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Gospel according to Luke 16: 19-31 (NIV)
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
The “punch line” of this parable is in the last two verses. For that reason, I believe that Jesus’ purpose in telling this parable was neither to caution about selfish living nor to frighten people into realising that the decision on where they go at the end of this life is irreversible.
In this parable, Jesus foreshadowed his own death and resurrection. He warned that, despite the evidence when he rose from the grave that he had conquered death, many would continue to ignore him.
This theme about God’s message ignored is found throughout Scripture. In Luke 8: 10, Jesus told his disciples that to them had been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God but to others he spoke in parables so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.”
Luke repeated this theme in Acts 28: 25-28 with the Apostle Paul quoting Isaiah 6: 9-10. Jesus taught from this same passage in Isaiah. All four Gospels refer to Jesus’ explaining why he spoke in parables (Matthew 13: 14-15, Mark 4: 12, John 12: 29-30).
Jesus warns that those who ignore Moses and the prophets will not be convinced about his lordship and the coming of his kingdom. This parable recognised that people would not even be convinced if he were to die and then be raised from death.
In referring to Moses and the prophets, Jesus pointed to the God-given accounts that comprise Hebrew Scripture. That which is necessary for our salvation is to be found in the sacred writings of the Christian Bible. We are to trust and study God’s word and be familiar with what our Bibles contain and teach. Then we are to live our lives accordingly.