“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.’”
In today’s full reading, Jesus tells a parable about a beggar named Lazarus who died, and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. Lazarus had lived at the gate of a rich man’s home, who died at the same time. The rich man, rather than joining Abraham, went to Hades where ‘he was in torment’. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to him to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his agony, but Abraham responded that during the man’s life he had received good things whilst Lazarus had received bad things. The rich man then asked if Abraham would send Lazarus to warn his family so that they would be spared his torment. Abraham said that this was unnecessary since they had ‘Moses and the Prophets’. The rich man replied, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent’. Abraham then told the rich man that if his family ‘do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’.
The rich man’s attitude during life seems fairly dominant in our culture today. People act like the rich man, ignoring those less fortunate than themselves. Jesus makes it clear in this parable that the end result of living like this leads only to ‘Hades’ – a place of fire and torment. People refuse to acknowledge the truth of the gospel because ‘there is no proof’. Yet scripture – and we’re more fortunate than the rich man in the passage, because we have both the Old and New Testaments – provide a multitude of reasons for believing and trusting in God, and also how we should live our lives. In the New Testament we also have convincing proof of someone rising from the dead, namely Jesus Christ himself. What more could be needed to convince people of their ultimate destination after death, and their need for repentance?
In today’s passage there is a real warning to us about how we live our lives, particularly how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves. But there is also a compelling reason to ensure that we proclaim the Gospel to all those whom we know and love, so that they won’t ultimately find themselves in the position of the rich man in today’s parable.