Luke 16:19-31 No Second Chances-Heed The Word!
To be clothed in purple was a sign of wealth and prestige. Purple also came to be a sign of political authority and kingship. This rich man was not only rich, but he was also a man of some influence. Linen refers to a person’s undergarments, and this man’s linen was “fine”, silk perhaps, or something akin to it. We also learn that he “fared sumptuously every day” (v. 19). So this man was rich, a man of some influence, pampered, and full of the earth’s bounty. Then Luke writes, “but” (v. 20). “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.” Not only did the colour purple symbolize political influence and position, but so also are gates. Gates are the places where the elders of a city would gather to deliberate and make decisions. This is the context of this story. This beggar was just that-a beggar. He had to be carried to his position at the gate. No doubt someone thought this was the place where he should get some help and relief, not necessarily politically, but help from those who had the means. Instead of help, the beggar was visited by dogs who “came and licked his sores” (v. 21).
However, despite the circumstances of these two men, we are told that in the life that was to come, it was the beggar who was the truly rich one for “he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). This Lazarus was a true son of the covenant of promise. One can well imagine that many would have thought that this man must have sinned horribly for the sores that infested his body. There are many today who think that to be well healed, as it were, is a sign of their superior faith. However, Jesus made clear that “many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:11-12). “The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (vv. 22-23). Lazarus went from being a beggar at the gate, amongst the most rich and influential of the land, to being placed alongside the patriarch Abraham.
The man who showed no mercy to Lazarus when he had the opportunity to do so, now pleads with Abraham as to a father, to send Lazarus with some water to relieve him of the heat of what was approaching on his horizon (v. 24 Cf. Lk. 6:24). This is an interesting point-why did he not ask Abraham himself to come? Did he just assume that Lazarus was Abraham’s servant? In any case, Abraham does address him as ‘Son’ (v. 25), and reminds him that when he had the means and opportunity to help Lazarus, he did not. Not only this, but Abraham also says that there is no passing from their place to that of the other. Hades is the place of the damned where there is no relief of grace and no second chances (v. 26). Hades is not a purgatory where everyone can somehow reverse what they did or did not do while they lived on this earth. The man thought only of himself and his family. So complete was his disdain for Lazarus that he first wanted him to share in the heat of hades, or if this were not possible, to go back to his old existence. Lazarus had finally found sweet relief!
There are some who have nothing to look forward to but the sweet deliverance of death. In this world they were despised and rejected, like the Son of God Himself. The best of life was the visitation of dogs licking his sores, while fine linen brushed against the rich man in purple’s skin. The man in purple wanted Lazarus to go back and testify to his five brothers, presumably because they didn’t see Lazarus’ testimony the first time (vv. 27-28). ‘Testify’ is an interesting word. It is a judicial word, and it is judgment which the rich man in purple was now experience. The man who stood with some prestige at the gate, making decisions for the city, was blind to the testimony of the beggar at his feet. What is Abraham’s response? The old testament was testimony enough for them to repent (vv. 29-30 Cf. Acts 15:21; 17:11)! Wow! If he and his family had of heeded Moses and the prophets, says Abraham himself, by the way, they would have eternal life (Cf. Jn. 5:46-47)! Not only this, but the Jewish leadership and all who followed them, did have One who rose from the dead, and they weren’t persuaded (v. 31).