Speaking Of Life 1044 | The Unseen
Jesus is the master storyteller. In the middle of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is telling a series of stories to a collective group of religious and non-religious folks. One particular story is about the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus.
Let’s examine the strange dialogue that takes place. It is curious and revealing how Jesus goes to some length to describe the temporal details.
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores (Luke 16:19-21 NRSV).
There are some important details to notice here. In that society, purple dye was incredibly expensive and a sign of being wealthy. It served no other purpose except to show people you had wealth and to make an impression, to be seen.
In contrast, Lazarus, someone the rich man would have seen at his gate every day—was poor, dirty, and forgotten.
There were a lot of “unseen” people when Jesus walked. Slavery was commonplace, there were many poor. Not all slaves or poor were abused, but they were ignored—unknown and unseen.
The rich man, however, was known.
Both died, but Jesus only shares the rich man speaking, who says:
…’Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’
Just in that first phrase, he’s proven that he still doesn’t get it. He ignores Lazarus, the poor man, as he did every day of his life. He talks over him like he’s always done. Then he addresses Abraham like a peer and asks him to treat the poor man like a slave. “Tell your boy to do something for me…”
Abraham denies him and the man persists:
He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’
Again, he is giving orders, again he’s ignoring the poor man. He still doesn’t get the picture: the hierarchy of the world, the social structures of the world don’t apply in the kingdom. The poor man, the forgotten man, can no longer be ignored.
The story begs us to examine who we admire or idolize in contrast to whom we ignore, or leave at the gate? Who do we walk by in our purple robes with our bellies full?
As we unwrap this parable, we notice another detail:
Only Lazarus is named.
Of the two main characters here, Jesus only gives one of them a name. The poor man, the excluded man, the unimportant man is made visible by the Lord. Jesus sees the unseen of this world, do we? May God open our eyes to see others as he sees them, and then to share his love and life with those we see.
I’m Greg Williams, speaking of life.