If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!
Luke 16:19-17:6 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
17 He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying,‘I repent, ’forgive him.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
In today’s text Jesus says: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” Was Jesus really speaking about Lazarus from the parable? Or was He speaking of the fact that even though He Himself would be crucified, placed in a grave and would rise from the dead, many still would not believe? Jesus says: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” Moses was himself a “type” of Christ. He was a deliverer of God’s people. He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt to lead them to their promised inheritance. It was through Moses that God gave the covenant of the Law, the blessings or curses for the nation of Israel based on their response to God’s commandments. The prophets were those who spoke to the nation of Israel concerning the future promise of the coming Messiah and warned, rebuked and encouraged God’s people to follow His commandments. Jesus says their testimony alone should be enough to cause people to choose to obey God, to live rightly and righteously.
Yet Jesus did come. Like Moses, His purpose for coming was to be a deliverer. Jesus began His ministry reading the words of the prophet Isaiah: He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21) Jesus came as the fulfillment of God’s promise. He came to deliver not from the bondage of a nation, but rather from the bondage and oppression of sin. He came not to establish an earthly government but to establish His heavenly kingdom here on earth.
Jesus says two things regarding Himself and the Old Covenant, the law and the prophets. In Matthew 22:37-40 He says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” In Matthew 5:17-20 He says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We too then should heed the words and the testimony of Moses and the prophets. We should not simply disregard what God said because Jesus gave us something new. Jesus covenant of grace was to fulfill the law, not to do away with it. We don’t enter His grace by disregarding the law. We enter His covenant of grace by embracing the cross. Roman 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus says that the first and great commandment is that: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” As 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. The love we have for God, loving with our whole heart, soul and mind, is a response to His love. We love God by responding to the demonstration of God’s love for us, the cross of Christ. If then we are to fulfill the second commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We must love them also in response to the demonstration of God’s love. We ourselves should love them with and as a demonstration of God’s love, the cross of Christ.
The testimony of Moses and the prophets should be enough for the world to choose to obey God. Yet Jesus did come. Over these next few days we, as believers, as followers of Christ will celebrate that He indeed came to set captives free, that He indeed was crucified for that very reason. We will celebrate, not that He died and was put in a grave, but rather that He rose from that grave. Indeed someone has risen from the dead. He is Christ Jesus the Lord. In Acts 1:8 Jesus encourages us, His disciples, saying: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” In today’s text Jesus says: “between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” He says: “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” There is a way to cross the great chasm which separates those who have believed and those who haven’t. The way is the cross of Christ. Will we be His witnesses? Will we testify of His love demonstrated on the cross? Will we boldly testify that indeed one has died but has risen from the dead and He Himself is the promise of the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, now and forever.
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for the demonstration of Your love, for the fulfillment of Your promise and for the power to be Your witness to the world. Amen.