The Stubborn Trap: Luke 16:19-31

Focus Passage: Luke 16:19-31 (NIrV)

19 “Once there was a rich man. He was dressed in purple cloth and fine linen. He lived an easy life every day. 20 A man named Lazarus was placed at his gate. Lazarus was a beggar. His body was covered with sores. 21 Even dogs came and licked his sores. All he wanted was to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.

22 “The time came when the beggar died. The angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In the place of the dead, the rich man was suffering terribly. He looked up and saw Abraham far away. Lazarus was by his side. 24 So the rich man called out, ‘Father Abraham! Have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water. Then he can cool my tongue with it. I am in terrible pain in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember what happened in your lifetime. You received your good things. Lazarus received bad things. Now he is comforted here, and you are in terrible pain. 26 Besides, a wide space has been placed between us and you. So those who want to go from here to you can’t go. And no one can cross over from there to us.’

27 “The rich man answered, ‘Then I beg you, father Abraham. Send Lazarus to my family. 28 I have five brothers. Let Lazarus warn them. Then they will not come to this place of terrible suffering.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have the teachings of Moses and the Prophets. Let your brothers listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will turn away from their sins.’

31 “Abraham said to him, ‘They do not listen to Moses and the Prophets. So they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Read Luke 16:19-31 in context and/or in other translations on!

There are a few of Jesus’ teachings that are debated over. Well, probably most of them are argued over to some degree or another, but there are a few that people wonder if Jesus was sharing about an actual event that happened, or whether He was creating a story to use as a parable or an illustration.

One such story is that of the Good Samaritan that is found in Luke 10:25-37, but this journal entry’s passage is not on the Good Samaritan, but on another highly debated illustration: The Rich Man and Lazarus.

Since this illustration has no real clear introduction, we don’t have a good context for when/where it was shared. It is possible that it was shared to the disciples and the Pharisees who were standing around listening during the earlier verses in chapter 16, but both this passage and verse 18, the one immediately before this illustration, don’t have a clear transition to help frame what Jesus wants to teach. Verse 18, which talks about divorce and adultery can be linked to Matthew 5:32, where it does have context, but everything about the illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus has no clear context.

This has lead to debate over what Jesus was teaching about. Is this a parable about the afterlife, or a challenge to be more caring/loving in the present life? Is this Jesus’ description of hell, or simply drawing from the broad, dualistic culture of the time and using it as just a setting to help people see the truth in a new way? Is this Jesus turning a popular Pharisee proverb on its head, and for the readers of the time, it would need no context, or is He creating a new illustration to support a broader point?

Without any context, we are left to look at the details and internal themes to uncover what Jesus is saying. When reading this parable, we should look for words, phrases, ideas, and themes that stand out and use these things to help us discover what Jesus was trying to tell us.

As I read through this passage, and as the illustration-storyline reaches its climax, we read the following verse, “They do not listen to Moses and the Prophets. So they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Verse 31)

The rich man is trying to do something to warn his brothers who are still alive to turn from their selfish, sinful lives, and we read the bleak reality that not even a dead person coming back to life is enough to convince a stubborn person to change their ways.

The big truth I see Jesus teaching me in just this one verse is to be open to the ways God speaks to us through His Word. It is as though God is telling me to never discount anything in any portion of the Bible as being insignificant. The Bible shares the story of God – His-Story — and God’s story is one filled with opportunities for redemption.

The truth I see Jesus teaching me is to never fall into the trap of thinking that I have reached the place where there is nothing more God can teach me. If that happens, I will have closed off all ways for God to reach me.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Secrets Exposed: Luke 12:1-12

Focus Passage: Luke 12:1-12 (GW)

Meanwhile, thousands of people had gathered. They were so crowded that they stepped on each other. Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. I’m talking about their hypocrisy. Nothing has been covered that will not be exposed. Whatever is secret will be made known. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. Whatever you have whispered in private rooms will be shouted from the housetops.

“My friends, I can guarantee that you don’t need to be afraid of those who kill the body. After that they can’t do anything more. I’ll show you the one you should be afraid of. Be afraid of the one who has the power to throw you into hell after killing you. I’m warning you to be afraid of him.

“Aren’t five sparrows sold for two cents? God doesn’t forget any of them. Even every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. I can guarantee that the Son of Man will acknowledge in front of God’s angels every person who acknowledges him in front of others. But God’s angels will be told that I don’t know those people who tell others that they don’t know me. 10 Everyone who says something against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But the person who dishonors the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 “When you are put on trial in synagogues or in front of rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say. 12 At that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.”

Read Luke 12:1-12 in context and/or in other translations on!

During one of the times where thousands of people were crowded around, Jesus warns His disciples about something to watch out for and to be careful about. Some might think that this message was simply for those living in the first century; however, I believe there is a bigger truth in the theme behind this message.

Luke’s gospel records Jesus telling His followers: “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. I’m talking about their hypocrisy. Nothing has been covered that will not be exposed. Whatever is secret will be made known. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. Whatever you have whispered in private rooms will be shouted from the housetops.” (v. 1-3)

This first portion of Jesus’ message has a powerful message regarding secrets, simply that secrets will never remain secret. The only thing that is up to us is whether we will reveal the secret on our own terms, or whether we will let it be discovered by others when it may not be convenient.

While we know more about these first disciples of Jesus than most any other specific person in history, I think Jesus’ warning is for everyone regarding the nature of secrets, even though He was speaking to the disciples while others in a crowd that listened in. It would not surprise me at all to learn that there were Pharisees in the crowd present for this event.

Reading this passage makes me think the Pharisees in that culture lived with secrets. It seems like they had their private lives that contained secret sins, and then their public lives that they tried to make look perfect and sinless. This is the nature of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is holding others to a standard that you don’t hold yourself to and living differently in private than you do in public.

Secrets and hypocrisy are closely connected, and Jesus’ message about each should prompt us to live differently. As I read what Jesus wrote, I see it as a challenge to live a life that matches both our public lives as well as our private lives, and live in a way where we won’t have anything that needs to be kept a secret. Living transparently with self-control is living with true freedom, because we choose to live without hypocrisy and without secrets weighing on our minds.

Jesus’ message about secrets and hypocrisy is just as true today as it was when He first spoke it. While we don’t have literal Pharisees to worry about in the same way that the first disciples did, there are plenty of ways hypocrisy can inch its way into our lives. Whatever secrets we have in our lives will eventually be revealed. We cannot stop them from being made known. About the only thing we can decide is whether we will publicize our secrets on our own terms, or let others discover them when it may not be as convenient.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Risking His Healing: Luke 17:11-19

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As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem and towards the crucifixion weekend, one of the miracles we read about stand out in my mind in a powerful way. This particular miracle stands out in my mind when we look closely at what one of those who was healed risks when he deviates from what he was instructed to do.

We can find this miracle in Luke’s gospel, chapter 17, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 11, we read that:

11 While He [speaking of Jesus] was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

This passage is amazing in my mind, and it stands out to me because of what is said, and what is truly risked. The implication I often hear when this passage is shared is that the other nine cleansed lepers were not thankful to be healed because they didn’t return.

However, this makes no sense. All ten men had been outcasts of society and the fact that they ask for Jesus to be merciful to them tells us that they all wanted to be included back into society.

Instead, what we find is that all ten men believe Jesus’ promise to go show themselves to the priests, and all ten men set out towards Jerusalem and the temple. On the way, probably not very far into their journey, they realize that they have been healed.

It is at this point that each man faces a dilemma.

Each man was healed because he was obeying Jesus’ command to go show himself to the priests, but the trip to Jerusalem will take several days and there would be no telling where Jesus would be after they had seen the priests and have been declared clean or healed.

With the exception of the one man who returned, the other nine, who I am sure were incredibly grateful towards Jesus and God for their healing, resolved even harder to make it to the priests to confirm what they believed had already happened. Nothing would stop these nine from finishing their mission because a completed visit with a priest would solidify their status back into the community. The challenge comes with finding Jesus after their trip, which I doubt would be possible since Jesus was headed for the cross.

The exception to the group was the one former leper who decided to return to thank Jesus. By choosing to delay going to see the priest, this Samaritan actually risks losing out on being healed because he stopped the task Jesus asked him to do. Jesus applauds this foreigner’s faith in God and the risk he took to return to give thanks and tells him that his faith has made him well.

We can easily assume that the Samaritan who came back was able to catch up to his friends on their way to visit the priest to be declared clean, or that his trip was successful following returning to say thanks.

From this event, we can see several big themes that are worth applying into our lives.

The first theme is that while the Samaritan is singled out because he returned, the implication is that some in this group were Samaritans while others were Jews. With this miracle, Jesus demonstrates that God is willing to help and heal regardless of any racial tension. God doesn’t show racial favoritism with who He decides to help. This is important because most of us living today are neither Samaritan nor Jew, but we can trust that God still loves each of us and that Jesus was willing to die in our place as sinners.

The second big theme I see is that there is never a wrong time to stop and be grateful towards God for what He has done in our lives. While the Samaritan who came back risked losing his healing, the truth of the matter is that God honors our gratefulness, and He is happy to help us when we are grateful and willing to give Him the glory.

The third big theme in this passage is that sometimes we have to obey before we see God’s hand working in our lives. The leprous men had to start their journey to the priest before they received their healing, and in our own lives, we may need to step out in faith and obedience before seeing Jesus show up in our own lives.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to give God praise and thanks for everything He has blessed you with in your life. Intentionally choose to live a life of gratefulness towards God and those He has brought into your life.

Also, choose to grow closer to Him by praying and studying the Bible for yourself each and every day. Regular prayer and Bible study are the best ways to grow a personal relationship with God and to discover how to be obedient to His voice.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or outright reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 32: When ten men are healed of leprosy, one man risks losing this healing to return to give thanks to God and Jesus. Discover what we can learn about God from this event and some things we can apply in our own lives 2,000+ years later.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Guarding Against Greed: Luke 12:13-34

Focus Passage: Luke 12:13-34 (NASB)

At one point while Jesus is teaching, a person called a question out to Him from the crowd. While I am sure this was something that may have regularly happened, this particular time gets recorded in Luke’s gospel, and it shifts the focus of Jesus’ teaching onto a new topic.

Luke tells us in his gospel that “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’” (v. 13)

Jesus immediately responded to the man by saying, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (v. 14)

This brief conversation shifts the focus of the entire discussion, because then Jesus begins to teach everyone saying, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (v. 15)

The statement Jesus shares to this crowd is incredibly powerful. Greed focuses on defining itself through what can be accumulated, saved, purchased, and/or simply gained. However, the trap of greed makes us believe that our life’s value is based on the number of possessions we have, the size of our home, the make and model of our vehicle, and on our overall net worth. Greed is sneaky, because while most people would openly deny living for the accumulation of more, if one were to observe how most people live, many decisions are made with this in mind.

Jesus challenges everyone – both Christians as well as non-Christians – to not fall into greed’s trap. Your life is so much more valuable than what you earn or what you own. Those things are temporary. Jesus came and paid the price of sin because He values your life over your stuff.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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