Read Luke 16:19-31
I had to think of this parable recently.
I was talking to a friend whose distant family member was suddenly and tragically killed in a traffic accident. The friend described the “memorial service.” Alcohol was abundantly available. A picture of the loved-one was on display next to a bottle of Jack Daniels. As people gave tributes to their lost friend, they generously peppered their speech with profanity and invited people to drink in his memory, because “that is what he would want.”
Now, I must be quick to say that I do not know the deceased and I am (thankfully) not the one who determined his eternal destiny. That destiny was sealed by his response to the gospel message — Jesus Christ’s offer of grace and forgiveness.
Meanwhile, the parable you read today depicts the desires of a man who is spending eternity in Hell. After learning that no personal relief is possible, his concern turns towards his loved ones who are still alive. His heart’s desire is not that they “live it up” in his memory. Instead, his biggest concern is that they may be spared of the torment he has been experiencing. His yearning is that his loved ones might hear and heed the message of hope from one who has come back from the dead. It is not that they pass a bottle and share stories of godless living.
Even though Abraham assured the rich man that this Lazarus would not be sent back as a messenger risen from the dead, God has provided many avenues through which people will hear the gospel. The ultimate theme of the Old Testament was that of preparing people for the coming Messiah. Meanwhile, Jesus Himself rose from the dead. He sent apostles and others in His name to share His message of hope. The testimony of resurrection eyewitnesses and their close associates are recorded in the New Testament. And, standing in the long line of those impacted by the One who rose, there are also people like you and me who are here to sound a warning message to all.
Even though we do not know the relative’s ultimate response, my friend did share with him his own story of life change through Jesus. We do well to do the same with those we know.