Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Evidence of Truth

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 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.’
“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. 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.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“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.’” Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)
What a hard Scripture to read; it definitely doesn’t leave the reader with a joyful feeling. Why would Jesus tell this story to His listeners? The setting and those people that surrounded Jesus may give us some clues as to the reason Jesus told this story. 
In the book of Luke, as in the other gospels, we find Jesus with His disciples going from city to village, preaching and proclaiming the kingdom of God. When crowds gather, He tells many parables, including The Sower and the Seed and The Good Samaritan (Luke 8). As time goes on, crowds begin to follow Him and He performs many miracles, like feeding 5000 people, casting out demons from the possessed, and healing many sick and deformed people (Luke 9). He and His disciples travel through many villages, dining with friends as well as some Pharisees (Luke 10-11). 

Tensions build as Jesus doesn’t seem to comply with the norms of society or solely rely on the religious rules. Instead He spreads love and mercy while freeing people from sin and shame. Jesus offers grace to those who open their hearts to Him which disturbs many of the religious elite. Herod, a Jewish ruler, desires to kill Jesus and a few Pharisees try to warn Him. Read below the dialogue that takes place.
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Luke 13:31-34 (NIV)
Jesus longs for all to draw near to Him and believe in Him, but many refuse His grace. Besides Herod wanting Him dead, many scribes and Pharisees plot to kill Him. Yet as He continues His mission of spreading God’s love, many tax collectors and sinners are forgiven and freed. His parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son (Luke 15) explain the grace He gives when one truly seeks Him and repents of sins. Still the religious elite are infuriated. It’s here in Luke 16:19-31 that Jesus tells the story of the deaths of a rich man and a poor man. The poor man named Lazarus went to heaven because he believed God and the rich man went to hell because he rejected God.
The rich man begs Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about hell. Abraham responds by saying that Moses and the prophets summoned people to believe God and reject sin. Did they listen to them? He continued by saying that they would not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (which is a very prophetic verse). Can’t you hear Jesus sadly calling the rich man by name as He tells him that He longed to gather him up in His arms? 
Throughout His travels, Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God with words and actions. He spread His love, grace, and mercy to all who would believe. He told parables, performed miracles of feeding multitudes, cast out demons, healed the sick, and raised the dead. He quoted Moses and the prophets from the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament). Some followers believed and others refused to accept His grace. Why?
I can’t answer why people that knew Jesus in the flesh didn’t believe in God and accept Jesus as their Savior. I can’t even answer why people still don’t believe in the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But I can say that the evidence is right before our eyes. It’s in creation and it’s in the Bible, the holy book that has stood the test of time. Jesus is so loving and patient with people, desiring that they repent and believe in Him, that He continues to give signs of hope in this age in many ways. He displays signs that declare His resurrection from the dead and signs that proclaim He is alive. 
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m going to stop with the words and display a picture of hope. Look at it and believe in the One who gave His life for you, to save you from your sins and set you free. Don’t be like the rich man! See the evidence of truth and believe. 

               Cross formed on 9/11 when Twin Towers fell in New York City

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