That wretched beggar named Lazarus actually begged to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he begged to be fed with what was thrown from the rich man’s table. When Jesus told His parable, people — rich and poor alike — ate with their fingers. Napkins were not in use so a wealthy person would keep slices of bread where we place our napkins. After his meal or whenever his hands or mouth required it, he would roll a slice of that bread across his mouth and hands to clean himself. Each used slice was then molded into a ball and thrown to the scavenger dogs roaming outside the gate.
Lazarus begged to be fed with the bread napkins which were ever so nonchalantly and callously thrown to the dogs which are not pets in the Holy Land. They roam outside people’s homes scavanging. The only response Lazarus received to his plea came from those scavenging wild dogs who came and licked his sores.
Could any parable have two more contrasting characters than a certain rich man and a wretched beggar named Lazarus?
The most significant – and perhaps over-looked - contrast we find in Jesus' description of these two major characters is the names by which He identifies them. The first character was simply identified as a certain rich man. Jesus gives the second person a name - implying a person whose relationship with Jesus - with God - is close enough that he is referred to by his name. And what a name - Lazarus means "One whom God helps". With His first words of introduction, Jesus points to the second person in his parable as a person who truly knows God and is called by name by God.
Jesus places a beggar named Lazarus in a certain rich man’s gate to save the soul of the man who lives there – to enable him to re-evaluate where he stands with his neighbors and with God.
Jesus tells us Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. In heaven, Jesus pictures Lazarus in the caring embrace of a person who certainly enjoyed many earthly riches during his temporal lifetime — probably more material blessings than the certain rich man in Jesus’ parable - but Abraham was infinitely richer in his relationship with God and the God-given faith by which he lived out that relationship. We see Lazarus’ and Abraham’s relationship with God and their total faith in God in the way that God-given faith and relationship carry them into eternity. Lazarus is in God’s eternal Kingdom with Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried.
The story of Lazarus is actually a wonderful love story — God’s Love Story. In our last glimpse of Lazarus, Jesus gives us a glimpse into heaven. Abraham the rich man who put his total faith in God and Lazarus the poor man who put his total faith in God are joined together eternally in the visible and loving Presence of God. Two men of God-given faith — the rich Abraham and the once poverty-stricken Lazarus — together receiving their eternal treasure from God.
Tragically, the story of a certain rich man is also about a man who freely chose to have no relationshipwith God or with those neighbors who could not increase his earthly treasures. When death came, he quite naturally continued his journey away from God — where no name is needed.
When death came to Lazarus and Abraham, they quite naturally continued to walk with God Whom they always knew to be with them during this earthly life and with Whom they walked into eternity.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS — OUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOUR WHO WALKS THROUGH TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL LIFE WITH US - AND CALLS US BY NAME. AMEN.
19th Sunday of the Trinity Season
September 30, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio