Luke 16:27-31

Consider a theater stage. The backdrop and the curtains on the left and the right form three walls of the “room” where the action takes place. The fourth wall is the invisible one between the action and the audience. “Breaking the fourth wall” happens when characters speak directly to the audience or acknowledge them in some way. The television comedy The Office, which tells the story of an office staff being filmed by a documentary team, breaks the fourth wall regularly. Characters know that cameras and an audience are watching them, though everyone forgets this sometimes. Whenever something particularly ridiculous happens, the character Jim makes eye contact with the camera. He breaks the fourth wall with a “can you believe this?” look at the audience, telling us that he’s in on the joke, too. 

Today’s passage also contains an instance when what isn’t said speaks louder than what is. 

In concluding his parable, Jesus explains that those who don’t listen to Moses and the prophets won’t be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (v. 31). What he doesn’t say—that God will do this very thing in raising Jesus—is louder than anything in the scene. 

When we read the Gospels on this side of the centuries we know how the story ends. In this verse, however, Jesus seems to break the fourth wall. He turns his head, looks through all those years, and gazes directly at us. Jesus transcends time. The irony of his statement may be lost on everyone else in the scene, but we understand. Jesus is in on the secret with us. 

Before we abuse the disciples for being clueless about the suffering that Jesus is rapidly approaching, let’s acknowledge that we too miss vital truths. In this case, though, Jesus breaks the fourth wall to make sure that we don’t. 


Which passages that we read this week were already familiar to you? What new truths did you glean from them?


God of truthful stories, thank you for new wisdom in familiar lines. Amen.

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