Dear Children of God, dear baptized of God in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. By grace, we’ve come to know the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It is for your comfort, for the strengthening of your faith. It is the story of Lazarus, but it is also your story, your hope of things to come. Because, soon, you too, will be delivered from this evil world, and be carried into heaven. There you will be face to face with your Savior, to never die again, just as He will never die again. Scripture says, “Your redemption draweth nigh.”
Probably none of us here has ever been in the exact situation of Lazarus, yet at the same time, he represents all believers in Christ. Because Christ says, “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” The world hates us because it values money, power, fame, fortune, success above all things…not Moses and the prophets, not the Word of God. And when the Word of God contradicts the values of the world, it won’t stand for it. And it certainly won’t tolerate anyone who takes a stand on God’s Word.
The world loves to tolerate all the religions of the world, except Christianity. Because it values the works of men, the success, and power, and glory of earthly men. And so here comes Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem, and eventually goes to the cross, (as we study on Palm Sunday and in Advent). But that’s not what the world wants: a man who sufferes and dies, and accomplishes our salvation. No, the world wants something more exciting than that. It wants to show off all the good things we can do to impress God, all the truckloads of money we can make in the stock market.
Poor Lazarus, a beggar, comes to God with nothing of his own. We too come to Christ, “Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helplees, look to Thee for grace” (TLH 376).
By Grace, we’ve given up on the treasures of this world, it never really satisfied our soul anyway. Yet, in the Scriptures we learn how rich we are with God, how He sent His Son to make satsifaction for our sins. In Moses and the Prophets we learn how He was promised from the very beginning of the world, long before we were ever born, He already knew us then by name, like Lazarus, whom He mentions by name.
What earthly thing can compare with the forgiveness that Jesus offers us? “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” The richest man of all cannot take even one cent with him when he dies. Yet in Christ we have treasure that lasts way beyond the grave, for all eternity. Whether we are rich or poor, or somewhere in between, God sent His son to cleanse us from our sins and make us fit for eternal heaven. He is the solid foundation upon which to build. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever, and doesn’t change with the rising and falling of the stock market, or the economy. He has more forgiveness than the whole world has sin. The currency in His Kingdom is one of free, unending grace and mercy, with forgiveness that never runs out. Whoever comes to Him, He will in no wise cast out. And He draws us to Him by His Word and Spirit, not with the fading treasures of this world.
Yet, at the same time we acknowledge – it’s not a sin to be rich, and it’s not godly to be poor. It wasn’t the riches of the rich man that condemned him. It wasn’t the poverty of Lazarus that saved him. It was the Word of God that saved him. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
The rich man was so convinced he knew better. Even after death he didn’t change. He thought, surely his family would repent if Abraham would just send someone to them from the dead.
The word of Christ is clear. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
Yet that still wasn’t good enough for the rich man. The Word of God wasn’t good enough. He continued to argue with Abraham.
That’s the wisdom of the world. “We gotta have something to wow the people, entertain, and knock their socks off! The Lutheran Liturgy, the Creeds, the Hymns, the Gospel, the Sacraments, that’s so boring!”, says the world.
Yet, in them, we have eternal treasure, food for our eternal soul, the forgiving grace of Heavenly Father who sent His Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. His heart still longs for every single soul to repent and believe, yet He draws people to Him, not with the fading treasures of this world, but by His Word, by His Spirit working through the Word.
Dear Baptized of God, redeemed of God, you have in your heart and soul the greatest treasure of all – the comforting words of Jesus who accomplished all things needful for you to be saved. You have Moses and the Prophets, the promise of the Savior. He won’t leave you. He is your Savior both now and forevermore. Regardless of the size of your bank account, He values your soul above all the money and earthly success in this world. Even if you were the only person in the world, He still would have died and risen again for you. May He continue to comfort and strengthen you by His Word and Spirit. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.