Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dives Agonistes

“'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"
I can’t add to the many things that have been said about the final conditions of the wretched Lazarus and the rich Dives. But I think these final words of Jesus bear examination.
Abraham, of course, was the father of both men, in covenant as well as in flesh. So when he called Dives “my son”, his hearers understood immediately and intimately. It was the core of their corporate life. They likewise understood that Dives was living in scorn of the covenants of both Abraham and Moses by refusing help to Lazarus. That is why Jesus has Abraham saying, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
Jesus, I think, was being a bit sly in this parable. Remember that he was on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. He knew he would consummate the fulfillment of the law and the prophets by his passion and death. And he also knew (and would say many more times) that he would rise from the dead as the supreme persuasion of that fulfillment.
Yet how many times have we seen his parable fulfilled in that respect also? How many have risen to deny the Resurrection? And if we declare our faith in it, we are subjected to pop psychoanalysis – we’re deluded, hysterical and fundamentalist (a synonym for crazy). In all the Muslim lands, as well as in Africa, in India and in Asia, we are persecuted for it. The stiff-necked contumacy of men defies belief, but Jesus promised it and promised help in enduring it.

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