Luke 16:19-21a, 22-31 - [Jesus said] "There was a rich man ... who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. ... The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, 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. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he 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.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
In many cultures, stories about life after death often depict a division. It is said that people will be divided up to receive either rewards or retribution, depending on whether they were virtuous or villainous in this life. It seems people have always had a sense that our actions will catch up to us, and that death is not the escape some hope it will be.
Jesus affirms that there will be a final division after death. But what is striking about Jesus' story is the cause of the division. Listening, He says, is what matters. It's not whether you were blessed with wealth or deprived of it. It's not even whether people thought you were virtuous or villainous. Jesus says it all comes down to listening—listening to Moses and the Prophets.
If you listen to Moses and the Prophets, you'll hear where death came from and why we die. Genesis, the first book of Moses, reveals that death came into the world because humankind broke faith with God. Death came because we refused to listen to God. Jesus came to reverse death and its effects by dealing with the problem at its source. He came to confirm what Moses and the Prophets had already made known. But, if you won't listen to God, if you won't trust His promises in Jesus, then death and hell will only reveal what was already there: self-inflicted exclusion from God's free invitation to life.
Jesus told this story not to satisfy our curiosity about the afterlife. He told it as a personal warning to bring us back to God. And, by His death and resurrection, He became the fulfilment of the story of Moses and the Prophets—the story of God dying to forgive us and living to be with us. When Jesus rose from the dead, He crossed the chasm into your self-exclusion. The only question is, will you listen?
WE PRAY: Dear Jesus, help me listen to You so that I may keep Your commands and trust Your promises, Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. This story, in context, is a warning to those who love money and justify themselves before other people (Luke 16:14-15). When are you more likely to be receptive or resistant to a warning?
2. Can you think of a personal example of when someone gave you a harsh warning in love?
3. How does listening to God's Word shape the way you see your wealth (or lack of it)?
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