Trinity 1 (Lk 16, 19–31)

Photo by wisconsinpictures on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

᛭ INI ᛭

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Lazarus’ life didn’t turn out anything like he thought. When he was a kid, when he thought about, daydreamed about his future, well, it wasn’t this. I’m sure it wasn’t being homeless, naked, “covered in sores”, and starving. It wasn’t being thrown away in the alley “at the entrance of the rich man’s house.” It wasn’t hanging out with “wild dogs.” It wasn’t dying alone, forgotten, with no one to bury him, no one to miss him except the dogs.

I also think it’s very safe to assume that the rich man’s life turned out even better than he could’ve hoped or dreamed! When he thought about his future, were his daydreams filled with a mansion, “the best clothes,” and celebrating, “feasting sumptuously” with all sorts of people “everyday”? (No one had feasts by himself in the ancient world.) He had money, he had things, he had all sorts of people in his life. (He even had a Lazarus in life.) And when he died, well, “he was buried.” People to mourn him, to miss him, to maybe get some of his stuff when he died.

That’s the stark picture Jesus is painting in His parable today. This parable about two men: one with absolutely everything he could possibly want; one with positively nothing of his own except, of course, his name.

((2. To all appearances the Lord is with the one (ὁ πλούσιος) and not the other (Λάζαρος).))

Now, if you saw two people like the two men from Jesus’ parable, it’d be pretty easy for you to make a judgment about them. To all appearances the Lord is with the one and not the other. It’d be clear, based on what we could see, that the Lord is with the rich man and not with Lazarus.

Health, safety, and success were showered upon the rich man—not so much for Lazarus. We think this shows whom God favors. When things go well, that’s God’s blessing. It’s proof that He’s happy with us. And so, when things don’t go well, well, that’s God’s cursing or punishment.

We also think that where these two men wound up is largely based on their own choices. The Lord liked the choices of the one and didn’t like the choices of the other. The Lord blessed the rich man’s work but didn’t bless Lazarus’.

The Lord obviously puts these two sorts of people in the world (the rich and the poor) as your own personal barometer. (That’s how we live and think.) When we see the less fortunate—“thank God I’m not like other men!” Seeing the successful—“thank God I am!”

The rich man never considered that the Lord put Lazarus into his life (ἐβέβλητο). Not as a benchmark or barometer, but rather the rich man was to be the Lord’s way to care for Lazarus instead of the rich man loving himself alone. After all, Whoever says, “I love God” but hates his brother. He is a liar. (How we act toward others, especially people we don’t like or who’ve messed up, daily and much!)

((1. In reality the Lord is with the other (Λάζαρος) and not the one (ὁ πλούσιος).))

The Lord doesn’t work by human judgment. He doesn’t see like we see. He doesn’t think like we think. He doesn’t act like we act. He doesn’t do things our way. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

He operates by promise. The Lord Jesus made a promise to Abraham in our Old Testament reading, and it was Jesus. “The Word of the Lord came to Abram.” “The Word was with God,” as John tells us, “and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The promise Jesus made to Abram is the promise He makes to all who look to Him as Abram and Lazarus did—in faith. “Those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer (τῷ πιστῷ).”

Jesus promises: “I am your shield, your very great reward.” Jesus made this promise to Abram even when he lacked everything while having everything. “I am childless.” Jesus makes promises only to the destitute. He is the God of the nothings, the no-ones, the have-nots. Those who have nothing to their name, but sins, but death, but shame, but loneliness. “I am your shield, your very great reward.”

The Lord is far away from everyone who trusts in anything, no matter how small, besides Him. How often we comfort ourselves with things or behavior, or we gauge our behavior by that of others, or we comfort ourselves about the spiritual well-being of those we love based on how successful they are, how outwardly righteous they appear. “Whoever believes merely in a general way that God exists (Ap XII, 60) does not believe at all.” (Schlink, 96) Worldly gifts do not lead someone to faith, as Jesus warns, “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

True faith, faith that is alive and active in love for God and in love for neighbor, that faith is given only by the Spirit through the Gospel. “They have Moses and the prophets.” “My Word doesn’t return empty.” The faith of the parabolic Lazarus was in what Moses and the Prophets preached, or rather who they preach: Jesus.

“I am your Shield, your God, your Savior,” says Jesus. “Impossible things for men are possible with God.” Like the rich being saved. Like God, the Son of God, taking your sins, your death, your grave as His own. The immortal God died. The Author of Life was put into a grave for the sins of the world. He was buried. He was raised. See how He loves you! “He first loved us!” “You did not choose Me; I chose you.” And the result of His loving us is that we love.

((Conclusion.))

So, where do you fit in all of this? Is your life anything like you’d thought it be? Is it anything like you think it should be? When you daydreamed about your future, was it this? Sure there’s blessings, but then there are also all the things we’d rather not be reminded of or think about. The things we work so hard to forget. What about those things?

None of those things are the benchmark for whether or not Jesus is with you. Repent of thinking, acting, and believing otherwise. The truth is:

THE LORD JESUS REALLY IS WITH YOU.

“I am your Shield, your very great reward.” That’s Jesus promise. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

THE LORD JESUS REALLY IS WITH YOU.

No matter what we experience or see in our daily lives, “we know and believe the love which God has for us.” We believe that based on what the Lord has done for us. He died and rose for us. It’s His promises! That’s what the Lazarus of Jesus’ parable believed, just like, “Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness.” “The righteous live by faith.”

THE LORD JESUS REALLY IS WITH YOU.

You’re baptized. You have His Word. “My Word shall not return to Me empty, declares the LORD” Jesus. Through Baptism and His Word, “I am with you.” Through forgiveness of sins, spoken by the Pastor or by you to your fellow Christians or by them to you, Jesus is with each of you. “To My dear Church the keys are given To open, close the gates of heaven:” “Where two are three are gathered” for speaking forgiveness, “there I am in the midst of them.” “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains with Me, and I remain with Him, and I will resurrect him on the Last Day.

THE LORD JESUS REALLY IS WITH YOU.

And the future He has for you, isn’t something He daydreamed. It’s something He’s planned from before He, with His Father and the Spirit, created the universe. The future He has, the future He promises again and again in His Gifts, is the future portrayed by Lazarus. Not only that THE LORD JESUS REALLY IS WITH YOU, but that you’d really be with Him, forever.

᛭ INI ᛭

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