Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s podcast. I hope you are enjoying listening in… We’ve been talking as a team about our approach to these recordings. They’ve been so useful to hear and think about parts of the Bible Monday to Friday – on top of what we hear on Sunday and what many of us are doing through the GROW project. We’re constantly asking the question “what is God saying to me?” through all these opportunities. Thinking about it, hearing from the Bible six days a week is surely going to bring Transformation. It might be slow and steady. It might be really obvious already. But our approach is that we want to use this book to meet with God our Father. Today is more of Luke 16 and all week we are thinking about how the values of the Kingdom of God can be worked out in a time and place that often priorities other things.
As per normal we will hear the reading in full just before the worship track at the end of this podcast. But let me walk us through the story.
It is about a rich man and a beggar; the beggar’s name is Lazarus. A name that means “God has helped”. One of the men lives in luxury every day, which the other, covered in sores, longs to eat what was leftover. Both of these men die… something that affects all of us eventually. One commentary by a guy called Matthew Henry wrote, “the rich man’s purple fine linen and his faring sumptuously every day [which I think means… eating lots of food], could not keep death from the door of his palace of the prince. For death knocks with equal boldness at the mansions of the rich as it does the cottages of the poor”.
None of us can escape death. It comes to us all. Many people react to this differently.
At the moment we are running Alpha in various places across the city. There is a centralised one at STC on Mondays but we are also running it on the university campuses. One of the topics on Alpha is “why did Jesus die?” We ran it just this weekend, and it was fascinating to see the response at the end. Remember, this is predominantly a group of students, so their reaction may be slightly different to yours or mine, but death is not something we readily think about. Certainly not for the majority of 20 years olds, and it shouldn’t be something we think about too often but we do need to talk about it. Sociologists and psychologists have made lots of noise in frequent years about the social taboo of this topic and its implications on how we live our lives. You might have heard it said that the Victorians talked a lot about death but very little about sex… and it seems we have it the opposite way round. We talk a lot about sex and not a lot about death. I found it fascinating to sit in a small group with these students and see the penny drop even just for the slightest moment that perhaps I am not invincible…
Back to this idea of Kingdom Values… as we look again at the Bible text. This world’s dominant message is still “live fast, die young”… in other words, “do what feels good, or feels right in the moment and future you can deal with the consequences.” The story in the Bible today draws us into the slightly bigger picture. I read it and the question I’ve had in my mind as I prepared this question is: “what does it look like to live in the light of eternity?” To live not just for the moment. Yes, to embrace the present. But become more aware that because of God’s love for me, and what he has done, I will live for ever. Such confidence. Wonderful assurance.
In the story the poor man was revealed to have faith and so was taken to heaven. The rich man died, was buried and was tormented. He appeals for comfort in life after death. His next appeal is for someone to warn his family the truth. Almost realising that as if the luxuries of this life had blinkered their view of the future. We are left with the startling reminder from this story that the world needs rescuing and let that be known. The prophets of old foretold it. Moses especially gets a shout-out… and even today we have the story of Jesus… we’re in the middle of this Gospel of Luke for this podcast. Let us not make the same mistake of the rich man and become too distracted with THINGS and LIFESTYLE that we miss the true message that we all need saving. We all need Jesus.
This kingdom would keep us distracted and in the moment. Living from pleasure to pleasure and spending a lifetime chasing after it.
God’s kingdom is eternal and it is redemptive. We didn’t unpack it in great detail here today but the poor man with sores was healed. If you, or someone you know is not well today, believe that one day there will be no more tears and no more death or sorrow. Keep persevering in prayer (although we will talk more about that on Friday).
Let us share what we have and what we know. It is the greatest message – that people can enter the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.
Father God, thank you for your timeless love. Thank you that the message of salvation has been told to us. Help us to understand it more. Keep us from being too distracted and help us to live in the light of eternity today. Amen.
READING: Luke 16:16-31
‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘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.”’