Neither Will They be Persuaded if Someone Should Rise from the Dead (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #16)
by Erik Ritland
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Jeremiah contrasts a life lived for God and a life lived for this world. In the Gospel, Jesus illustrates this point in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. As usual, He doesn’t mince words.
Readings: Jer 17:5-10/Lk 16:19-31
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
(cf. Jer 17: 5-10)
From its very first chapters, the Old Testament is clear that God made the physical world “good.” There is no place for a “world bad, spirit good” dualism in Judaism or Christianity.
There is, however, adamant commands to not be caught up in worldliness, to only live for this world. If your ultimate trust is in human beings and not God, you’re doing it wrong. If you “seek strength in the flesh,” as opposed to God, you’re doing it wrong.
A number of Psalms make clear that, even when it seems like those who do evil thrive, they are ultimately doomed. In fact, beyond their veneer, their life on earth is usually “a barren bush in the desert...a salt and empty earth.”
The Prophets sure had a way with words.
The balance in this reading is the balance of Lent. When we sin, when we do wrong, we turn our hearts from God and are as barren as those who intentionally do evil. But if we trust and hope in God, we can get back on the right path.
Lent is a good time to remember all of this.
Abraham replied, 'My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.”
He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father's house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said,
'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.'"
(cf Lk. 16: 19-31)
The last line in the Gospel is enough to give any Christian who takes their faith seriously goosebumps.
Jesus couldn’t be making His point any clearer here. “Neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” This was certainly a message to those in Jesus’ time who didn’t believe in the resurrection, but it speaks to the skepticism of all ages.
Many say, “if only God would make his existence clear, would perform some miracle for me to see, then I would believe in him.”
Jesus isn’t so sure, and neither am I.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
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Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.