The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)

The sermon today is found in Luke 16:19-31.  Commonly known as “The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus”, this parable shows us the foolishness of seeking earthly comfort (which is temporary) to the neglect of heavenly comfort (which is forever).  Let us consider this morning the following:

The Rich Man’s Comfort (v.19)

In verse 19 we are introduced to a rich man described as “clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day” (19).  His purple clothing signified that while he was not a king, he intentionally dressed like one.  The fine linen indicated that he paid much attention to his clothing and desired to use it to show others that he was important.  This rich man not only used his money to buy the best clothing, but “feasted sumptuously every day”.  This rich man spared no expense in regards to his meals.  He had magnificent meals prepared daily for his enjoyment and amusement.  All of this tells us that this rich man cared greatly about enjoying life and was passionate about pursuing pleasure, comfort, and worldly ease.

Lazarus’ Anguish (v.20-21)

We also learn that he not only had great clothing and great feasts, he had a great problem at his gate.  At his gate was a “poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores” (20).  This poor man who was covered with sores “desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.”  The rich man considered Lazarus a problem because Lazarus was an obstacle to his pursuit of pleasure at all costs.  Lazarus reminded the rich man that there was suffering and pain in this world.  Lazarus reminded the rich man that there were many people who needed help.  Consider the lack of compassion of the rich man because he was covered in the finest clothing while Lazarus was covered with sores.  The rich man feasted sumptuously daily while refusing to allow even the crumbs that fell on the floor to be given to the starving man at his gate.  Lazarus was covered in sores with no one to protect him or care for him.  In fact it has gotten so bad that he was unable to fend off wild street dogs that licked his sores bringing even more pain and misery.  Lazarus is a man with worldly sorrow and the rich man’s lack of love for Lazarus indicated his lack of love for God.

Lazarus’ Comfort (v. 22a)

In verse 22 we learn more about the character of Lazarus (whose name means “He whom God has helped”).  In this verse we read that “the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.”  The fact that angels carried him to Heaven (called “Abraham’s Side”) indicates that he was a man of faith who trusted in the Lord to save him.

The Rich Man’s Anguish (v. 22b-26)

In verse 22 we also read that the rich man died.  But unlike Lazarus, who was carried to Heaven, the rich man found himself in Hell (called “Hades”).  Hades/Hell in this story refers to the place of the wicked prior to the final judgment.  It is a terrible place because Jesus says the rich man “being in torment…called out…have mercy on me…for I am in anguish in this flame” (23-24).  This rich man is experiencing anguish in the form of hellish sorrow (25) and finds himself cut off from heaven (26).  Abraham explained to the rich man “remember that you in your lifetime received your good things and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish” (25).  The rich man pursued lust instead of the Lord, fame instead of faith, and comfort instead of the cross.

Abraham’s Warning (v.27-31)

The rich man understood it was too late for him now that he was in hell; but that it was not too late for his brothers who were still living.  He cried out, “I beg you, father, to send [Lazarus] to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they come into this place of torment” (27-28).  The rich man, for the first time, became concerned about the spiritual welfare of his family.  Abraham replied “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them” (29).  The rich man wants Lazarus to go because he felt that if someone were to go from the dead they would listen.  Abraham replies, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (31).

Hear God’s Message.  Abraham warns that we should hear Moses and the Prophets.  Moses and the Prophets speak to us through the Law which shows us that we are not good enough to enter into heaven because we are lawbreakers.  We are like the rich man who demonstrates that he loves himself more than anyone else by the fact that he is more worried about having nice clothes than seeing that a poor man has any food and any clothing.   The Law shows us our sin and when we hear it speaking to us we hear it showing us our need to find peace with God.  If we believe we are good enough to enter into heaven we are deceived because God says we are not good enough.  God’s message shows us the wicked state of our hearts and points us to His messenger.

Hear God’s Messenger.  The Pharisees (hypocritical, legalistic religious leaders) listened to Jesus tell this parable and were shocked that the rich man went to hell and Lazarus went to heaven.  They assumed that the rich man was blessed by God because he was rich and that Lazarus was cursed by God because he was poor.  They failed to hear God’s message of faith and failed to hear God’s messenger: Jesus Christ.  The only cure for the problem of sin is Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection He demonstrated His power over sin and death and His ability to give eternal life.  By confessing (acknowledging) that you are a sinner who deserves hell and placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you can be saved and find peace with God.  Do not wait until it is too late, come to Jesus today.