Monthly Archives: May 2018

Deeds, Death and Destiny

Jesus does not give us the name of the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), though He does give us the name of the beggar. There must have been a good reason for this. Perhaps there was no need to make a further spectacle of the rich man. Giving his name, and thus adding to his shame, would not have made the point more potent or made hearers more receptive. Often, however, you will read of commentators referring to him as Dives, but this is merely Latin for “rich man.” Traditions have also handed down a few names for the rich man, but we cannot know for certain if they are correct. In the end, his name really does not matter and thus is not given.

The beggar’s name is given, it is Lazarus. Lazarus is a form of the Hebrew name Eleazar, which means “God is help.” That Jesus gave a specific name indicates that this account might be more than just a parable for in no other parable did Jesus ever give the name of one of the individuals to which He referred. A parable is usually defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. However, it is difficult to see how this is an earthly story with such a vivid depiction of the afterlife.

On the other hand, even if it were a parable, Jesus’ parables only presented that which was real, unless this account is the exception. Jesus never made up fictional characters or places, but used that which was known and used everyday. The parable of the lost coin, the lost sheep, the parable of the sower, the parable of marriage feast, the prodigal son, the pearl of great price etc., are examples of the kind of parables Jesus told. The story of the rich man and Lazarus does not fall into this category and is probably an account of something that actually happened.

The picture painted by Jesus’ words is poignant. Here was a man afflicted with some great malady that kept him covered in sores (Luke 16:20). He was apparently unable to move himself, at least with any ease, because he was carried by others and “laid” at the place where he was (Luke 16:20). Because of this infirmity, he was apparently unable to work and had thus become poor. The word translated “beggar” is most often translated in the New Testament as poor. This man was laid at a rich man’s gate and would have been satisfied with only the few crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. It was this man’s sickness that reduced him to such beggary, and nothing else.

The beggar’s character is attested to by the fact that, upon his death, the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22). This suggests that he was given no grand burial and it was left to the angels to treat him with kindness. Abraham’s bosom, or paradise (Luke 24:43), is the place in the Hadean realm where the righteous go to await judgment (cf. Luke 24:43 and Acts 2:26,27). His character is also attested to by the fact that the rich man sought Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his family of the reality of this place of torment to which he had been sent.

The character of the rich man is also plainly indicated. He was clothed in purple, a precious and costly dye desired by the wealthy and powerful. He wore fine linen. Every day he ate from an expensive table of delectable (Luke 16:19). He had everything he could want and more, yet he took no interest in the poor beggar who lay at his door seeking only crumbs to satisfy his hunger pains. He must have known of Lazarus for he identified him in the Hadean realm (Luke 16:23,24). Furthermore, that he only asked for a drop of water corresponds to the crumbs that Lazarus was seeking, suggesting his timidity in asking for anything more.

It is not that the man was wealthy that sent him to torment nor that he ate well everyday. It is not that he wore fine clothes which he could afford and paid for with his own money. These things in and of themselves are not sinful. There is no indication that he had obtained his wealth in a sinful manner. In truth, it was not what he did with what he had but what he didn’t do with what he had that made the difference. During his life, he could have helped Lazarus even in the smallest of ways but made a conscience decision not to. This, it seems, was his fault.

Now in torment, he wanted the assistance from Lazarus that he refused him in his life. Probably, if he had been able, Lazarus would have helped him even then. This seems to be the kind of person Lazarus was. But there was a great gulf that separated the two compartments of the Hadean realm that held the good and bad from this earth and Lazarus was not allowed, as no one is allowed, to cross the great divide (Luke 16:26). Further, no one can leave that place prematurely (Luke 16:31). Once this life comes to a close, our eternal destiny is set, forever.

Eric L. Padgett

THIS MAN RECEIVETH SINNERS

Everyone wanted to hear Jesus teach. We know the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37). The Pharisees were forever listening in on Him, if for no other reason than to find a way to entrap Him in His teaching (Mark 7:1). He drew such great multitudes of people that He often had to retire to a separate place apart to get rest (Matt. 14:23). The multitudes that followed were so many that He often did not even have time to eat (Mark 3:20). The publicans and sinners also drew near for to hear Him (Luke 15:1). Even the little children wanted to hear the Lord (Mark 10:14).

On one occasion, the Pharisees were critical of the Lord on account that He received and ate with publicans and sinners, who had gathered to listen to Him teach (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees were often an haughty lot (Luke 18:11), though there were some who exhibited humbler attitudes, such as Nicodemus (John 3:1-3) and Joseph of Arimethea (Luke 23:50). But most of the Pharisees were such scoundrels that the Lord could universally blast them with a series of woes highlighting their hypocrisy (Matt. 23:13-29). The Pharisees would never think of associating with sinners (Luke 7:39).

On this occasion, the Pharisees sought to impugn the character of Jesus. They apparently addressed the people, saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:2). They said this as if it would somehow depreciate His teaching and His character. But Jesus did not deny associating with sinners. Instead, He demonstrated that the Pharisee’s views on sin and sinners were not only incorrect but hypocritical, as well.

It stands as a truth that a human being is far more valuable than any dumb animal. Yet, the Pharisees would leave ninety-nine safe sheep of their own to find one sheep that had been lost. If you would do that for the dumb animal, why wouldn’t you do that for a lost soul? If you were to lose an inanimate object like a piece of silver, you would turn the whole house upside down to find it. And when you had found these lost things, you would rejoice.

Likewise, when God loses a soul in the wilderness of sin, or one gets lost in the cracks of the world, when they are found, there is great joy in heaven. The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates like no other the great joy that should accompany the restoration of a lost individual (Luke 15:11-32).

Jesus was sent into this world (John 10:36) but He said “I am not of this world” (John 8:23). Neither was he ever tainted by the wickedness of the world nor wallowed He in it’s filth, but He could interact with sinners and influence them for good (Heb. 4:13). Take for example the incident at Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:37). A woman of known ill repute could embrace and kiss His feet yet there is never in the slightest a hint of impropriety on the part of Jesus. Yet Simon saw only the sinner while Jesus saw a lost soul. Simon interpreted her actions as improper, but Jesus saw love oozing from a wounded heart. Simon would not have associated with her by choice and would have castigated her for her sins. Jesus let her know He knew of her many sins but was willing to forgive her.

While Jesus was in the world and interacted with humanity, He never descended to its level. Whatever Paul meant when he said “I became all things to all men” it could not mean anything that contradicted the Lord’s teaching or life. When Jesus attended the supper at Matthew’s house (Mark 2:14,15), the Pharisees again asked, “Why eateth your Master with Publicans and sinners” (Matt. 9:11)? This event was after the Lord called Matthew to follow Him (Matt. 9:19). It is very unlikely that Matthew, after being called by the Lord to be His disciple, would throw a wild, worldly party. It is much more likely that Matthew called all of his old friends to hear Jesus teach them the truth. Jesus was not there to join in any revelry, He was there to teach.

Jesus did not brow beat sinners. It is true He could not seem to bear with the stiff-necked, hard-hearted, arrogant Pharisees. But He never acted as though He was better than those He met (even though He was). He had compassion on the souls that were lost, that hungered and thirsted for righteousness. He did not use people as things but treated them with dignity. He received and ate even with sinners and publicans, but it was in order to bring them to Himself, closer to God. Jesus’ association with the world should be the pattern for our own association with it.

Eric L. Padgett

Loosed From Infirmity

Exactly where He was teaching is not stated, though it was probably in Peraea. Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:10). This was a common practice for the Lord (Luke 4:16). Beside this incident, the most notable other record of Jesus teaching in the synagogue was when He announced Himself as fulfilling the Messianic prophecies in Nazareth (Luke 4:15-21). The people were so disturbed by this that they wanted to put Him to death (Luke 4:28,29). The apostle Paul also followed this practice of going to the synagogues and teaching (Acts 17:1-3).

In this particular instance, the Lord spotted a woman who had “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up” (Luke 13:11). The source of her suffering was not from merely natural causes. The Text tells us this came upon her by a “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11). Jesus says that she had been “bound” by satan (Luke 13:16). The Bible makes a clear distinction between being afflicted by the spiritual realm and being sick from natural causes (cf., e.g., Matt. 4:24; Mark 1:32).

What is telling about this woman’s character is that despite her terrible burden, she was faithful to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath. She had been this way for eighteen years. It must have been physically challenging to go to the synagogue, but she went. She would have had an easy, ready-made excuse and no one would have faulted her, yet she chose to go. On this she is to be commended and perhaps it is just this sincerity that caused Jesus to take note of her.

When Jesus saw this woman, He “called” unto her. The word “call” used here can either mean to address or summons. This woman did not ask Jesus to heal her and there is no indication she had any expectation that such would happen. But Jesus probably called to her to come to Him and when she approached Him He told her that she was loosed from her infirmity (Luke 13:12). Jesus could have healed her from a distance as He did with the Centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5ff) but He was close enough to her to touch her, and to lay His hands on her (Luke 13:13).

The miracle was immediate and complete (Luke 13:13). As Jesus laid His hands on her, she was made straight. For eighteen long years she had been “bowed together” and was unable to lift up herself (Luke 13:11). Luke used the medical term to describe her condition. She must have needed assistance from others in her daily life or was unable to do many things others could do. But when Jesus healed her, she stood up straight. Another indication of the character of this woman was that when she was healed she glorified God (Luke 13:13).

This woman’s attitude was very different from that of the ruler of the synagogue, the archisunagogos. The ruler of the synagogue did not even try to deny the miracle. This woman was known to them all. Her condition was equally known. This he could not deny. He was left to offer the very inept and vacuous criticism that she was healed on the wrong day! Imagine that. She had been there for eighteen years and had never been healed but Jesus comes along and when He first sees her He offers her a means of recovery. Instead of rejoicing that this woman was healed the Pharisee had nothing but indignation.

Furthermore, in response to this notable miracle, this Pharisee directs his remarks to the crowd and not to Jesus. Of course, he could not stand against Jesus and so turns to those over which he believes he had control, but the Lord will soon bring his pitiful objection to nought. The Pharisee said you ought to come on one of the other days and be healed, as if he would not have objected to the healing then, as well.

In answering this pharisee, Jesus calls him a hypocrite. Not many preachers take this approach today, do they? Jesus did. Jesus points out this pharisees hypocrisy when he would help a dumb animal but would not assist a person on the Sabbath day . This woman was not only a human being, but a daughter of Abraham, a Jewess, and a woman who had been afflicted by the devil. Jesus said this woman “ought” to have been healed. There was a rightness to it and a necessity.

The Lord so powerfully dismissed this objection of the Pharisee, and so gloriously healed this deserving woman, that the people also rejoiced at all the glorious things done by Jesus that day (Luke 13:17). Not only was the Pharisee silenced, but he and those that stood with him, were ashamed. Today we need to put to silence and make ashamed those who would stop the good work of the Lord.

Eric L. Padgett