“They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” This was the instruction given by Abraham to the rich man in Jesus’ parable of the ‘Rich Man and Lazarus’ recorded in Luke 16. This parable tells of a rich man who finds himself in torment in Hades. He has a conversation with the Old Testament character Abraham and asks Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn the rich man’s five brothers about the fate that the rich man has suffered.
Abraham replies “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.”
What does that mean: ‘Moses and the prophets’?
We need to understand the context of this parable to fully appreciate what the Lord means. He told this parable just before he entered into Jerusalem where he was wrongly tried and crucified. At this time, in Luke’s Gospel, the Lord explains three times, how the Son of Man must suffer and die and on the third day, will rise again. The disciples and others do not understand. In this context, the Lord tells this parable of the rich man and Lazarus to explain the ‘bigger picture.’
God had promised to the people of old that he would send the ‘messiah’ to save his people. This was the story throughout the Old Testament. ‘Moses and the prophets’ means all the Old Testament story of God’s ‘plan of salvation’. God has given his word which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we are directed to take up the whole story of the Old and New Testaments, and to learn of all God has done, in keeping his promise to the people of old and sending Christ Jesus: the messiah, whose life, death and resurrection for our salvation, brings us peace with God.
Our modern day Christian communities are therefore people of ‘the story.’ This is the story of the promise fulfilled. The messiah has come amongst us and has taken upon himself the sin of the world. He has risen just as he said and has promised the “be with us always,” to the close of the age.
This is the story worth telling. This is the story worth living as it has the most beautiful of endings: ‘happily ever after’ with the Lord.
One final comment about another deep meaning of the parable in Luke 16. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is framed as a story of charity and of faith active in love. The rich man has overlooked the needs of his neighbour, Lazarus. With this parable, the Lord Jesus is declaring that the story of the cross and resurrection is the way of justice, mercy and peace, which is the way we are called to travel as our story is caught up in his story.