Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is told in the frame of the two ages: this age and the age to come. "This age" is the age of the rich man feasting sumptuously every day and dressing in linen and fine clothes. At his gate is Lazarus, covered with sores who wants to eat just the crumbs that fall off the rich man's table. The dogs come and lick his sores. That's this age. "The age to come" is the reversal of this age. In the age to come, the rich man is in hell and Lazarus is comforted and consoled in the bosom of Abraham.
This is one of the parables that has been the source of the idea of heaven and hell as separate places. In that system, heaven and hell are not understood in relation to the old age and the new age, but rather as where people will go after they die. It's based on the geography of a three level universe where heaven is up above and hell is down below the earth. You go up to heaven or down to hell. However, in Jesus' parables, heaven and hell are metaphors for the two ages, not a geography lesson. The logic of the new age is the primary subject of his parable.
The dynamic of this parable is created by identification with the rich man. He is the one who is crying out from hell where he's being tormented. It's important to tell the story in that style rather than to simply read it in a normal voice. The rich man is really in agony. He was being tormented and he looked up and saw Abraham far off and he called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to at least dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in agony in these flames."
Communicate agony in telling this, as I’m sure Jesus did when he told this parable. You might try to remember times when you have been in great pain and how you talked. Or explore how you would talk if you were in the rich man's position. Somehow convey his reality, rather than simply reading it in a dispassionate manner.
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