The Rich Man and Lazarus

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The Rich Man and Lazarus

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: LUke 16:19-31


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The Parables of Jesus (7)

As we continue addressing the teachings of Jesus, focusing on His parables right now, today we want to notice another familiar parable – the Rich Man and Lazarus.  It is a parable presented following the parable of the Unjust Steward that we addressed last week.  We noted in vs. 14 that the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, derided Jesus in His teachings. This leads Jesus to some other teachings  in which Jesus exposes both they hearts and disposition.  He then teaches the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  This particular parable is unique in some ways that we will notice in a moment.


  1. Background of the Parable
    1. Last week we examined the parable of the unjust steward. This could still be in that context as Jesus is dealing with religious leaders that are rejecting Him.   And there are some similarities between this parable and the last one.
    2. Is it a parable?
      1. Many say that this is NOT a parable because of the following reasons.
        1. Some actually leave this out of the list of parables while others include it.
        2. It mentions Lazarus and Abraham by name – making it about specific persons.
        3. It deals with the Hadean world, what happens after death, which is not typical of the parables (remember, parables take well known material things and make a spiritual application of it.
      2. Others say it is a parable to reject eternal punishment. Jehovah’s Witnesses, and likely others, would say it IS a parable, and thus its dealings with life after death are only for illustrative purpose.
      3. I believe it COULD be a parable and am approaching it as such. But I give the following considerations:
        1. Why could Jesus NOT use a real person in a parable?
        2. It begins in the same manner as the parable of the unjust steward we addressed last week, “there was a certain rich man”.
          It also contains some exaggeration as many parables do – such as Abraham’s bosom and the hadean world of the lost being visible and separated by a great gulf.
        3. But even If it is a parable of Jesus, like others, it deals with realities (even with the exaggerations). So, I reject the dismissal of that by those who do not believe in torments after death.
        4. Like the known parables, it has a main message – you are going to be judged by how you live your life, therefore repent!
  2. The Parable/Account
    1. Background – again, I believe this is still tied to the previous verse where the Pharisee are rejecting Jesus, and I believe they know, at least in part, that He is describing them as the unrighteous. They reject Him and this leads Jesus rebuke their corrupt hearts and materialistic justification.  God knows the heart and your motives and will judge accordingly.  And HIS WILL will be the standard of judgment.
      In the example of divorce and remarriage (without the exception of Matthew 19:8-9), Jesus is showing how they had corrupted God’s law for selfish gain and the consequences of such.
    2. There was a certain rich man – as already noted, this is how the parable of the unjust steward began.
      He is described as wealthy being clothed in purple and fine linen indicating he enjoyed the best that life offered back then. He had plenty to eat and lived in luxury.
    3. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus – he had nothing. He was described as full of sores (likely sick), who laid at the gate of the home of the rich man.  He was hungry, begging just for the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.  We are told dog’s licked his sores – as either the only way they were soothed, or that added to his misery.
    4. Lazarus dies, a faithful believer – he is carried away to Abraham’s bosom by the angels.
    5. The rich man also dies – but all that is said of him is he was buried.
    6. The rich man awakes in torments – (the word is Hades, which in Hebrew is the word Sheol) – this is a word that is usually described as the waiting place of the dead, but as here at times it is the waiting place of the wicked until they face final judgment.
      In Hades, he opens his eyes and sees in the distance Abraham, and there is Lazarus now being comforted – no longer in pain and poverty.
    7. The rich man pleads for mercy – he asks Abraham to send Lazarus with water just on the tip of his finger to cool his tongue, because of tormenting suffering he is enduring in “this flame”.
    8. Abraham denies his request – he reminds him that in his life, he had plenty and selfishly kept to himself. But now the tables were turned.  His torments would not be relieved.
    9. Besides this there is a great gulf fixed – (securely in place) that none can cross in either direction.  The point is IT IS TOO LATE!
    10. In response, the rich man asks another request – if so, then send Lazarus back to his father’s house and warn his brothers lest they too be condemned to “this place of torment”.
    11. Abraham notes that they have the law – Moses and the prophets to listen to.
    12. The rich man again replies – No, father Abraham (indicating they were not listening to the LOM any more than this rich man had done). He believes that if one were to rise from the dead and warn them they would repent.
    13. Abraham refutes that – noting, if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.
    14. And thus ends the parable/ warning
  3. Lessons to consider:
    1. God expects us to be loving to others in this life – some sources see this as the main point of this parable. We know, as we noted last week, we are to be caring people and must be compassionate to those less fortunate than us.  It is a condition of our judgment (Matthew 25:31-46),
      • Acts 20:35, I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
      • 1 John 3:17, ‘Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart to him, how does the lover of God abide in him?”
      • Hebrews 13:16, But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
    2. Our standing before God is not based upon worldly status – as we have noted on many occasions, it is not how much you have, or your nationality, gender, race, fame, power, etc. Our standing before God is universally the same for everyone – Galatians 3:27-28 bears this out.
      Also consider how we serve a God that shows no partiality – Acts 10:34-35 – as Peter taught Cornelius, the FIRST Gentile.
      This is where Matthew 7:21 fits in – it is about doing His will.
      Consider also Matthew 16:26, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul…”
    3. One day we will be judged for the way we live our lives – Hebrews 9:27 notes this. Revelation 20:12 – when the books are opened, we will be judged according to our works.
    4. The wicked will be punished – while unpleasant, the Bible does warn of a place of eternal torments for the wicked and unsaved – Matthew 25:46, John 5:28-29 – the hour is coming when all who are in the grave will hear His voice and come forth…
      And conversely the righteous reward.
    5. We have a law to keep us from being condemned to hell – a law that will save us. If we do not listen to the law of God we are without hope.  NOTHING is going to convince us.
      Paul speaking to the Ephesian elders concluded by saying, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)
      James 1:21, Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
    6. I also see in this parable, Jesus looking to His death AND resurrection – AND how, even with that, they still rejected Him. Consider this:
      1. There was another Lazarus – he was a good friend of Jesus, and brother to Mary and Martha.  John 11 records him dying, and Jesus raising him from the dead, AFTER 4 DAYS.  How did these corrupt leaders respond to that? See John 11:45-53 – they decided it was expedient to kill Jesus lest the people follow Him instead of them.
        John 12:10-11 notes that the chief priests also plotted to put Lazarus to death because people were seeing him and believing in Jesus.
      2. Jesus was declaring their condemnation – which was their own doing. Their actions, their rejection of Him as their anticipated Messiah and Savior revealed their closed and wicked hearts.  It was seen in their putting Him to death and the way they behaved even after He arose.
        TRULY, in the what Abraham said to rich man, was fulfilled in them.
        Matthew 23:32-33, Jesus in exposing their corruption and hypocrisy (namely venerating the prophets whom their fathers killed) said, “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
        As Paul would later say, “You judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46)

 There are many lessons for us to consider from the rich man and Lazarus.  There is coming a day of judgment.  We need to prepare for that day by doing what He says and behaving as He commands.  Are you?  Think about it!