Sunday, September 29, 2013

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Today's Gospel reading from Luke 16:19-31 stands on its own and probably does not need additional commentary, and this seemed to be apparent to most folks in today's congregation who had only a few questions for our rector who, rather than give a sermon, accepted questions from the crowd on the readings or the liturgy.

She did accept one off topic question which asked, "Why can't we just cut all the ugly stuff out of the Old Testament readings?"


I will let Jesus answer that one with the words immediately preceding today's reading from Luke,
"The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped." (Luke 16-17)
As if to emphasize the point, Jesus then pulls out a few letters of the Old Testament law that are not to be dropped,
"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." (Luke 16:18)

We probably should have heard those verses before we heard Luke 16:19-31 so that we could see the context in which Jesus was speaking, and why all that Old Testament "stuff" like Abraham, Moses, and the prophets were featured in the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus.

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”  (Luke 16:19-31)

I believe the answer to the question as to why we musn't try to silence the O.T. prophets and their sometimes "ugly stuff" (like that divorce and adultery business) is contained in Luke 16, and particularly in that last sentence,

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

I am reminded of the young seeker who said that he knew the Gospel stories, but what he really needed in order to believe was a direct communication from God. My answer to him was the old story about the man stuck on the roof as flood waters swirled around his house. Various rescuers came by, but the man refused help saying that God would save him. After he drowned, he went to God with a complaint as to why God did not save him. God answered that he sent a boat, a helicopter, etc. I asked my young seeker, "God sent his son to us. He died for us. He has given us the Gospel. What more do you want God to do in order to convince you, die for you again?"

Another thing people are not convinced about is the reality of Hell as described so vividly by our Lord in the story of the rich man and Lazarus which could have inspired a sermon about "Hell fire and damnation." Go back and read Luke 16 again. Shouldn't we stop and listen when the person doing the talking is the one who rose from the dead?


  1. pewster,
    I preached on this today. If you examine the story closely, the rich man was where he wanted to be. He didn't ask to go over to Lazarus or to his brothers to warn them.

    1. Yep, and he continued to treat Lazarus as a servant in a way.