And he (the rich man) said, "Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house -- for I have five brothers -- so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment." ... He (Abraham) said to him, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead." Luke 16:27-28, 31
Songkran is the week-long New Year's celebration of Thailand.
To get an idea of its scope, imagine Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July rolled up into one giant festival. During this time of celebration, people return to their homes for a reunion and do some serious celebrating. Sometimes, some folk celebrate too seriously.
In short, drunken drivers and irresponsible drivers do some serious carnage on Thailand's roads.
How serious is the destruction? The authorities call the week "The Seven Days of Danger." It is estimated 2.3 people die every hour during the celebration. Taken altogether, this means that Thailand has the second worst record in the world for traffic fatalities.
To combat the problem, earlier this year the government decided it could impound the cars of drunk drivers for the entire week of festival. More recently, they put into effect a new punishment. From now on those who are found guilty of repeated traffic violations will be sentenced to doing public service in a hospital morgue. It is hoped that seeing the carnage which is brought about by traffic accidents will make them fearful of their future.
In the parable of "The Rich Man and Lazarus," a similar shock-treatment request is made.
From his place of punishment, the rich man pleads that dead Lazarus be sent to redirect his brothers toward repentance. The rich man probably thought that nothing is more likely to scare someone out of hell and into heaven than the appearance of a dead man. Seventeen centuries later, Charles Dickens would agree when he sent deceased Marley to pay a visit to Scrooge.
Of course, you know the reply: "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."
When I was little and heard that parable for the first time, I thought why not send a dead man to the brothers? A dead man sure would make me repent.
It took me a long time before I realized the Lord did indeed look favorably on the rich man's request. Three days after His lifeless body was placed into a borrowed tomb, Jesus rose from the dead and showed the world His sacrifice was accepted; His work was done.
And has the world believed Moses or the Prophets or Someone who rose from the dead? By the Holy Spirit's power some have, but the fate of others -- some of our fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters -- still are hanging in the balance. The Lord is calling them, and it is our privilege to share that invitation.
This is our time and moment to tell the world that the devil's darkness is dark indeed, and the Lord's light is a wondrous, blessed thing.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the fear of hell should be enough to scare people. It should be, but often it is not. Far better for people to hear the Lord's invitation to forgiveness, salvation, hope, happiness and peace. May we share the Law and Gospel of that invitation with those around us. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries