Jesus could speak as one who was disinterested, rather than as one who was preoccupied with money and material things.
In response to these scoffers, Jesus did not bother pointing out that the Pharisees were really lovers of money. The reason is, I believe, that Jesus was interested in the source of their problem, not just in symptoms. Loving money was a serious problem, but it was not the root of their problem. In verses 15 Jesus exposed the root problemThe Pharisees sought approval from the wrong person, on the wrong basis:
15 He said to them, You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable17in Gods sight.
The underlying problem of the Pharisees was that they were seeking their approval from the wrong source, and they were seeking to be judged according to the wrong standard. They were striving to be justified by men, and their standard had to be that which men could see and evaluateoutward appearances.
This simple observation explains the actions of the Pharisees and also their reactions to Jesus. Because the Pharisees wanted the approval of men they acted in a way that would attract attention to themselves, in a way that would make them look righteous, as men might judge it. The Pharisees were intolong prayers, they visiblyfasted, andmade contributions, andtook the places of prominenceat banquets and the like. Theirclothing, too, wasostentatioustheylengthened their phylacteries. The Pharisees were repulsed by the fact that Jesus associated with sinners, and even ate with them. They were proud of the fact that they kept their distance. No defilement for them! They meticulously washed themselves ceremonially, and they observed Sabbath regulations. In all of this, Jesus said, they were hypocrites, because their hearts were wicked, because they were not really righteous at all.
It is God, however who justifies, and not men. God does not judge on the basis of outward appearance, but He knows and bases His judgment on what is in mans heart:
But the LORD said to Samuel, Do no look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him [Eliab, cf. v. 6]; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Gods standards differ greatly from mans, indeed, they are the exact opposite. Those things which men highly esteem, Jesus said, are an abomination to God (Luke 16:15).
What were some of the things which men esteemed in Jesus day, which God abhorred? I believe that there are many things which could be listed under these two contrasting categories, but to simplify matters, let me simply outline the two categories which we find in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-26):18
In the context of our passage, there is a very clear illustration of what our Lord was talking about when He said that God detests the things which men highly esteem (v. 15). The Pharisees, and, according to Jesus words, the sons of this age esteem shrewdness, and thus the master could commend his steward, even though he had ripped him off. Gods values are not mans values, just as His ways are not mans ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8).
Now we can see why the Pharisees valued money so highly. Money, to the Pharisee, was one of the external proofs of piety. After all, had God not promised to prosper His people Israel if they kept His laws (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and to bring them great poverty and adversity if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 28:15ff.)? Money was the proof of piety that would cause an externalist to love. The Pharisees love of money was an indication of their attachment to external standards and appearances, so that they could obtain the praise of men. In the process of seeking mens praise, they also obtained Gods condemnation.
In verse 15, Jesus indicted His opponents as playing before the wrong audience, according to the wrong standards or rules. In verses 16-18, Jesus accuses those who prided themselves as the custodians of the Law as being its corrupters:
16 The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. 18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Jesus began by referring to the fact that the former dispensation had ended with John the Baptist, and that at His appearance there was inaugurated a new age, a new dispensation (v. 16). This new dispensation was welcomed by many, in fact, Jesus said, men were pushing and shoving to get into this kingdom. Men were violently trying to force their way in. This, then, was regarded as a welcome change.
But the coming of the new dispensation did not do away with everything that had to do with the old. The Old Testament did not terminate with the coming of Christ. As Jesus said elsewhere, He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The two commandments which Jesus taught simply summed up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12; 22:40). Paul, who rigorously held the line for grace, rather than law, said that the salvation which was accomplished in Christ was that which was that to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Romans 3:21).
There is a vast difference between the Mosaic Covenant, which was but a temporary solution (a putting off, a buying of time) to the problem of sin, and the New Covenant. With the coming of Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection, the Mosaic Covenant was put away, replaced by a new, better, covenant, as the book of Hebrews forcefully argues. The expression, the Law and the Prophets was one that summed up the entire Old Testament revelation, and not just the Law given through Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Law and the Prophets was that revelation which provided men with a divine standard of righteousness, a standard to which no man could attain, and thus all men are condemned as sinners. The Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, still serves this same role as a divine declaration of the standards of righteousness. Thus, the apostle Paul can say that the one who walks in the Spirit will fulfill the requirement of the Law (Romans 8:4).
This Old Testament revelation is that which the Pharisees prided themselves for preserving. They, unlike the sinners of their time, loved the law, and sought to preserve it, or so they thought. But the exact opposite was the case. Once again the hypocrisy of the Pharisees is evident. Jesus, like the Pharisees, was committed to the preservation of the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament revelation, despite the change of dispensation that occurred as a result of His incarnation. Thus, He insists that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the law to fail. Here is something to which the Pharisees could say, Amen! But could they?
The Pharisees were adamant about their fidelity to the law, but this was heavily weighted in the direction of the Law of Moses, and thus of that old covenant.19Jesus persistently spoke of the Law and the Prophets, for this was the sum total of the Old Testament revelation, not just a portion of it. While the Pharisees focused on the outward aspects of religion, the Old Testament prophets persistently called Israels attention to the heart issues of the Law. No wonder the prophets were all persecuted and put to death. Note these words of the prophet Isaiah, as they bear upon the Pharisees and the text which is to follow. Notice how the outward appearance is hypocritical in the preceding context of Isaiah, but the heart of the nation is corrupt:
1 Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed? Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing ones head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelterwhen you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:1-11).
The Old Testament prophets thus had much to say about the heart issues of life. Gods revelation in the Old Testament was not seeking mere outward conformity, but inward conformity to the will of God. No one portrays this heart better than David, and David confessed that the source of his heart for God was the Law of God (cf. Psalm 119).
On the surface, the Pharisees and the Savior seemed, for once, to agree, on the importance of the Old Testament revelation, except that for our Lord it was the Old Testament as a whole, including the prophets, and for our Lord it was a matter of the heart, and not merely of outward conformity to the Law (cf. Matthew 5-7).
The final verse of this section, verse 18, is a biblical (Old Testament) indictment of the Pharisees disregard for the Law and the Prophets. While they claimed to obey and to seek to promote and preserve the Law, the Pharisees actually set it aside. A case in point was the matter of divorce. Jesus thus lays down the Old Testament standard concerning divorce, which stood in dramatic contrast to the stand taken by the Pharisees:
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
To my knowledge, this is the only reference to divorce in the gospel of Luke. Elsewhere in the gospels, we know that the Pharisees questioned Jesus about His position on divorce (cf. Matthew 19:3). We can rather easily imply that the Pharisees were much more liberal on the conditions under which divorce was permissible than our Lord. Jesus contrasts the liberal view they held with the biblical view consistently held to in the Bible. The bottom line is this: God hates divorce; divorce is sinful; divorce causes sin.
Men had come to accept divorce, to take it very lightly. There were conditions under which divorce was permissible, but men always sought to expand them. While men wished to talk about the exceptions which permitted divorce, Jesus insisted in stressing the rule, in holding to the divine standard. He expresses that standard again. Gods ideal for marriage is that one man and one woman should remain married so long as they live.
Verse 18 is a specific illustration of the charge Jesus made against the Pharisees: The Pharisees had capitulated to the standards of men, and had set aside the Law and the Prophets. They had come to live in accordance with what men approved. Jesus challenged them, showing that they had turned their backs on what God approved and disapproved. Men had come to highly esteem the freedom to change wives; to God, this was an abomination. The so-called custodians of the law were really its corrupters.
I must take a momentary aside at this point, for surely those who have experienced the ravages of divorce are feeling especially uneasy. Does divorce categorically condemn one to being a sinner? I am inclined to say yes. But, lest the divorced somehow feel that they are the focus of attention, the object of scorn, let me remind you that the purpose of the law was to prove every man a sinner. Thus, those who have experienced divorce must also be joined by those who have had an immoral thought (and who can be excluded here), for Jesus taught that immoral thoughts constitute adultery, too (Matthew 5:31-32). Anger constitutes murder. On and on the list of sins and sinners goes and grows.
The purpose of the Law was to prove men sinners, and to promise them a provision for sinsthe Lamb of God. If the revealed Word of God proves us sinners and pointed us to Christ, it serves us well. Regardless of what our sins may be, the shed blood of Christ covers them all, for all who believe. Let the divorced not feel singled out by our Lords words. They were chosen because this was one place where the conservative Pharisees had become far too liberal, and where they had set aside the standards of the Word of God for those of their culture. They had thus sought justification by men, in accordance with appearances, rather than justification from God, based upon a clean heart.
Two very important charges have been laid down against the scoffing Pharisees in verses 15-18:
(1) They have sought the approval of men (based upon what men can seeappearances), not of God (based upon the heart).
(2) They have set aside the revelation of God, which exposes the heart.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus graphically illustrates both of these points:
19 There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich mans table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abrahams side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire. 25 But Abraham replied, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us. 27 He answered, Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my fathers house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment. 29 Abraham replied, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. 30 No, father Abraham, he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. 31 He said to him, If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
In dealing with this passage, I will divide it into three sections: (1) the rich man and Lazarus in lifevv. 19-21; (2) the rich man and Lazarus after deathvv. 22-23; (3) the rich mans requestsvv. 24-31.
Verse 19 begins almost identically with verse 1: There was a certain rich man This rich man had it made. Jesus description of his life is incredibly similar to the fate of the one on whom Jesus pronounced woes in his Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-26). So, too, with Lazarus. He epitomized all that Jesus called blessed. Failing to name the rich man is typical of parables, and the naming of Lazarus is unique. This name means the one God helps.20
The rich man was wealthy, and enjoyed all the benefits of his wealth. He was magnificently dressed. We get the impression that his wardrobe was filled with expensive garments. He ate well, and he lived happily. Life was good to this man. From all appearances, and from a superficial reading of Deuteronomy 28, this man, the Pharisees would have supposed, was a righteous man. Surely he would go to heaven when he died.
Lazarus was the exact opposite. He was a poor man, a virtual beggar. He was placed21by the gate to the rich mans house. His clothing is not described, but we can well imagine how bad it was. His food was whatever scraps he might get from the rich mans garbagefighting off the dogs to beat them to the food. He had sores and these the dogs licked. He was precisely the kind of person that the Pharisees would brand a sinner, a man whom, in their minds, was worthy of hell.
These two men lived in close proximity to each other. I believe that Lazarus was in close enough proximity to this rich mans living quarters that he could see the entourage of people coming and going. He could hear the laughter. He could smell the aroma of the sumptuous meals being prepared in the kitchen. He knew what he was missing.
And if Lazarus was painfully aware of the bounty and blessings of the rich man, but evidently not a sharer in them, so, too, the rich man had to have been aware of the pathetic plight of Lazarus. He would have had to walk past Lazarus every time he left or entered his house. This means that he would have had to have consciously chosen to ignore his need. The rich man thus used his wealth to indulge himself, but not to minister to the needy. This was a clear violation of the Old Testament standard of righteousness.22
Based upon appearance alone, one could see how the Pharisees would have judged these two men. They would have justified the rich man and condemned Lazarus. The fate of these two men after their deaths shows mans judgment to be wrong. Thus, their destiny after death will illustrate our Lords indictment against the Pharisees above, namely that they sought to be justified before men, according to appearances, rather than before God, based upon the heart.
It was only after both men died that Gods judgment was evident. Here, the