Are the two stories parables? Surely not both of them. Even if they were parables, it needs to noted that Jesus spoke in parables to hide the truths of His message. Why would Jesus want to hide the truth of His message? Because He was only seeking genuine hearers and not insincere people who are only after what they can obtain for their own personal gain, rather than seeking to understand the truth of life.
We know that Jesus attracted many people who only wanted to know Him for what they could obtain for themselves in this life. This is particularly evident in the Gospel of John, chapter six, where the book records Jesus had fed the five thousand and then spoke about the true bread, being Himself, that abides unto eternal life.
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. (John 6:52–66)Was Jesus speaking in a parable when He referred to His Himself as being the Bread of Life, and that people needed to eat His flesh and eat His blood? Maybe Jesus was using symbolism. Maybe this was an analogy. Whatever the truth maybe, one thing we know for sure, what Jesus said certainly sorted out those who were genuine seekers of truth from those who were looking for something else, for we read that many, who were said to be His disciples, ceased following Him—the first backsliders!
Clearly, in the book of John, Lazarus was a real person who had died.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14–15)We see in the same chapter of John that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so that the disciples, who had continued with Him, might believe that He is truly the Resurrection and the Life.
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.”
When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:38–44)The account in Luke, chapter sixteen, skeptics scoff at being a fairy tale (or is it a theory tale). Many people, who accept the veracity of the Bible, believe the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Dives) in the Gospel of Luke to be a parable. Another segment of the believing community claim that this is a real account of a beggar named Lazarus and the outcome of his happenstance. A third view is that this is a composite story of actual events that reveal an eternal truth; therefore, not a parable.
“There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19–21)Those who appeal to this account being a parable with a moral at the end, and not a real event, make much of the introductory words “There was a rich man” as being no one in particular, which is a common feature of Jesus’ parables. Moreover, they like to claim that this is really an allegory and not a representation of what occurs after death. The aim of the account according to them is to take heed of Moses and the prophets. The problem with this theory is the reader is left wondering why would Jesus go to the trouble of speaking about people receiving punishments and rewards after death if they did not exist.
Those who believe that this is a real account of an actual event that took place, of which Jesus was a witness, appeal to the use of the names. The rich man was given the name Dives. But the rich man was not given a name by Jesus in this account. Although, the story is known as Dives and Lazarus and The Rich Man and Lazarus.
For the account to have any validity, punishment and reward in the afterlife have to be real.
In which case, those who disregard what Moses had to say, will be experiencing a sorrow that is beyond the temporal sorrows of this world. However, as Abraham (who kept the Law of God—Genesis 26:5) tells the sorrowful man, who despised the beggar Lazarus when on Earth, unless people are willing to believe Moses (and acknowledge the Ten Commandments) they will scoff at the resurrection of the dead.
The two accounts regarding the two different individuals named Lazarus, speak about the resurrection of the dead.
The account in the Gospel of John is a real raising of a dead man that took place—only not unto eternal life as in the resurrection. This was a demonstration of the power of God so that the disciples would believe that the dead are raised and Jesus would be raised from the dead, because He could raise the dead.
The account in the Gospel of Luke, although told with some features of a parable, is really expressing a truth of what happens when people reject the Ten Commandments and think that faith, justice and mercy are of no consequence, because their is no judgment after death.
Only those who understand justice, who seek true justice, are able to appreciate life on this planet is not just about being born to experience suffering and then die. True justice requires vindication of existence and a purpose for being. Without such justice, everything people do is in vain, for there is no hope of anything being of eternal worth—therefore, worthwhile. Life itself becomes immoral and, as one beast eats another, one human consumes another—metaphorically, if not actually.
Fortunately, morality exists. We all know this is the case. But are we wise enough to recognize our insignificance and our need for a righteousness that transcends the corrupt variety known as self-righteousness?
The resurrection of Lazarus in the Gospel of John points to the power of God. The account in the Gospel of Luke points to the need to understand the Law of God and the consequences for those who despise it.
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