Luke 16:27-31 (NIV) “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 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 reality of his situation is finally starting to dawn on the rich man. He can receive no comfort or help from Abraham or Lazarus. His punishment is eternal, all because he was consumed by enjoyment of his possessions while he was alive, to the exclusion of being generous and loving to those around him who were in need.
So his mind turned from is own sad fate to his brothers, who were just as consumed by their stuff as he had been by his. If only there was some way to warn them so that they could repent and turn away from this dead-end track before it was too late.
In an instant the solution struck him: if Abraham would send Lazarus to his brothers, surely they would repent. After all, who wouldn’t listen to someone risen from the dead with an eye-witness account of the afterlife!?
But Abraham wouldn’t consider his request for three very good reasons. First, he had no authority to send someone back from the dead. That is God’s sole purview. Second, Lazarus is not the rich man’s servant, that he should run to do his bidding. But third, and most significantly, the rich man’s brothers, like he himself, had free access to the teachings of the law of Moses and the prophets that clearly showed them how they must live in order to avoid an eternity of suffering.
But the rich man was un-swayed. He knew that he himself had not paid attention to what the law taught about how to live as one of God’s people; he was too busy planning his investments and his feasts. And his brothers were cut from the same cloth. Even if the knew the law inside out, they were not likely to allow it to change their hearts. But if someone like Lazarus rose from the dead, that would catch their attention and open their hearts to change!
But Abraham saw clearly that if the brothers were willfully deaf and wouldn’t listen to the law and the prophets, even someone rising from the dead would not open up their hardened hearts to see how they were supposed to live, genuinely loving God, and loving others as well. In this, Jesus was taking a clear shot directly at the hearts of the Pharisees to whom He was speaking. They knew the law and the prophets inside out. In fact, most of them could quote large portions of the Scriptures. But many of them studied the law as a mechanism to win God’s favor so that He would increase their wealth. Their hard hearts had nothing of mercy about them. They despised those of their own people who were not as legalistically “righteous” as themselves, refusing to touch them, eat with them, or be near them for fear of contamination. And Jesus knew that even the reality of someone rising from the dead would have no impact on their hard hearts. Unfortunately, in just a short time, He would be proved right when these same leaders refused to have faith in Him after He Himself rose from the dead. Indeed, they tried to cover up His resurrection instead, and persecuted His followers who insisted on talking about it.
Father, Jesus was spot on about the hearts of the Pharisees. But we, even today, can fall into the same trap: following Your word because of the blessings we believe will come our way if we do, but not allowing our hearts to be filled with love, love for You, love for the lost, and love for those of the faith who are struggling. Change our hearts where You need to, Lord, so that we serve You out of unconditional love for You, and so that we love all of those around us with that same unconditional love. Amen,.