Lazarus the beggar

Mar 11, 2022
A Biblical parable is a short story designed to illustrate a spiritual truth. Many people believe Jesus invented parables, but many hundreds of years before, proverbs were used in the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ezekiel, and Hosea. In fact, Matthew wrote that at least one of the Old Testament verses was a prophecy that Jesus would speak in parables.

It appears that Jesus taught the crowds in parables because they could remember and understand them as they had time to reflect on them and discuss them. After telling parables to the crowd, Jesus would often later explain them in detail to his apostles. These explanations are recorded in the Bible and help us clearly understand what Jesus was trying to teach.

Because of their ancient, Middle East context, many of Jesus’ parables are difficult for modern Westerners to understand. An example of this was driven home to a group of Christian tourists in Israel as they toured the ruins of the town of Chorazin, a place Jesus did many miracles. The group leader told Jesus’ parable of the woman who lost a silver coin and had to search her house for it. He first said he had always misunderstood the parable because he was used to smooth American floors, then told the crowd he had dropped ten coins on the very rough rock floor beneath their feet. The entire group could find only five of the coins.

Luke is also the only Gospel writer to tell the story of the Lost Son, sometimes known as the Prodigal Son. As you read this story, remember that the original listeners would have been shocked that both sons treated their father with such disrespect. In that culture, he should have disinherited both sons instead of treating them with love and mercy. This would have surely challenged the listeners’ minds about the nature of God.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is told only in Luke. As you listen to the story, remember that in none of his other parables did Jesus use proper names. In this story, Jesus gives Lazarus as the name of the beggar. This has caused many people to interpret this event not as a parable but as an historical event. Jesus’ wording about the afterlife in this story has been interpreted in many ways. Some take it to be entirely figurative, others entirely literally, and many others somewhere in between.