It is a wonderful thing that happens when reading a familiar passage of Scripture. It happens when you stumble onto something that was there every other time you read it, but you just didn’t notice it or think it was significant. The passage I am talking about is in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 16. The parable begins this way:

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:19-21 NKJV)

Now before anyone gets upset, yes, it is a parable for many reasons. But we must remember that a parable is a story designed to convey a spiritual message. Nowhere does that require it to be fictional. Otherwise, they would be called “fables” instead. But back to my point.

As far as I can recall, Jesus never gives a person’s name when He talks about them in a parable. The characters are usually just given descriptions like “a certain man”, or “a Samaritan”, etc. but in this parable, Jesus names one of the beggar as Lazarus. Is that significant? I don’t believe the Holy Spirit puts anything meaningless into the Bible, so yes, the name Lazarus is significant.

Later in the passage, the rich man is begging Abraham to let him go and warn his brothers so they would not end up in Hades.

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ (Luke 16:27, 28)

The rich man isn’t asking for an angel or even Abraham himself to go back, but specifically asks for Lazarus. The answer given by Abraham is not only poignant but is prophetic.

Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:29-31)

Now for many years, I assumed that what Jesus was saying was that His own resurrection would fail to convince those who were determined not to believe. But I think there is more to this. I now also think He was prophesying about the reaction of the Jewish leaders to an event that would occur later in His ministry. Take a look over in the Gospel of John, chapter 11.

Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. (John 11:43-46)

John here is relating the resurrection of another man named Lazarus from the dead. Yes, just as the rich man pleaded, a Lazarus rose from the dead as a miraculous sign of the Messiah. While some did believe, what was the reaction of the Jewish leaders?

Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. (John 11:53)

These men were experts in the writings of Moses and the prophets, but would not believe in Jesus, even though Lazarus had come back from the dead! And in the context of Luke 16, Jesus gave the parable of the rich man and Lazarus right in the presence of the Pharisees. Little did they realize that soon they would prove that the parable they were hearing was the truth! As with everything Jesus taught, it was fulfilled in every detail. For end the final analysis, it is not miracles or signs and wonders that cause faith. If someone is open to the Gospel, they will respond. But if someone has already determined to refuse to believe no physical miracle will change their mind, even if someone were to “rise from the dead.”