Good morning, everybody. I don’t need to tell you that we’re given one day at a time by God. And Jesus tells us that we should focus on the day in a sense by not worrying too much of tomorrow. Today is going to have enough, he says, to think about. The devil tries to spoil today and of course he can’t steal our eternity, he can’t steal the eternity of a believer, but he will try to spoil the day, one day at a time. Now you may remember that it was in the late eighties in fact 32 years ago that a film came out called Dead Poet Society, which made the phrase carpe diem very trendy and very popular, seize the day. But of course the phrase now is style and forgotten. And I feel sorry for the people who’ve had it tattooed on their necks because it’s now a fairly stale phrase.
But even though the phrase may be stale, the principle is still very important to seize what is available today. And that’s the point of the parable which we’re going to read now from Luke chapter 16. On the surface, the parable looks as though it’s simply saying there’s a rich man who goes to hell and a poor man who goes to heaven. But we know that it can’t be as simple as that because Abraham was a rich man and he obviously went to be with God. And so I hope that you’ll stay with me as we look at this very puzzling, but very powerful parable. And we’ll see what is the real point of the parable. So please follow it. I’m going to read Luke 16 and I’m reading from verse 18.
We read, Jesus said there was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fed sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus full of sores who was laid at his gate desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried and being in torment in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.
And then he cried out, “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’m tormented in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this between us and you, there is a great chasm fixed so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot nor can those from their pass to us.”
And he said, “I beg you therefore father that you would send him to my father’s house for I have five brothers that he may testify to them lest they also come to this place of torment.” Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets let them hear them.’ And he said, “No father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead they will repent.” But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” Now we’re coming to the end of a little series of parables this is the last. And you may remember that there is a parable, the prodigal son in Luke 15. Where Jesus teaches that the person who’s wandered away, which is everybody should come home to God. And then in Luke 16 we saw last week that there is a man who looks to the future.
Of course he’s a fairly canny, shrewd businessman and he’s not being commended for his dishonesty, he’s being commended because he looks to the future. And now Jesus tells another parable almost immediately to say the future is serious. This parable is serious. And I want to divide it up into three brief points this morning. The first I’ve called opportunity described. These two men obviously have an opportunity. Then opportunity concluded, the two men lose their opportunity at death. Thirdly, opportunity provided for us. We have an opportunity that God is giving to us while we are in this world. So opportunity described. There are two men, they’re very different men. One has everything the rich man, he’s got the clothes, he’s got the food, he’s got the luxury he’s got everything on a plate. The poor man has nothing. We’re told that he has sores and even the dogs are licking the sores.
And he’s hungry, starving. The rich man is obviously unresponsive to the poor man, even though the poor man is at his gates. The rich man is not listening to the poor man and that’s why the poor man gets nothing. This rich man is focused on himself and now. He chooses not to see the man and not to listen to the man. This rich man is very much a seize the day for me man. Now, you may remember as I mentioned, the parable last week of the shrewd businessman is where Jesus is commending somebody who thinks ahead. Now he is warning about a man who thinks immediately of now, that’s all. He’s not criticizing the rich man because he’s wealthy. He’s not saying the poor man must go to heaven because he’s poor. The Bible doesn’t criticise wealth nor does God even expect his wealthy people to solve all the poverty of the world. We couldn’t possibly do that. But he does greatly warn us against being focused and fixated on self, now and money. This man in Luke 16 is a warning bell for us.
I have a friend who was the pastor in the church in Mosman, Mosman being quite a wealthy suburb on the Northern side. And he says in his a little commentary on the book of Luke that one day one of his neighbours said to him, “How come you’re bothering us with stuff about God and heaven?” And the man said to him, “Why would you bother us with God and heaven when we’ve got heaven here and now?” And my friend said to him, “Yes, but for how long?| That’s the point isn’t it? We would be absolutely insane to think that time was in our control. This poor man has nothing in his time in the world. And we might think that’s a total tragedy, but Jesus shows that it’s not a total tragedy because this man’s brief life is over quite soon but he has taken hold of something which this rich man never took hold of. And which was bigger and better than everything this rich man ever did take hold of. And that was a future with God.
So that’s the opportunity described. They both had an opportunity to take hold of something for the future. Obviously one didn’t and one did. Second point, opportunity concluded verses 22 to 26. We’ read in verse 22 they both died. Just one verse, they both died. The rich man died of course the poor man died of course. And you can imagine the two funerals. Let’s imagine the rich man had his funeral at the opera house. The prime minister spoke, big wigs in the media spoke. Thousands of people attended, tens of thousands watched on television. Some of the funerals that have been taken in this building have been very big famous funerals. Imagine the funeral of the poor man, it’s possible that nobody came. Maybe there was just the minister and the funeral director. I’ve taken a funeral once for an indigenous man in the rain where I was the only person present with the funeral director.
I want to ask you whether you would prefer to have a funeral at the Opera House where people speak glowingly about you and thousands attend and applaud, but then you cross the river of death and the Lord Jesus says, “I don’t know you, depart.” Or whether you’d rather have almost nothing for a funeral and cross the river and find yourself face-to-face with the Lord Jesus. And he says, “Welcome. Come and take your inheritance.” I’m sure you’d prefer the second and I would prefer the second as well. What is said on this side of the river is not as important as what is said on the other side of the river. And you’ll notice that when this poor man dies, we’re told very beautifully that the angels of God carries him up to heaven as if God is looking after. Well he is, he’s looking after his own people even in their death.
And the poor man is strangely carried up to Abraham. What an unusual thing to be told. But remember that Jesus was speaking to the Jews and the Jews revered Abraham. And they consider themselves the people of Abraham and they expected to be with Abraham. And Jesus is saying this poor man went where you want to go. And then the rich man we’re told he’s in hell, which again would have been incredible to the Jews because they would have said to themselves this man must have been blessed by God look how much money he had. He couldn’t possibly go to hell, but he does. Well, is it true that the rich go to hell and the poor go to heaven? Is there some kind of cheap reversal going on where God just simply says to people, “You had it good in Woollahra now you’ll go to hell. You had it terrible in Bangladesh, now you’ll go to heaven.”
Of course not. The Bible tells us that God gives people richly to enjoy the things of this world. And he gave plenty to Abraham and plenty to Job and plenty to David and plenty to Solomon and plenty to many in this world. I have friends who are multi-millionaires but Jesus is the person they’re serving and their money is at his disposal. There are plenty of rich people who follow Jesus. There are plenty of poor people who refuse Jesus. The issue is much more profound and it comes in the very last verse of the parable, which we’ll see in a minute. Please notice that heaven and hell are real. According to the person who knows what he’s talking about, which is Jesus Christ. Watch out for the person who says that they just simply don’t believe in hell when they don’t know as much as Jesus Christ.
You see that according to Jesus hell is a terrible place. It’s a place that he wept over speaking about it. It’s a place he died to prevent people from going to. It’s a terrible place. And the rich man, verse 24 longs, for relief but there are two problems with the relief. One, verse 25, he has received everything that he will ever receive. And verse 26, the Gulf, the gap, the chasm between heaven and hell is unbridgeable, uncrossable. Strange isn’t it that at funerals we often say that so-and-so has gone off to be with God even though so-and-so in this world wanted nothing to do with God. And so we have this strange situation at the funeral where we’re dealing with so-and-so who didn’t want anything to do with God and now we’re saying that this person has gone off to be with God.
It’s like a forcing of a relationship, which of course will never happen. There is a future for everyone, but it will be either heaven or hell. It’s not a mystery where we will go. Because if you in this world have wanted the presence of the saviour, you’ll have the presence of the saviour. But if you in this world have wanted the absence or the distance of the saviour, you’ll have the absence or the distance of the saviour. It’s not very complicated, but when your life concludes your decision is locked into place. This is something concluded, an opportunity concluded. Third and last thing today is the opportunity provided. And this is where we get to the point of the parable. You may be impatient, you may be thinking, “Come on Mr. Preacher, tell us what is the point? You’ve confused me up until now.” Well, it’s going to come very clear I assure you.
I hope it’s going to come very clear. It isn’t that riches are fatal. It isn’t that poverty is crucial. Look at verse 27, the rich man asks Abraham if Lazarus could go to his brothers and warn them, don’t come to hell. I guess if people in heaven right now could speak to us they would say, “Take Jesus seriously.” I guess if people in hell could speak to us right now, they would say, “Take Jesus seriously.” This rich man has a strange concern for his brothers, but he’s still fairly selfish because he’s only thinking of his brothers. He doesn’t say, “Please go and warn the town. Please go and warn the world.” He says, “I want my brothers to be well looked after.” He thinks that Lazarus will run the errand for him. He’s still got a slightly superior view of himself.
And he thinks that his brothers need some special information as if God has said nothing up until now. It’s as if God has been stingy and silent and has said nothing. And so this man says, “Look, you need to go and say something.” Well look at the reply. Verse 29, I have said something. Your brothers have got the Bible. Your brothers have got Moses and the prophets. God has made himself completely clear. The news has spread around. The rich man comes back in verse 30 and he says, “No, no, no, that’s not enough. They need a resurrected man. If you would just give them a man who was dead and is now alive then they’ll listen, then they will respond.” And the answer comes back verse 31, this is the climax of the parable.
If they’re close to the Bible, they’re close to a resurrection. If they’re close to the Bible, they’re close to a miracle. Now my friends, I wonder whether you believe that. Do you realise that if a miracle was to take place in front of the people of our streets and they were close to God, the miracle would do them no good whatsoever. Jesus did dozens of miracles in front of people who then went on to crucify him. When he raised Lazarus from the dead Jesus’ enemy said, “Well now we need to kill Lazarus and Jesus.” A miracle is not enough to save. The point of the parable you see is that what is needed for a safe future is that you will listen to what God says. What does God say about our sin? It needs to be forgiven. What does God say about his son? We need to receive him as saviour, the sin and the son come together, that’s the gospel.
Listen to those two vital pieces of information. Sin needs to be forgiven, the son needs to be received. Bishop [inaudible 00:16:41] says in his commentary back in the 19th century, “It’s not more evidence that is needed it’s making use of what’s been said. It’s not more evidence that’s needed, it’s making use of what has been said.| He goes on to say, “This is going to destroy a thousand souls waiting for something that you don’t have while neglecting something you do have.” And David Gooding says in his commentary, “If a miracle were needed for salvation, God would arrange a miracle in every room of every house and in every street of every town, but they’re not necessary for salvation.” And he’s absolutely right because God is so generous. He has provided everything that he’s needed for salvation, his son, his invitation, his promises.
It’s very clear therefore that the rich man was morally and spiritually deaf, D-E-A-F. He was deaf to the poor man because he was deaf to God. He was not listening to anybody. It’s clear that the poor man had actually listened to God. He had put his faith in Christ because he is now going to be with his saviour. This is what I think are the signs of the person who is listening to God. They value their Bible. Their Bible is well-worn. They’re reading it often and often. They read it to know their saviour better. They read it to know his message, his promises, his warnings. Jesus said, “My sheep listen, these are the signs of the person who’s spiritually deaf. The Bible is neglected, promises are unknown.” You’ve got to 70 years old, 80, 90 you don’t really know any promises. They haven’t really been listened to. The sermons are pretty meaningless. Everything is about now, the future is unknown.
Now we know that God is generous. We know he’s given his son. We know he’s given his words, receive his son, receive his word and keep receiving his word again and again and again. Because that will be the promises on which pilgrims feed in the journey. Here are the three things that I mentioned. Opportunity described, a man with everything in this world except a future, a man with nothing in this world but a future, opportunity concluded both men die, both go forever to their destination. One to heaven one hell. Third, opportunity provided for us today, a saviour to be joined and a message to be listened to.
Thank you our gracious God for giving to us all that we need, a saviour and your promises. May we be receivers of both, may we be living out what we have received in Jesus name, amen.