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Who Is Lazarus

June 16, 2017

Verse: Luke 16:19–16:21

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 18, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

1st Sunday after Trinity
Who Is Lazarus?

Today the church affords us two outstanding opportunities. First to hear the right interpretation of this much misunderstood parable. And secondly to learn how to interpret Scripture correctly. And so without delay let us cut to the chase and say that in the parable: You are the rich man; and Jesus is Lazarus.

Like the rich man we live to feast on the good things of this world. We do so at various economic levels to be sure, but in principle we all do the same thing. We live to satisfy our every desire. To tickle our every fancy. To feel that delightful chemical rush we get when we open our FB page and find that our most recent post got 9 “likes” and 3 glowing comments, that we read over and over again. We love that, we live for that, and we want more of that.

Like the Rich Man we want to “eat, drink and be merry”. We want to wear nice clothes, so that we can feel good about ourselves, and so that others will admire us. Rich men that we are, we dedicate every effort to getting more things, better things, prestigious things so that the party can go on, and so that that other people will love us, and hold us in highest possible esteem. Then we will be happy! Then we can rest! That is what sinful flesh thinks, at any rate. And it’s not just you, but a mass hallucination. A virtual reality constructed by the Evil One to trip us up, so that we should share flaming misery with him, and with all Rich Men, in a world without end.

But if we are the Rich Man in the parable, then Jesus himself is Lazarus!

How do we see Jesus in Lazarus? First by recognizing the right interpretive principle. Namely, that all of Scripture has the Suffering Servant as its subject. He is Isaac who carries the wood for the Sacrifice. Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers, but elevated to the Right Hand of Pharaoh the god of Egypt. He is the fourth Man in the fiery furnace, and Patient Job with only the dogs to lick his wounds.

He is also “The Grain of Wheat” that falls into the ground, and dies, and that brings forth a great harvest of redeemed sinners up from the ground with him. (John 12:24) He is the Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd, and the Unjust Steward who knows how to get sinners out of debt.

Like Lazarus, Jesus was laid outside the Rich Man’s gate which is the parable’s way of saying that he was rejected by the world he made, and the sinners he came to rescue. In the words of St. John, “He came unto his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

He is the One who, like Job, was covered with sores from the crown of his sacred head to the bottom of his beautiful feet. Bruises he suffered “for us men, and for our salvation,” so that we should not perish, but have everlasting life, health, peace and rest by faith in him.

Like Lazarus, Jesus suffered and died. But his death is different from all others. He did not perish for the wages of his own sins, of which he had none, but for ours. To atone for them, and to save us from them, and from the flames of Hades that are their just reward.

Like Lazarus Jesus was carried by angels, as it were, to the bosom of the Father from whence he came; and where he ever lives to make intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25) To establish his sacrifice in the heavenly temple (Hebrews 9:24) as the never-ending font of blessing for sinners, great and small.

The other stated lesson of the parable is that if we wish to have the blessings of God, then we must submit to his appointed means. In the Old Testament church it was Moses and the Prophets. That is to say, the sacrificial system that God established and administered by them. A system that was not an end in itself! But was, instead, prophetic our Lord and his sacrifice on the cross. (Acts 10:43)

As the Old Testament system of mercy was administered through liturgy so is the New. All the blessings that we pine for from our God are mediated by the church’s ministry. And so at the risk of stating the obvious, if you want to obtain these blessings you must come to where they are administered, which for you is here, each Sunday at 10:30 AM.

Here you see the font stationed before your eyes where it preaches the gospel of baptism without a single sound. Where it brings to your remembrance the saving power of the water that flowed from our Lord’s pierced side. Where it reminds you that as Israel escaped certain death, and entered the Good Land by passing through water … even so you, having passed through baptismal waters, have escaped the death of your sins; and are now residents of the Kingdom of Grace.

You see the lectern and pulpit from which “the Words of eternal life” are read and expounded, by the man whom God appointed to be his minister. But the actual voice you hear is God’s. And not from heaven afar, but within your reach, speaking with you, as Jesus did with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Mark 9:4)

You see, too, the altar of God where the Spotless Bride presents her requests to her God, in holiest possible communion with her Desired Groom, he who is the source of her blessed and blissful existence.

And the rail which is not there to separate you from the altar, God forbid! But to serve as a table at which you are “fed with the Bread of Life.” The Bread that is life, and imparts life to all who receive it in Eucharistic faith. Bread which unites us to our Lord who is in the bosom of the Father; so that where he is, we will be also. (John 14:3)

This is where the One who is risen from the dead directs our attention, to the church’s worship! So let us hear this Risen One, in his church, now and always. Amen