Last week we mentioned that Jewish Parables present a difficulty for the western minded Luke. He has no problem with the way he tells stories. Luke is the best story teller. He has given us the story of the Prodigal Son, the story of the Good Samaritan and now the story of Dives and Lazarus. In a way these three stories need little explanation, yet the truth is that we can meditate on them for a lifetime and never exhaust the depth of their spirituality.
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a story about REVERSAL of roles. The story begins with Lazarus outside the rich man’s house and finishes with him in Abraham’s bosom. The rich man lives in a grand house but spends eternity in Hades. There is food aplenty for the rich man on earth, but in Hades he is tormented by thirst. The constant point in the story is the GAP between them, a gap that never can be bridged!
It is a story about contrasting events and contrasting people. The two people in the story are neither paraded before us as saints nor sinners. The facts of the story are there. You can draw your own conclusion.
Luke gives us this story as a story from Jesus. The last part of the story shows how Luke’s community has meditated on it in the post Resurrection Church. Then Abraham said to him, “if they will not listen to either Moses or the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”
Is this a reference by Luke to the resistance to change in the early Christian Community to the basic teaching of Jesus? Do they not share with the poor? Luke’s mention of eternal punishment would be a timely reminder in those days as much as it is today for us. A good lesson on the fear of Hell is always salutary!! There will be a reversal of roles in the future. “If someone comes back from the dead they will repent”.
Not likely, says the story!