Lazarus, Part I

By:  Staci Stallings

One of the things that continues to astound me is how intricate the Bible is.  As an author, I will tell you that it’s a challenge to get all of the details in a book to line up.  If Papa says he loves Mama’s green eyes on page 306, then her eyes had better have been green as well on page 3.  It’s a classic writing mistake and difficult to ever completely master because each book contains new details to keep track of–often mountains of them.

Did Character A have a scar on his left arm or right arm?  Is the sofa against the far wall or the side?  Did your character take their coat off and suddenly they are doing so again?

All writers struggle with getting the details right.  It’s part of the job.

So it’s really interesting to me how the “writers” of the Bible, you know, the actual people here on the ground that wrote it, could get all of the pickiest, teen-niciest details not just right but mind-blowingly right.  How what happened in Leviticus can all of a sudden show up as a shadow in Galatians.  Or what Isaiah said come to fruition in the Body of Christ Who wasn’t even born yet.

That’s cool.

And so it is with this lesson that hit me full force last week.  In Luke, there is a parable that Jesus tells about a rich man and a poor man.  The rich man is not named.  The poor man is.

The story goes that the rich man had a beggar named Lazarus who would beg outside the rich man’s house.  The poor man, Lazarus, would gladly have accepted even the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table and yet the rich man did nothing to help this poor beggar.

Lo and behold, one day both of them died and the rich man found himself in the pit of hell.  To make matters worse, he looked through the flames and the torment to see Lazarus, this beggar, seated with Father Abraham in Heaven.

The rich man, still believing he has any power, begs Father Abraham to let Lazarus give him a little water to cool his parched lips.  But Father Abraham refuses the request saying that there is a huge chasm between them that Lazarus cannot bridge.  The rich man then pleads thusly:

“I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.”

To which Father Abraham tells him that his brothers have the prophets and Moses.

But the rich man continues:

“No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”

And Father Abraham says, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.”

Now think about that last line and why Jesus might have chosen the name Lazarus for this story.  He could have chosen any name for this beggar.  After all, it’s just a story.  In fact, He didn’t have to name the beggar at all.  Like the Prodigal Son whose name apparently is “Prodigal Son” because Jesus didn’t give him a name.

So you have to ask yourself, why did Jesus give this particular fictional/parable character a name, and more to the point, why the name Lazarus?

Scholars point out that the Lazarus Jesus later raised and this Lazarus the beggar are clearly two separate characters because the Lazarus who was raised was never a beggar.  However, I think that misses the bigger picture.

It is not only on the hinge of the name that this door swings but moreso on the master stroke of the situation.

The rich man begs that Lazarus be brought back to life so that his brothers might come to believe in God and repent, and Father Abraham, in Jesus’ story, is quite astute to point out that even if Lazarus came back from the dead, the brothers would not believe.

As it turns out, Father Abraham was exactly right.

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