INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: The world knows nothing of true righteousness.))
The World doesn’t know anything about true righteousness. Sure, it may have some ideas about being outwardly righteous. The world may know that you should, as the boy scouts say, “Do a good turn daily.” The world’s way of righteousness is that of the Ghandis, the soup kitchens, and the charity walks, runs, and drives. Worldly, outward righteousness is all about “doing a solid” for your fellow man. The world also knows about Karma, what goes around comes around. If you end up with “blessing,” then you must be doing right, and if not, well, then you’re not doing right.
That’s how it is for the rich man in Jesus’ parable. Even in eternity, he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t repent of his unbelief. He just doesn’t want to suffer, and he’ll use Lazarus, the guy he ignored on his doorstep, to reduce his suffering. Abraham speaks to this man in terms he understands, “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.” It’s as if he said, “Well, you got what you wanted. God became for you the god you always wanted, a this-for-that god, a you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours god.” The man‘s blessings and riches became his god. He didn’t want the true and living God nor His Word in this life, and so he received an eternity of exactly that. What he always wanted; how he always lived.
((4. Ugh!: Neither do we.))
The real problem isn’t just with that rich man because we don’t understand true righteousness either. We don’t really think about righteousness in any other way besides the outward things we do. It’s a righteousness that’s separated from God, except that He rewards that kind of behavior. This is a righteousness that has nothing to do with true righteousness. Because this sort of righteousness is based on things that we should just be doing anyway, helping your neighbor, caring for your family, loving one another, forgiving them. That’s just what were expected to do.
Now, we also don’t understand true righteousness when we look at our lives. If things are going well, then I must be doing well. If things aren’t going so well, well…then what did we do to deserve it? If your life looked like Lazarus’ from the parable, what would you think? What would you think about God if you were homeless, helpless, starving, sick, and dying? What would you believe if your only friends were dogs, and in Jesus’ day, they were thought to be pests, a menace, and vermin. So, what would you think if your life was like that?
When we think about righteousness and what it means to be righteous, it all revolves around what we do and don’t do. Sure, sometimes “bad things happen to good people” but what makes them good people? What they do…
So, that’s all false righteousness. Where can true righteousness be found? How do you get it, then? Well,
((3. Aha!:)) THE TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH COMES THROUGH THE WORD.
Let me say that again, THE TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH COMES THROUGH THE WORD. True righteousness is a gift that God gives, and it’s apprehended, grasped, received, and bestowed through faith. Faith which is itself a gift. True righteousness, faith, and the righteousness that comes by faith—they all come from the same place: the Lord Jesus Himself. And He does this through the Word, His Word. This and nothing else is how Jesus gives out His own righteousness: the Word.
((2. Whee!: It doesn’t depend on you.))
What good news that is! That means true righteousness doesn’t depend on you. It certainly doesn’t depend on what you do, whether good or bad. It’s all about what Christ does. “He was crucified, died, and was buried.” He rose from the dead. Not that He just did those things, but He did them for you. In your place. Those things count for you. Before that He was baptized for you, “in order to fulfill all righteousness.” Now, by your baptism into Him, you’ve received His righteousness. It’s all Jesus working for you. His righteous. Not yours. Because of that it doesn’t depend on what you do or don’t do—all forgiven! And since it depends upon Him, it doesn’t depend on your circumstances, your life, whether things are going great or just plain terrible, and everything in between.
This is what Lazarus from the parable knew, believed, and trusted: that His Savior would never leave Him or forsake Him. He believed He was righteous before His Lord—not based on anything in him. He couldn’t see it with His eyes. He trusted His Lord, “and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.“ On the outside he looked a mess—no friends, sores, starving, dying. But by faith, he was the richest man around. He had a heavenly Father who loved him dearly. He was spotless, nourished by the Word, and alive in the Lord. The Lord fulfilled His promise and brought Lazarus to paradise. Nothing in Lazarus. All the Lord working for him.
((1. Yeah!: This righteousness endures forever!))
So also you! The righteousness that you have doesn’t depend on you at all, and so that true righteousness, THE TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH, endures forever. It endures forever because the Lord’s Word and promise to you endures forever. He gives His Word to you, His righteousness to you. That’s right! The Lord Jesus gives out His Word and His righteousness. He splashed it on your forehead. He puts it into your ears again and again and again: in the Absolution, and whenever the Scriptures are studied, read, or preached. He puts it into your mouth: we pray and sing His Word in the Liturgy, in the Lord‘s Prayer. And through the eternal Word’s Word He brings you His own body and blood for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. Righteousness received through faith, and this faith comes and is strengthened in the same ways Jesus gives His Word and righteousness: water, Keys, Word, body and blood.
THE TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH is yours, and it COMES to you THROUGH THE WORD. It’s a promise from the Lord Jesus Himself. It doesn’t depend on you. He keeps His promises. You trust Jesus and His promises, and so what happened to Lazarus in the parable, will happen to you really. At your final breath, no matter when or where that is, Jesus “will command His angels concerning you; on their hands they will bear you up” to take you to be with Him and your heavenly Father forever.
Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end. (LSB 708:3)
INI + AMEN.