Ideas from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus

The Gospel of Luke has been my focus of study this month. I have passed through these pages many times before, but never stopped to give a single gospel multiple readings in a short time. New thoughts continue to come out of scriptures I thought I already knew.

The four parables the precede this one were told with the Pharisees and scribes present. Jesus was responding to the accusation that He received sinners and ate with them, so it makes sense that this message was also intended for them.

Bible verse My thoughts
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: Jesus has been directing his parables to the Pharisees and scribes. It makes sense that the rich man is a representation of them. They were the spiritually privileged stewards of the Mosaic law.
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, Lazarus would be a representation of the publicans and sinners—those who flocked to Jesus, hungry for His message. Were the sores a representation of sins—the loathsome things that gave the scribes and Pharisees the excuse to hate the publicans?
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. This has similarities to the exchange Jesus had with the woman of Canaan when she begged Him to heal her daughter who was vexed with a devil. Though he explained to His disciples that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (the Apostles would take His message to the gentiles after He was risen), she was insistent that He also help her. He then made the analogy that it wasn’t right for dogs to get food that is intended for the children.Instead of getting angry she showed her humility and strong desire to partake of the blessings of that house. She responded by saying that even the dogs eat of crumbs that fall from the Master’s table. He commended her faith and healed her daughter.

In the parable, Lazarus hoped to eat of the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, but the rich man was unwilling to give. Where Jesus had compassion on lost souls who were seeking Him, the scribes and Pharisees did not.

I have wondered about the mention of the dogs licking the sores. This level of detail makes it stand out from the rest of the parable. I may be reading too much into it, but from what I know of dogs, the licking of sores would seem to be a show of concern and a desire to help and heal. Lazarus received more humane treatment from the dogs than he did from the rich man. It seems likely that the dogs represent the gentiles who were also seeking crumbs. The dogs and the beggar were in similar circumstances—rejected by those who had been given stewardship over the house. That would soon change. The publicans and sinners who followed the Messiah would be joined by gentiles as the Apostles took the gospel message to the world.

Matthew 15:12-14
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; The two men finished their missions on earth.
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Their positions are reversed. Lazarus is the one in the higher position.Luke 18:9-14
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. The rich man sees Lazarus as a servant, someone he should be able to control.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. It is interesting that Lazarus isn’t part of the conversation. Abraham speaks for him.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. The rich man had his opportunity to make things right with Lazarus. That day is past.Luke 12:58-59
58 ¶When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: Again the rich man wants a favor from Lazarus the beggar he chose not to help.
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. It seems that Jesus was using the raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead to illustrate a point. Would bringing a dead man back to life be enough to convince the doubters that Jesus was the Christ?
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. The law of Moses was there to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. Why didn’t they recognize Him? The stewards of the Law had twisted it:Luke 11:52
52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

Matthew 15:7-9
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. “Show them a sign so they will be startled into believing.”
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Miracles alone are not enough to turn a heart to God. Perhaps for a moment an unbelieving heart have no choice but to believe. It won’t be long before doubts and rationalizations come and those unbelieving hearts will be even more hardened. Those who believe in Christ are those who seek Him.

I have Moses and prophets, and Jesus triumphed over death. I have seen miracles in my own life that have helped me know that God loves me and that Jesus is the Christ. But with those blessings comes responsibility. How do I treat my neighbor? As I pass through my mortal probation, who is looking to me for help? Am I willing to be the answer to someone’s prayer? What additional miracle would it take to evaporate my ambivalence, and to shake me into action?

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