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 BibleGateway.com!

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.

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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 BibleGateway.com!

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.

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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.

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Merely the Beginning: Mark 13:1-13

Focus Passage: Mark 13:1-13 (NASB)

Most of you who have followed along on this gospel adventure journey have likely concluded that I am a detailed person, and you would be correct. The message Jesus shares in this journal entry’s passage is in three of the four gospels, and the detail that I noticed while studying this passage comes to us from Mark’s gospel.

As Jesus is sharing about what will happen, He describes rumors, wars, earthquakes, and famines, but how He frames these things is interesting. At the end of verse 8, after telling us about all the bad that is coming, He says, “These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

What stands out to me is the portion of this teaching that is describing nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom being simply the beginning. Is Jesus telling us that all this stuff will continue, and progressively get worse and worse, similar to the way labor gets more intense as it progresses forward? Or is Jesus subtly sharing that there will be a point between nations fighting with each other and His return where there technically would be large scale peace?

These are some of the questions that run through my mind as I read Jesus’ words in this passage.

I know it seems as though each war that has happened has gotten progressively worse. Perhaps not in the number of casualties, but worse in the number of lives affected. Living in North America, war is not a daily reality as it is in some other parts of the world. In recent history, wars escalated to the level of major nations allying with each other on both sides to create large scale “world” wars.

However, Jesus describes all these events as “merely the beginning”.

This passage tells me one big truth: We are in the “beginning of the end” and we have been for some time. Regardless of the political landscape and the wars that are raging in parts of the world, God is not surprised with what is going on and He has our future secure in His hands.

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