Jeremiah 7:22-26 (HCSB)
…for when I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice. However, I did give them this command: Obey Me, and then I will be your God, and you will be My people. You must follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you. Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and according to their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent all My servants the prophets to you time and time again. However, they wouldn’t listen to Me or pay attention but became obstinate; they did more evil than their ancestors.
Since day one, God has been pursuing His people primarily through the message that He gave to His prophets for them to declare. This is the point of the last section of chapter 16 in Luke’s Gospel know as, “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Unfortunately, many Christians when reading this excerpt do not focus on the actual purpose of the parable that Jesus was making when He directly addressed the Pharisees. Instead, a lot of believers use it to defend their view regarding the nature of the afterlife.
The Message has the Power, Not the Miracle
Regardless of where a Christian might stand regarding the potential, post-death experience of the dead, such was not at all the point that Jesus was attempting to clarify with this story. Jesus was using this as an example to illustrate to the hearers that even if someone rises from the dead in order to warn the living about not repenting, the living would still not be moved to respond properly. Why? Because, if they did not already respond in faith to God’s message by the prophets, then not even a miracle as powerful as resurrection would convince them to listen.
Paul made this same point when he wrote to the church in Corinth…
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (HCSB)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. For it is written:
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.
Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
We (Christians) must always remind ourselves that it is the message of Christ which brings conversion, and not signs or wisdom…
Romans 1:16 (HCSB)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.
May we never be ashamed of the Gospel!
The Rich Man and Lazarus
Here is Jesus, addressing the unrepentant Pharisees…
Luke 16:19-31 (HCSB)
“There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was left at his gate. He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side., The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy 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 flame!’
“ ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’
“ ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house — because I have five brothers — to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’
“ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”
Godspeed, to the brethren!