The Parables of Jesus - Lesson 7
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31)
Objectives: By the end of this lesson the learner will be able to:
- Describe details of the main characters that will improve the readers' understanding of this parable.
- Identify what issues a 1st century Jewish audience would focus on after hearing the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
- Identify the major lessons conveyed allegorically by the main characters.
- Make applications of the major lessons to contemporary situations. O/H 1
Teaching Aids and Materials:
- Easy to understand Bibles for every student (CEV, RSV, NAV, NIV, NRSV, etc.)
- A chalkboard, marker board, or overhead projector.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (about 8-10 minutes)
- Begin class by welcoming members and any visitors; make all necessary class announcements; songs.
- Lead the class in a prayer that will include asking God to give us the wisdom to relieve the suffering of the poor.
- Q: Who would like to give some examples of factors that would help motivate somebody to be committed to Christian discipleship? (Allow 2-3 learners share their examples)
- Share with the learners the lesson objectives. O/H 1
- Have someone read Luke 16:19-31.
Learning Experiences: (about 20-25 minutes)
Part I: Details of the main characters to better understanding
Explain to the learners that this parable is one of those "example parables" (like the parable of the Good Samaritan). Since this story does not have one of Jesus introductory formulas (i.e. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like …" or "It is like ?") and since one of the characters is name, some believe it could be referring to an actual situation Jesus knew. Either way, Jesus is using the story to convey an important lesson. The unnamed rich man provides an example of a life to shun. It is also important to stress to the learners that while there are some details about life after death in this parable, it would be inappropriate to press the details to obtain a theology of the afterlife. Its basic message points to an important issue to be observed in this life. Help the learners visualize the differences between Lazarus and the rich man. Description of Lazarus: This is the only parable that Jesus told in which he named one of his characters. There is no reason to conclude that this Lazarus is the same as the Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead in John 11. The name "Lazarus" means "God has helped" (possibly an abbreviation of "Eliezar"). The name suggests what Lazarus experiences (namely God relieves his suffering while the rich man did not). Notice that Lazarus "was laid" at the rich man's gate suggesting that he was lame. His helplessness is underscored by the fact that he cannot even defend himself against the street dogs who lick his sores and prevent them from healing. Description of the rich man: It is probably significant that the rich man is not named. In the Oriental world, not to be remembered is an indication of dishonor. The Western tradition that names him "Dives" comes from the fact that the Latin Vulgate opens the parable with "A certain man Dives ?". However, the Latin word dives is an adjective meaning rich and not a personal name. His wealth is accentuated by the fact that he wears purple and fine linen which were worn by royalty or those who were favored by royalty. He certainly lives in a large home since it comes with a gate. The gap between a person of great social clout and one with none could not be wider. Q: Where is Lazarus' taken? A: The angels carry him to a place that is simply described as Abraham's bosom, which is probably the equivalent to paradise, the place where the dead go before final judgment (see Jesus' use of the word "paradise" in Luke 23:43) Q: Where does the rich man go after death? A: While the NIV may say that the rich man goes to hell, the Greek word is actually hades which was used by the Greeks for the abode of the dead. This word was used by Greek speaking Jews as a translation for the Hebrew word Sheol, which means the grave. The rich man is not in hell (the place of final torment or punishment), though there are flames. Instead, he is in a place of torment where he waits for the final judgment (Though it is true that his judgment is already anticipated.). Q: This parable could have made its point against insensitivity towards the suffering poor by stopping with the description of the rich man in torment. Why do you think Jesus continues on to discuss the rich man's desire to warn his brothers? (Allow about 2 learners to give an answer.) A: Jesus' point here that God revealed in scripture that he wants his covenant people to show compassion to the poor. The rich man and his brothers have no excuse for not doing what God' expressly revealed through Moses and the prophets.
Part II: Issues raised in the minds of a Jewish audience
Q: To whom is the parable directed and what is the occasion? A: The parable is directed towards the Pharisees whom Luke describes as lovers of money (v. 14). The Pharisees had sneered at Jesus' parable of the Shrewd Manager (16:1-12). It was first to them that the lesson of this parable was directed. Explain to the learners that a Jewish audience would agree with Jesus that the rich man is responsible for not helping Lazarus because he should have known from the Law and the prophets that mercy to the needy and oppressed is a significant attribute that God wants in his people. Q: Most Jews would have concluded that Lazarus was lame, that is why he was "laid" at the rich man's gate (v. 20). During the first century, what did many Jews think caused diseases like paralysis? A: Many would think that sin caused paralysis. Yet surprisingly, God elevated the one who deserved to be lame because of some unknown sin above the one who was free of deformities.
Part III: Lessons from the main characters
Q: What are the lessons from the two explicit characters (Lazarus and the rich man) and the one implied character (God)? A: There are three lessons taught: (1) Those who belong to God's kingdom should put their hope in God to help them. (2) Those who belong to God's kingdom must not be insensitive to the needs of the poor. (3) God has revealed through Moses and the prophets what he expects his people to know and do. O/H 2
Part IV: Contemporary Applications of the main lessons
Give the learners an example of an organization that claims to represent Christian values, has wealth, power and social status but does nothing to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Ask them to tell you what they think God's judgment of that organization's work will be based on what they known from this parable. Q: In what ways can we do things that will show real compassion for the needs of the poor? (Allow 2-3 learners to answer)
Application: (about 5-10 minutes)
- Ask someone to read the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16- 21). Then ask the learners what sin do they think that this man committed? What you are hoping to see is that the learners will recognize that his sin was like that of the rich man. He gave no thought of giving some of his abundance to the poor.
Assignment: (about 2 minutes)
- Give each learner a Personal Compassion survey (handout #1). Instruct them to fill it out and bring it back to class next week. Lesson Wrap-up Review the lesson objectives. Let them know the parable for next week's lesson: Pharisee and Tax- Collector
Describe details of the main characters that will improve the readers' understanding of this parable. Identify what issues a 1st century Jewish audience would focus on after hearing the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Identify the major lessons conveyed allegorically by the main characters. Make applications of the major lessons to contemporary situations.
Those who belong to God's kingdom should put their hope in God to help them. Those who belong to God's kingdom must not be insensitive to the needs of the poor. God has revealed through Moses and the prophets what he expects his people to know and do.
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