Sermons

Trinity 1 (Lk 16:19–31)

June 18, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

Jesus is quite the story teller. He’s a poet of parables. He’s a master craftsman with His captivating characters, powerful prose, and vivid imagery. He tells them for one reason, and one reason alone: “that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand.” The Lord Jesus suffers Himself to be rejected, missed, and misunderstood. He preaches Himself (especially in the parables!), but He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. For those who don’t want Him, they won’t have Him. They’ll find something else entirely, put their trust in something else entirely.

The problem is—left to ourselves—we miss Him, too. We turn the parables to our advantage. Find what puts us first, Jesus second. We do this most of all when Jesus, apparently, hides Himself the most, but yet He’s really there plain as day! Right in front of us! Just like our “problem” parable today.

((4. What’s the problem in our text?))

So, what’s the problem in our text? Or rather who’s the problem? That’s easy! The rich man! There he was “dressed in fine purple clothing.” He feasted and “partied daily.” I’m sure he lots of business matters to attend to, too! He didn’t care about Lazarus, at all. Lazarus who was just thrown down at His gate. Lazarus there in the gutter. No one to help, no one to care, except the dogs who “licked his sores.”

All Lazarus wanted was to be satisfied with “the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table,” but his desire was never fulfilled. He starved. He was alone. Being forced to look on from the gutter at the rich man’s mansion.

Then they died, as all men do. Lazarus “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.” The rich man, “dead and buried,” was “in hell, being in torment.” Still he cared only for himself, wanting Lazarus to serve him, when he never even cared about Lazarus at all.

((3. What’s our problem?))

But there’s a problem. It’s our problem. We turn this entire parable into some sort of Christian Karma. As if the point of the text is care for your neighbor or else, or that the point is if things go bad now, don’t worry, you’ll get a reward.

The problem is too often we’re like the rich man. We certainly care for ourselves, or maybe those closest to us: our friends, and family. But to actually love a stranger, our enemy? Not a chance!

But we’re blessed, so God must love us! I’m sure the rich man thought so! But what if we got Lazarus’ lot in life? What if we end up with nothing at all, with no one at all, with not even our health? Then what? Where’s God then?

When we’re clothed, fed, and housed, we think God loves us. If things go bad, we think He doesn’t. Or we think that this text is just telling us what we already think: I’ve got to be a Christian and a good person, and that’s how you truly get to “Abraham’s bosom,” as Jesus poetically describes eternal life in the parable.

((2. What’s the real problem?))

The problem with all that is that’s not what this parable is about at all! It’s not Christian Karma. It’s not: be generous unlike the rich man. It’s not treat other like you want to be treated. It’s not be a Christian and some work tacked on at the end. No, not at all. The rich man’s problem wasn’t that he cared nothing for Lazarus. He cared nothing for God.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want either! True Christians don’t say, “It doesn’t matter what I do then.” We should be charitable to those around us, not just in what we give them, do for them, but also in our attitude toward them, how we treat them, forgive them. Jesus says to “love our neighbors and also our enemies; because generally they’re the same people.” (GK Chesterton)

This shows us the true problem in our text and in ourselves. That the true problem is ourselves! Our sin, our looking out for me and mine only, which ends only in death: death of love, and eternal death.

((1. What’s the solution?))

So, what’s the solution? It’s not works. It’s not some Karma. It’s not do better, and then you’ll be better. It’s not forming good habits. Not some great miracle: some Marley’s ghost type event. No! The solution isn’t a what; it’s a who. It’s Jesus. Jesus is the solution: His death, His resurrection. The true solution to the true problem. It can’t be that simple! It can’t be that way! A crucified dead guy, who’s really eternal God, who comes back to life! That is the solution, and it’s exactly why Jesus gives His tongue-in-cheek answer as Abraham’s final word: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise form the dead.”

Jesus and Jesus alone. That’s it. Jesus is eternal God. He became man. God was walking and talking on earth. His love, mercy, and favor is that “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich,” as Paul says. He wore a purple robe, mocked, for our wanting the finer things of this life more then Him. His clothes were taken. He was alone, even forsaken by His Father on the cross, for our forsaking others. He died. He gave up His life to death. For our lovelessness, our selfishness, our works righteousness. He rose from death. He won the victory. Bodily resurrection. “The life everlasting” is lived in the body you have now. It’ll be glorified, but yet your body.

It’s delivered in the Word, Jesus’ Word. His Word tied to physical things: Word with Water, Word from a man, Word with bread and wine. But what’s given is adoption, forgiveness of sins, body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. There the promise of the heavenly banquet feast is delivered in the body and blood of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world—your sin, too!

But it’s also why “Moses and the Prophets,” the Bible is so important, too! It’s why time should be made for it! It rescues from sin and death because the Scriptures deliver Jesus!

We simply don’t believe that. Something else. A miracle, an apparition, a feeling, an experience, but listen again to what Jesus says in His parable, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them…[Because] if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

To deny the Word, to deny time for it, for whatever the reason, is to play with fire. But the solution isn’t in what we do. We make opportunity for Jesus’ Gifts and His Word, His Bible, not because our doing does anything, because His doing does everything! In the Gifts, in the Word, in the Bible, there’s Jesus, delivering His death and resurrection, which is what we need Him to be doing. Solving our true problem.

JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION, DELIVERED IN THE WORD, IS THE REAL SOLUTION TO OUR TRUE PROBLEM: SIN AND DEATH.

The Lord Jesus suffers Himself to be rejected, missed, and misunderstood. He preaches Himself and His salvation, but He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. For those who don’t want Him, they won’t have Him. They’ll find something else entirely, put their trust in something else entirely, but He’s really there plain as day! Right in front of us! In the Absolution. In the Body and Blood. But especially “in Moses and the Prophets,” in the Bible.

JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION, DELIVERED IN THE WORD, IS THE REAL SOLUTION TO OUR TRUE PROBLEM: SIN AND DEATH.

INI + AMEN.

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