Home > Trinity 1-5 > The Great Chasm. Trinity 1, 2014.

The Great Chasm. Trinity 1, 2014.


rich man and lazarusFirst Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 16:19-31

June 22, 2014

“The Great Chasm”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Lord, let at last thine angels come

To Abram’s bosom bear me home

That I may die unfearing.

 

I was at the hospital, visiting a lady who had been a member of St. Peter at one time.  She was busy with the doctor, so I was packing up my books and getting ready to leave when the doctor turned to me and said, “What denomination are you?”  I told him, “Lutheran.”  He asked me, “Do you believe in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”  I said, “Yes.”  Then he asked me if I would like to lead them in prayer.  So we prayed: the doctor, me, the lady, and her family, holding hands in a circle.  Before I left, the doctor said something about being saved three years ago.  I said, “That would be an interesting story I would like to hear sometime.”

 

So he proceeded to tell me the story right then.

 

The story was that he had a co-worker who had been trying to convert him to Christ for twenty-five years.  But he was an atheist.  He said that three years ago they were discussing death in reference to a patient.  He said, “Well, we’re all going to the same place, after all.”  The “same place” he meant was the dirt and then—nothingness.  His colleague looked at him and said quietly, “No, we’re not going to the same place.”  “What do you mean?” he asked her.  She said, “Doctor, you’re going to hell.”

 

He said the statement was like an arrow through his heart.  He began to be terrified at the thought of spending an eternity in anguish without a loving God.  He began to read the bible.  Soon after he told his girlfriend he had to go to church, at which he made a public confession of faith in Christ and was baptized.

 

What is striking about this doctor’s story is the same thing that is striking about Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Jesus paints a very clear picture of what happens after death.  We are not all going to the same place after we die.  There is a great chasm fixed between people after death.

Lazarus died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom, which is to say that his soul was carried to rest with Jesus, who is the offspring of Abraham.  But the rich man died and was buried; his soul went to Hades, the Greek word for the place of the dead.  But it is not a place where departed souls wander around silently under the earth, as in Greek mythology.  Jesus describes it as a place of torment, where the rich man longs for a drop of comfort to ease his anguish and doesn’t receive it.  It is separated from the place where the saints rest by a great chasm so that no one can cross from one place to the other.

 

No, everyone is not going to the same place when they die.

 

Setting your heart on the things of this world separates you from God, but Jesus has bridged the chasm of our sins.

 

Lord, let at last Thine angels come

To Abram’s bosom bear me home

That I may die unfearing.

 

The book put out by our synod calls for the pastor to sing or say those words with Christians who are dying; words from an old Lutheran hymn, “Lord, Thee I love with all my heart.”  They are very comforting words for those who are dying and their families.  But they do not apply to everyone.

 

They only apply to those who are like poor Lazarus.  Those who are like poor Lazarus are those who can sing the first verse of the same hymn:

 

Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;

I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart

With tender mercy cheer me.

Earth has no treasure I would share,

Yea, heav’n itself were void and bare

If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.

 

Those who are like poor Lazarus have their treasure in Jesus.  If they were to go to heaven and there were no Jesus, it would not be heaven.  Jesus and His tender mercy are their treasure and heaven.

 

But those who are like the rich man have different treasures, different heavens.  They look for their good things on earth.

 

Which one are you?  “Earth has no treasure” you “would share” if Jesus were not near you?  Really?  Isn’t it true that you quickly forget about Jesus when you get earthly treasure?  Aren’t you far more upset about the loss of earthly good things than you are over the sins that would cause you to lose God if it were not for His mercy?

 

You have sought your good things here on earth, which separates you from God.  The penalty for it is eternal anguish.  But thanks be to God!  Jesus has secured good things for you in eternity with Him through His anguish.  He has bridged the chasm that separates you from God.

 

It’s not that it’s a sin to wear purple and fine linen and feast.   Father Abraham was rich on earth.  So was David.  The sin is to set your heart on those things.  Our hearts are supposed to be set on the Triune God alone; that’s the first commandment.  You shall have no other gods—which means We should

 

Fear

 

Love

And

Trust

 

In God above all things. 

 

But when a person’s heart doesn’t fear, love, and trust in God above all things, what does he do?

 

He doesn’t trust God to give him what is good.  So his heart gravitates toward earthly things to be his treasure and his refuge.  Every person has a different combination of idols.  It could be money that he puts his trust in.  It could be people liking him and speaking well of him.  It could be the fine things in life—fine food, fine wine, fine clothes, like the rich man.  It could be power and control, like Pharaoh, or sex, like Potiphar’s wife.  It could be work and career.  It could be a good life for your family.  It could be pleasure.  It always involves looking for our highest pleasure and good in earthly things.

 

And then there is no time and energy to love.  Our neighbor becomes a burden and an irritation.  We judge him for his sins, or his weakness, his wretchedness.  Instead of his sin or his need moving us to love him and help him, we want to get away from him and wash our hands of him.  Thus the rich man won’t even give the crumbs from his table to feed Lazarus.  He lets the dogs lick his sores.

 

When a person sets his heart on this world and looks to its good things instead of God, he finally becomes unwilling to die, or he is angry with God for not letting him die faster.  If you trust in God above all things, you receive everything that He gives you as a gift, trusting that He gives you everything good.  That includes hardship and suffering.  It includes the needs of your neighbor.  And it includes death.  But a person who sets his heart on this world does not receive death from God’s hand, trusting that even in death God is working for his good.  Or, when the day comes when the rich man can no longer enjoy the things that he set his heart on in this world, he becomes angry at God for keeping him around.

 

What is the end result of this setting your heart on the world, like the rich man did?  Anguish forever!  Eternal separation from God and His goodness and His people.  The rich man gets what he thinks he wanted—to not have to have anything to do with poor, wretched Lazarus.  Woe to us if God grants us to be separated from needy neighbors and other things that interfere with the enjoyment of earthly pleasures!  Rejoice if you are surrounded by weakness and need, and use what you have to help, because through the wretchedness of others, and your own wretchedness, the Lord is calling you to repentance so that you are spared the eternal wretchedness of being separated from Him!

 

You have sought your good things on earth like the rich man.  But Jesus has secured eternal good things for you in eternity by His anguish.  He has bridged the great chasm between us and God, so that our unrighteousness is not counted to us, just as Abraham was counted righteousness and the Lord did not count to him his iniquity.

 

Jesus was everything you are not.

 

He was not unwilling to die.  He did not avoid the wretchedness of His neighbor.  He did not seek to heap up good things for Himself on earth.

 

He was not unwilling to die, even though He had done nothing to deserve death.  He was willing to die, since it was God’s will.  He was willing to die for your sins.  When Jesus saw you as a rich man on the way to eternal anguish, He crossed over the great chasm that stood between you and God, which was your helplessness in idolatry.  He came to our side of the chasm and was born of the virgin.  He came into the fire with us and was baptized so that the flame that burns forever would be put out for us, so that in Baptism we would be drenched in righteousness and filled with the Spirit who works in love.  And after He underwent the baptism at John’s hands, He underwent the baptism of anguish in the garden, where His sweat became great drops of blood as He drank the cup that His Father gave Him, the cup of His wrath against your idolatry.  He was nailed to the cross alone and cried out in anguish to the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?”  And He bridged the chasm between you and God.

 

Jesus was not unwilling to die but committed Himself into the Father’s hands.  Because He trusted in God He was free to serve His neighbor.  That is what He did from the moment of His conception and what He is still doing today.  He serves you by interceding for you at the right hand of God.  He lives to serve you, clothing your nakedness with the white linen of his righteousness and the royal purple of His blood in the preaching of the Gospel.  He lived in poverty and slavery to bridge the chasm between you and God.  He now lives in majesty to bring you across that bridge, declaring you righteous in the absolution, nourishing you with the spiritual food that gives eternal life—His crucified body and outpoured blood, given to you from this altar.

 

Because Jesus trusted His Father in heaven, He did not spend His life heaping up earthly things for Himself.  His treasure is your redemption.  His treasure is Brandon, who confesses Jesus Christ today.  His treasure is that Brandon who was baptized will now partake of the royal treasure of His flesh and blood.  Jesus’ life was spent gaining eternal treasures that cannot perish, spoil, or fade.  His life of service earned for us forgiveness of sins, righteousness, sonship.  Brandon today owns His God, and God reaffirms that Brandon is his beloved son in the body and blood of His only-begotten.

 

In that sacrament He pledges to you not only that our souls will rest on Abraham’s bosom when we die, but that our bodies and souls will arise new and whole to gaze upon Jesus, our treasure, forever.

 

Today the angels bring us to Jesus to rest as we eat His body and drink His blood.  One day the angels will come to get you when you die to take you to rest with Abraham on Jesus’ breast.  Yes, your soul will rest until the day when Jesus returns in glory and in your flesh you will see God who had pity on you, a poor, sinful being.

 

That’s why some pastor will sing as you lay dying:

 

Lord, let at last thine angels come

To Abram’s bosom bear me home

That I may die unfearing.

And in its narrow chamber keep

My body safe in peaceful sleep

Until Thy reappearing.

And then from death awaken me

That these mine eyes with joy may see

O Son of God, Thy glorious face

My Savior and my fount of grace.

Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,

And I will praise Thee without end.

 

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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