The Parable of Lazarus and the Poor Man

ImageThere was a certain rich man who was decked out in the finest clothing, from head to toe clad in nothing but the best. This rich man feasted sumptuously every day, licking his lips at the sight of the delectable fare that filled his table. His closest friends gathered round about him, delighting in his company, and he in theirs. Yes, this rich man led the best of lives and had the best things in this world. Truly, he was a blessed man.

And this rich man’s name was Lazarus.

O Christian, seeing, you do not see, if you look only with your eyes. Your ears must do the seeing, if you are to view things not merely as they appear, but as they really are. Your eyes do not see Lazarus as a rich man but a poor beggar; not as one who feasted sumptuously every day, but as one who yearned for crumbs; not as a man befriended, but as one surrounded by dogs who licked his sores; not as one with the best, but as one with the worst; not as one blessed, but as one cursed, forgotten, lost, and miserable. So your eyes see Lazarus, and, seeing, you do not see. Sunk into your face are two liars. Like two blind men who take you by the hand and lead you soul and body into the infernal pit, so are the eyes of your flesh.

Who is Lazarus? Who is he, really? He is who God says he is; yes, he is whoever and whatever God says. He is the certain rich man, who is filled with the riches of the Father’s grace. He is decked out in the righteousness of Christ, clad from head to toe, soul and flesh, with the body of the crucified. He lives on the bread that comes down from above, the heavenly cuisine of the Word that comes from the mouth of God. The ox knows its owner, the donkey its master’s manger, and the dogs know that Lazarus is a child of God, and they pay him homage the best way they know how.

But you, O sinner, you do not know, you do not understand, for you do not pay heed to Moses and the prophets. Dogs see clearly the truth to which you are blind. They lick the sores of Lazarus while you hold you nose and scurry on by; they befriend him, you belittle him; they pay him homage, you pay him not a red cent. O the depth of the blindness of sinful man! Joseph is sold into bondage, and we snicker about how he must have gotten a big head from those dreams of his, and therefore received the nightmare he deserved. Job loses family and friends, house and home, and we wag our fingers at him with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, saying, “Out with it! What’s your dirty little secret that made God so mad at you?” Seeing, we do not see, for we think we can put two and two together and figure out why one is poor and another rich, why one is healthy and another dying, why one is divorced and another happily married.

Repent. Wash your blinded eyes in the water of Moses and the prophets, that seeing, you may truly see. Do not be like the rich man in hell, whose five living brothers were just like he was. These six men are like the six days of the old, fallen creation: blind to God’s ways, deaf to God’s words. Sit beside Lazarus. Be his disciple. Learn of him who learned from God that blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the pure in heart, yea, blessed are those who hear the Word of Moses and the prophets and keep it.

Who is Joseph, who is Job, who is Lazarus—who are they but icons of Jesus, mortal images of the immortal Savior who resides in their flesh and bones? There was a certain rich man who came down from heaven to be born in a barn, to have nowhere to lay his head, to be surrounded by dogs (Ps. 22:16). There was a certain rich man who emptied himself, taking the form of Lazarus, and being made in the likeness of your sinful flesh, that He might redeem your sinful flesh. He came to heed Moses and the prophets—hearing to atone for your deafness, seeing to atone for your blindness, being all that you can never be. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Like a Lazarus, like a Job, like a Joseph from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him to be nothing. Yet surely our griefs He Himself bore, our sins were the sores in His flesh, our iniquities the aching pain in His stomach, our deaths the dryness of His throat. All this He willingly endured, more willing to suffer hell on earth than for you to suffer hell after earth.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. On that cross He thirsted, that you might drink of the river of life in Jerusalem above. He was stripped that you might be clothed with the garments of salvation. He was crowned with thorns that you might escape the curse of Adam. He was tortured in the flames of His Father’s wrath that you might be embraced in the warmth of the Father’s love. He was the Lazarus who traded places with all you rich men, that you might not come to the place of torment.

O the depth of the goodness and grace of the God who is love, who has befriended you, who has saved you, who has opened your eyes to see what really is! You, He knows by name; to you He gives the riches of His kingdom; to you He gives the right to be called the children of God; you, too, shall recline with Lazarus, and with all the saints, in the bosom of our father Abraham.

jpeg ad6x9This sermon is included in my book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. If you’re looking for feel-good, saccharine devotional material, you’d better keep looking because you’re not going to find it here. If you’re looking for moralistic guides to the victorious Christian life, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed by all the Gospel in this book. But if you’re looking for reflections drenched in the Scriptures, focused through and through on the saving work of Jesus Christ, and guided by a law-and-Gospel approach to proclamation, then I daresay you’ll be pleased with this book. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!


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3 thoughts on “The Parable of Lazarus and the Poor Man

  1. Jenny Knutson on said:

    I was still a kid when I first reflected, “I bet I wouldn’t have believed Jesus if I’d been around when he was alive.” For fear of false doctrine, false hopes, and liars in general, I was taught to be very cautious and skeptical. So I considered God’s ‘gift’ to me was that I could look back and rest on the 2000 years (+/-) of other believers’ struggles. In the intervening 50 years or so since my infant wisdom, there has been remarkably little ‘resting secure’, as I wrestle with doubts, disappointments and fears. Little wonder that I became a Lutheran to grasp external evidence for my salvation. The internal and experiential ‘evidence’ to my faith only reminds me of my need of the Savior, as I find myself avoiding Lazarus like the plague, jealous of Jacob’s love for Joseph, and tut-tutting at Job – who never listens to my advice…

  2. Dennis Schlecht on said:

    You have probably done so in other blogs and writings, but I didn’t notice: you capitalize the pronoun for Jesus. I always have, too. Publishers apparently disallow doing that but for my own private use I’ve always wanted to make a statement by using the proper pronoun.

    Your words and creative thoughts continue to inspire. Thank you.

    Dennis Schlecht

    • Thank you, Dennis. Some publishers do still capitalize divine pronouns. Concordia Publishing House does, for instance. I think it’s a good confession of Jesus’ divinity.

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