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Sunday, October 17, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and the Great Chasm"

“Jesus and the Great Chasm”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
October 17, 2010
Luke 16:19-31


For several chapters now, Jesus has been teaching his disciples and fighting with the Pharisees.  He’s been teaching (among other things) about the surprising Kingdom of God, God’s passionate love for lost people, and the dangers of loving money.

And the Pharisees have responded to this teaching by sneering at Jesus and ignoring God’s word.

So in today’s passage, Jesus tells yet another story about the same things–and this one is all about the danger of ignoring God’s Word.

Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  The Rich Man and Lazarus.

It’s probably a familiar parable to most of us.

It’s a story about the urgency of getting right with God now while there is still time.

It’s a story about two people who end up in very different (and surprising) places.

Two people who are separated by a great chasm, a great gulf, an unbridgeable space.  A fixed, terrible, and irreversible chasm.

We’re going to call today’s message, “Jesus and the Great Chasm.”


Jesus is the most amazing storyteller there ever was and ever will be!

The story starts in verses 19-21 with the introduction of the two main characters: the Rich Man and Lazarus.

These two men couldn’t be more different in circumstances.

The rich man (who is never named, he is traditionally called “Dives” but that’s just from the Latin here for “riches”) was (v.19) “...dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.”

Purple was the most expensive color to die your clothes with.  Purple was reserved, unless you could afford it, only for royalty.  And the fine linen here is literally a fine undergarment.  This man even has “posh underwear!”

He lives in the lap of luxury every single day.

This man would have been on T.V. with Robin Leach and the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!”

Is that bad, that he had good things? 

Is it bad to rich?  No.  Not necessarily.  It makes things harder [(v.13), you cannot serve both God and money.], but it’s not necessarily bad.

However, there is another person in this story that lives in the same neighborhood and he is terribly poor and needy. V.20

“At [the rich man’s] gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus [he is named!], covered with sores [terrible medical condition] and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”

A stark contrast if there ever was one!

This man, Lazarus (not Mary and Martha’s brother but another Lazarus), was probably crippled (he had to be laid at the gate).  He was suffering terribly with open sores, and was desperately hungry.

He longed “to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”

Reminds us of the prodigal son, right?  Who wished that he could eat the pig’s slops?

Lazarus wishes that he could eat the dog’s food.

There are dogs here.  These are probably guard dogs or wild dogs.  People didn’t just keep dogs as pets back then.  And they are very unclean.  And they are licking his sores.  Yuck!  It might have been compassionate that they did that, but it’s still gross.

If it was compassionate, the dogs are the only ones showing Lazarus any compassion.

The rich man has absolutely everything but does absolutely nothing.
Lazarus has absolutely nothing and can do nothing but suffer.  And die.  V.22

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.”

Now the story is going to change.  Incredibly.

Death comes to both characters in Jesus’ story, but it is not the end for either of them.

Both die, but they end up in radically different places.

V.22 says that the angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s side.  The King James says, “into Abraham’s bosom.”

We don’t use that word “bosom” much today.  It means “side” and particularly the chest.  Near to someone.

Here, it’s really a banqueting term.

Remember, in the Ancient Near East it people reclined at low tables like spokes on a wheel, and if you wanted to talk to someone, you would recline backwards towards  them an turn your head to talk to them.  The Apostle John talked intimately that way with our Lord at the Last Supper.  The Last Supper was not like Michelangelo’s famous painting.

John was in Jesus’ bosom.

And here, the picture is that of a great feast, presumably in Heaven.  And Lazarus is right up there, right near Father Abraham, the greatest Father figure of the Jews.

Lazarus has made it to blessing.

We would say, in our terminology, that Lazarus was in heaven.

Remember, the kingdom is a party, and Lazarus was now partying with Abraham.

Remember the old Negro spiritual, “Rock ‘O My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham?”

Lazarus has made it.

He went from the bottom of the world to the top of Heaven.

Interestingly, Lazarus never speaks in Jesus’ story.  He suffers too much to speak in the first part, and I think he’s too happy to speak in the second part of the story.

He has doesn’t have to speak, because Abraham speaks for him.  And Abraham, interestingly enough, speaks in this story for God, as well.

And he speaks to the rich man who is in hell. V.23

“In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.”

The word here translated “hell” in verse 23 is the Greek word, “Hades” which was the place of the dead and one of the words sometimes translated “hell.”

It definitely was hell for this formerly rich man.  He is not rich any longer.  He now has nothing and is in painful torment.

And this man can see Abraham and can see Lazarus, and I think he can see how happy Lazarus is.

Their positions are now switched.
There is a surprising and complete reversal between these two men.

And the formerly rich man wants help.  He calls to Abraham.  V.24

“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.'”

Now, don’t work up some compassion for him.  This man is (we have seen and will see) getting what he deserves.

Notice that he talks to Abraham.  Calls him “Father.”  He expects his racial connection with Abraham to help him out.  He is a Jew, after all.

And notice, especially, that he doesn’t talk to Lazarus (even though he knew his name!  He knew his name but hadn’t done a thing to help him!  He doesn’t talk to Lazarus), but actually has the audacity to ask Abraham to send Lazarus like some kind of a servant boy to give him a dip of water on his tongue–the tongue that feasted sumptuously every single day.

But he had never lifted a finger to relieve Lazarus’ suffering with even a table scrap.

“Hey, send that boy down here to help me.”

I think that that’s the thing that surprised me the most as I studied this story this week.

He is in agony, but he’s not repentant at all.  And he still thinks that he is above Lazarus and that others ought to be serving him.

It’s easy to get used to be rich and take for granted the perks that come with it.

But this man had paid no attention to God or God’s Word all of his life, and though he has now begun to pay for it, he hasn’t changed his mind at all.

In verses 25 and 26, Abraham, as the mouthpiece of God, responds to the formerly rich man and tells him the bad news.  V.25

“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 fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'”

Now, I don’t know how many of these details we are to take literally.

I doubt that people in Hell are now talking with Abraham.  This is a parable.

But parables are supposed to teach things. And if this parable teaches anything, it teaches that there is a great chasm, a great gulf fixed (irreversible) between blessing and judgment in eternity.

There is a great chasm between Heaven and Hell and no one in eternity cross over from one to the other.  It is an unbridgeable divide.

And it is fixed.  V.26 “Between us and you a great chasm has been FIXED.”

Fixed.  So that when you get to eternity, there is no going back.  No second chances.

It is too late.  Let’s read those two verses again.

“But Abraham replied, 'Son [in the flesh but not in the faith], 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 fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'”

It is too late.  It is too late.

Those are frightening words.  Those are sobering words.

They are supposed to stop us and make us think.

Whom is Jesus telling this story to?

Well, in the context, he’s been teaching His disciples, and He’s also been fighting with the Pharisees.

He’s not teaching dead people. He’s talking to living people before it’s too late for them.

He’s really saying this, “NOW is the time!”

NOW is the time.

Soon it will be too late.

And you don’t know when it will be.

But it will come, and when it does the results are irreversible.  Fixed.

And what you do now is what counts.

NOW is the time.

We’re going to have four points of application today.

#1.  NOW IS THE TIME TO CARE FOR THE POOR.

It’s one thing that the Rich Man had completely ignored.

The Scriptures are clear about how God wants us to treat the poor–compassion, mercy, generosity, care.

And you can’t do that in eternity.

It’s something you can’t do after you die.

Now is the time to care for the poor.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  You can’t earn your way to heaven by giving your money to the poor.  We’ve seen that already in this book.

But we’ve also seen that if you love God, you will love people, but if you love money, you will just love yourself.

Money can be such a false god!  Mammon.

Mammon wants us not think about eternity.  Not think about the world to come.

Mammon wants us to just enjoy ourselves now and not think about other people.

Especially those pesky poor people.

But a “great chasm has been fixed” between judgment and blessing.

And so, now is the time to care for the poor.

We might like to think of ourselves as poor!

But everyone in this room is richer than that rich man in Jesus’ story.

We all have purple things and fine linen.  And eat really well.  And don’t worry about where our next meal is going to come from.

Raise your hand if know you’re going to have lunch today.
Raise your hand if know you’re going to have lunch tomorrow.
Raise your hand if know you’re going to have lunch every day this week.

By the world’s standards, we here, are all very rich.

And so we better be thinking about the poor.

I love these shoeboxes.  They are a great way of applying this passage to our lives.

They are going to go to “Lazaruses” around the world.

Kid Lazaruses.  Poor and needy.  And they are a great opportunity to apply what we’ve been learning about shrewd generosity.  Remember v.9?  Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth (at the Dollar Store) to gain friends for yourselves (of poor children around the world), so that when it is gone (and it will be gone someday soon!), you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (on Abraham’s side of the great chasm).”

Now, is the time to care for the poor.  Soon, it will be too late.

#2.  NOW IS THE TIME TO WARN PEOPLE ABOUT HELL.

That’s what is on the man’s mind in verse 27.

He has just realized that there is no hope for himself, so he wants to do something for his own brothers.  V.27

“‘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.'”

Notice again, that he expects Lazarus to serve him.

He wants him to go (as a ghost perhaps or in a dream or something?) back to Earth to his dad’s place to miraculously pass on the message of the great chasm.

He wants his 5 brothers, who are also Jews, to hear the warning that he sends.

But Abraham says, “No.” v.28

“Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’”

Abraham, speaking for God says in effect, “No, they have the Bible. They have the Old Testament–Moses and the Prophets–and that’s enough.  It’s all in there.  The commands to love the poor, the commands to repent and believe in the Lord, the promises of the Messiah and His coming salvation.  It’s all in there. If they don’t ignore that, they’ll be fine.  They have Scripture.”

Remember who is listening.  Remember last week, that the “slightest stroke of a pen” won’t drop out of the Law, but the Pharisees had been ignoring God’s Word.

The warnings are all there.  Let them listen to the Bible.  V.30

‘'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 man reasons that surely he himself would have repented if he had had a personal miracle.

But Abraham knows better.  It’s a heart-problem, not an information problem.

Miracles don’t necessarily convince people.

Remember the other Lazarus?  Jesus raised him from the dead.  How did people respond?

Some rejoiced and believed.  Others tried to turn Jesus in to the authorities.

And the authorities didn’t re-consider who Jesus was.  They tried to get rid of him–even though “someone had risen from the dead.”

Hard hearts aren’t convinced even by miracles.

No, Son, you should have listened to the Word of God when you were alive and talked to your brothers then.

Now is the time to warn people about Hell.

There is a great chasm fixed between heaven and hell.  Fixed.

And now is the time to warn people.

You and I have to tell people about Hell.

I’m struck by all of the suffering words in this short story.

V.23, “torment.”
V.24, “agony in this fire.”
V.25, “agony”
v.28, “place of torment”

Hell is real, and it is really coming to real people.

And now is our chance to warn them.

After we die, it’s too late.

Now is our chance to warn people.

And more than that–to invite people. 

#3.  NOW IS THE TIME TO INVITE PEOPLE TO HEAVEN.

At the Challenge Conference this year, Lucas was given a book called, “The One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven.”

You know what that is?

Evangelism.
Telling lost people about Jesus.

Every shoebox that we send has a gospel presentation in it.

Because the gospel is more than just don’t go to Hell.

It is come with me to Heaven through what Jesus did for us on the Cross.

Now is the time to believe God’s word.

Moses and the Prophets.  They pointed to Jesus.

And He is the way to Heaven.

We need to invite people to turn from their sins and put their trust in the Savior who rescues people to go to Abraham’s side.

There is a great chasm fixed–and we need to NOW encourage people to choose which side they are on.

What are you and I doing these days to reach our lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members for Christ?

We’ve seen Jesus’ heart for the lost.

What is our heart for the lost?

Next Sunday, I want to invite you to our church family meal and meeting.  One of the things we’re going to be talking about at that meeting is how we, as a whole church, as a team, can reach out more to our community.

To invite people to come with us to Heaven through what Jesus did for us on the Cross.

Come to that meeting and bring your ideas and thoughts and your prayers and your hopes and your vision.

Because now is the time.

After we die, it’s too late.

Now is the time share the gospel with those who need to hear it.

And #4.  NOW IS THE TIME TO REPENT.

Did you see that in verse 30?

The formerly rich man knows what his problem was.  He knows that he failed to repent.

The point was not that if he’d been generous, he would have been saved, but that if he’d been repentant, he would have been generous.

And he wasn’t.

He wasn’t repentant.

And now, there is no going back.

It’s too late for him.

It may not be too late for his brothers, if they read the word of God and believe it.

But it is too late after you die to turn away from your sins and turn to Jesus.

Now is the time to repent.

If you have never trusted Jesus as your Lord Savior, now is the time.

Now is the time to turn to Him, before it is too late.

Because between Heaven and Hell there has been a great chasm fixed.



Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus

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