For the 18th Sunday after Pentecost in Series C the three readings are Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:1-13 or I Timothy 6:6-19 and Luke 16:19-31. The text chosen for the sermon is Luke 16:27, “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house.’”
Normally, the primary theme in this parable is that miraculous signs and wonders have no effect on bringing someone to faith. Instead, the means God uses to do so is Moses and the prophets. In other words, the means of grace is God’s Word with specific attention to the Gospel promises of Jesus Christ connected to His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.
However, for this sermon we will focus on the attitude of the rich man; named Dives from the Latin Vulgate as Jerome translated the word for “rich”. First, it appears that Dives has not changed his attitude toward Lazarus as a beggar with the task of serving the rich. He tells Abraham to order Lazarus to bring a tip of his finger with water to him. Then, he orders Abraham to send Lazarus to the five brothers of Dives so that they will not come to this place of torment. Finally, he argues with Abraham that the Word of God is not sufficient to save but what is needed is that someone, like Lazarus, should rise from the dead.
Dives’ attitude of unbelief even in hell results in no repentance for the way that he had treated Lazarus. Instead, the universe still revolves around Dives as he attempts to order Lazarus around and seeks comfort and help only for those of his own household. It is true that nowhere in the Bible is there an indication that those in hell will repent of their sins. In fact, will they not be like Satan who prefers hell to worshipping the true God?
The attitude and predicament of Dives is in strong contrast to that of Lazarus who is said to be in the bosom of Abraham. That is significant as we remember how John was also in that position at the Last Supper. That beggar and impoverished Lazarus would be near Abraham after death while Dives is in another dimension of existence apart from Abraham would be a shock to the hearers of Jesus’ day. For they imagined that riches were a result of God’s blessings while poverty was a result of His curses. How different is the Christian faith from that not only of Judaism but from every other law-centered religion of the world!