Tuesday, December 11, 2012


 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 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.' 

"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. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 

"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "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.'"
The story of the rich man and Lazarus is not a portrayal of heaven, but it is still in the form of a parable. A parable is a story intended to convey a spiritual truth. The story doesn't have to be about real people or even real situations (like a camel passing through the eye of a needle). But to achieve its teaching goal, a parable must be striking and memorable, so that as the story is retold and remembered, the spiritual truth is reinforced again and again. The hearers must be able to imagine the situation.

Many scholars believe that Jesus is drawing upon a popular Jewish folk tale that had roots in Egypt about a rich man and poor man whose lots after death are completely reversed.

It's like me telling you a story of the preacher and a New York taxi driver who arrived at the pearly gates and were greeted by St. Peter. The taxi driver is richly rewarded while the preacher just barely squeaks in. Why was this? It's simple. When the preacher prayed, the people slept. But when the taxi driver drove, people prayed. Now that is a vivid story.

The rich man goes to the extreme of proposing that Lazarus rise from the dead to warn his brothers. Luke's readers will immediately think of Jesus, and how even His resurrection from the dead was not enough to sway the Pharisees from their hardened opposition to the truth.

There are four quick observations here: FIRST-Wealth without active mercy for the poor is a great evil. Jesus is critical of the Pharisees here. He is not criticizing them for their hypercritical attitude and practices, but their neglect to treat the poorest of the poor well.

SECOND-How you treat the needs of the poor and needy have great consequences.

THIRD-If you close your eyes to the truth you are given, then you are doomed. It is irreversible.

FOURTH-The love of money to the neglect of showing mercy is inexcusable.
If you don't notice and minister to the poor, what excuse will you have? In the final analysis, the rich man's punishment is not for riches, but for the neglect of the Scriptures and what they teach us about the HEART OF GOD. Let me ask you: Does your heart resonate with the heart of God?



"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and people are forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
In these three short verses Jesus is putting the Mosaic Law in to perspective. This is an example of Jesus' teaching on how the Law ought to be understood or interpreted. There seem to be four themes here:

FIRST-Jesus sees the good news of the kingdom as a shift into a new era. The era of the Law and the Prophets was up until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being proclaimed. Jesus, being introduced by John continues the message of the good news of the kingdom as coming here right now. The Messiah's kingdom is ushered in at this time. It was the good news because through the Law and the Prophets you could only get a glimpse of God's Messiah and His kingdom. Now it is finally here in Jesus.
Jeremiah referred to the fulfillment of this great shift that Jesus began in 31:31-34: "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbors, or say to one another, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." 

SECOND-Jesus notes that the kingdom requires "forcing their way into it." This is a curious statement. Too often we want the blessings of the Kingdom, but are not willing to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus. We are half-baked believers in Jesus. But Jesus makes it clear that He wants everything we have and we are.

So, Jesus is saying that everyone who becomes part of the kingdom is "forcing his way" into it. In other words, those who enter the kingdom must make some effort to do so. The effort? I like to think it is being interested with some effort to it. This is why Jesus says, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you." You must seek it out for yourself. You can't enter the kingdom by going along with the crowd or by some sort of spiritual osmosis. You must be enthusiastic enough to "force your way in."

THIRD-Jesus affirms the permanence of the Law. Just because there has been a shift from the Law into this new kingdom era, doesn't mean that the Law has been done away with. It is still truer than ever.

We must reject the Pharisees' picky, legalistic approach to the Law, but must understand and affirm its purpose, spirit and intent. Primarily the Law must be undergirded by the spirit of the law versus the letter of the Law-the internal over the external. So, the Law is still powerful and true, but we must be careful to read the Law with its original intent.

FOURTH-Jesus insists that the Law must be interpreted properly, searching for the original intent. Then Jesus gives an example of the enduring nature of the Law's intent when it comes to marriage.

In Jesus' day some of the Pharisees had become extremely permissive, allowing men to divorce their wives on the most trivial grounds. If a wife spoiled her husband's dinner, she could be divorced. Another reason for divorce was when a man finds another woman prettier than his present wife. In other words, as long as you get your paperwork done, you can divorce your wife.
Jesus reaffirms the bond of marriage in no uncertain terms when He said, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
Here's His point: Marriage must be taken seriously and not lightly. Divorce is a serious matter and you must realize God hates divorce. It is not some loophole in the Law. The word construction of what Jesus says makes even more sense, when you translate this verse: "Anyone who divorces his wife IN ORDER TO marry another woman commits adultery." That's looking at marriage too loosely.

Also, it's important to NOTE: Jesus is the one who pursues lost sheep. He is the one who is looking for sinners (sick people), not the righteous (healthy people). So, Jesus holds sternly to the sanctity of marriage, but continues to reach out to those who have sinned in this area. The Law holds up the standard, yet those who fall short may come to Jesus for salvation and restoration.

There is nothing you can pull off that Jesus can't forgive and heal. The Law is the standard. You actually don't break the Law or the standard when you divorce. The Law or standard breaks you. Yet Jesus, who relentlessly pursues broken people, picks you up and stands you back on your feet again. He is the genuine balance between grace and truth. He loves you and forgives you and calls you to follow him in spite of your past sin, present situation and falling short of the standard. This is the GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM!