We are well into our trip with Jesus on his single-minded journey to Jerusalem. Yet, we still have a good two months to go until Advent arrives and the new Church Year begins. It’ll be six months or more until we arrive at Holy Week and hear the end of the story, and by then, we’ll be in Matthew’s Gospel. So, it is helpful to get a reminder every once in a while of what is really going on in the lengthy trip we’re taking with Jesus.
This Sunday’s Gospel lesson gives the preacher a good opportunity to reflect on where we’re going. The story itself is eminently preachable, You’ve got a chance to talk about Hades and hell and the reason why one is referenced in this parable and not the other. You can preach about the disparity between the rich and poor. You can try to dance around works righteousness in a parable the sounds an awful lot like, “if you help the poor you go to heaven.” And of course there is the, “if you read the Bible, you’ll know what you should do” line from Father Abraham. Any one of these could be 12 minutes of gold, but what strikes my fancy here on Monday afternoon is the foreshadowing that Jesus sneaks into the parable right at the end.
The rich man, sometimes called Dives, is arguing with Abraham about warning his five brothers of their impending doom and says, a’la Ebeneezer Scrooge, “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Father Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
What a scathing accusation for Jesus to make as he approaches Jerusalem and the cross. He has began to argue more frequently with the Pharisees and Scribes. They think Moses and Prophets say one thing, but Jesus suggests they are saying something very different (Sounds like our current religio-political climate). The Scribes and Pharisees simply close their ears and shout “I can’t hear you!” The underlying assumption for them is that if God really wanted to get their attention, he will, but what Jesus knows and foreshadows in this parable, is that even a man coming back from the dead won’t change the minds of those who have closed their eyes, ears, and hearts to the Lord. We are still en route to Jerusalem this week, and I’m thankful that Jesus snuck a reminder in to his parable.