Six men and the outsider

In this Jesus story five are unnamed men, one is named, Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Initially, five an insiders in society, one a reject, a no-body, an exile, an unwanted intruder, an outsider. At the end of the story, five are exiles and only one an insider in God's kingdom!

The public face of the Jesus story begins with his first sermon, "The kingdom of God is at hand, repent, believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). Closely followed by "Come. Follow me." The summons is universal. It is a call to those who have ears to hear, eyes to see. "Who-so-ever may come."

But on this recruitment campaign Jesus is not head hunting the 'brightest and the best.' In contrast to today's "widespread and virtually unchallenged strategy to target influential and accomplished men and women for kingdom work - men and women, as we say, with 'proven leadership qualities' or at least 'leadership potential'" (Eugene Peterson).

No, Jesus names the unnamed, taking those nobody is aware of, gives voice to the voiceless, as they respond to his call to enter God's kingdom. Paul gives unflattering descriptions of Jesus' kingdom saints, "God deliberately chose men and women that culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose nobodies . . ." (1 Corinthians 1:28 The Message).

With Jesus a new age dawned and those who want to belong have to repent. Repentance is much more than private remorse, being sorry for sins, being ready to make amends. The Jesus call to "repent" is a call to return to God, to the ways of God, to the people of God. Repentance has to do with entering a new way of life, new life-style, a new focus, a taking up of membership in the eternal kingdom of God. A submission to God, unwavering obedience to the will of God, a Jesus follower.

Sadly, few enter the kingdom of God. Most, like the five unnamed brothers, turn a deaf ear, mingle with the crowd, stay in the kingdom of darkness even though one rose from the dead.