T-13 Sermon Outline
September 10, 2017 A+D
St. Luke 10:23-37
The Context and Set Up
- THE FIRST QUESTION. The lawyer stands up and asks: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what what the Law says because he asked a Law question. He didn’t ask a Gospel question. He didn’t ask “How will God get me out of this? How will God keep His promises?” He asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. The lawyer gives a great Law answer: “Love God and neighbor perfectly.” The Jesus says, “Fine, do that.”
- THE LAW. This is a great preaching of the Law and the lawyer feels the pricks of conscience. He wants to be justified. He does not want to go to Hell. So he tries to find a loophole to get out of it, a way of escape. We tend to want to judge him for that. He wants to justify himself because he is a self-righteous jerk. We aren’t wrong in that judgment but we are wrong to make it. He is confused and compromised. He is not wrong to desire righteousness, to be right with God. He wants to be what he was meant to be. But he has not the reason or strength to see past the Law and his own efforts.
- JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE 2ND Jesus has compassion on him. Having preached the Law with full force and brought the lawyer to the point of desperation, Jesus tells him a parable.
- THE LEGAL OPINION. We all know the parable inside and out. And many people think that the point Jesus wants to make is that we should try harder, that we should put more effort into loving our neighbors, that we shouldn’t be prejudiced or racist or bigoted but should love everyone – because everyone is our neighbor. That is true. That is what the Law teaches and Jesus does end this parable with a clear call to action: “Go and do likewise,” must mean, in a sense, go and be like the Samaritan, help people in their needs, be merciful, love your neighbor.
- GO AND DO LIKEWISE. But that is not the point of the parable. It is the consequence. Jesus has already preached the Law to this man and crushed him. He is desperate to be justified. If Jesus tells this parable to illustrate what the man should do – that is if he simply wants to take away the man’s loopholes and attempts at escape – then there is no Gospel in this parable and Jesus only purpose here is to condemn and crush the man.
- THESIS: The Law puts us in the ditch. Jesus, who owes us nothing, comes in compassion to save us.
The Details in the Parable
- The Law doesn’t leave us in the ditch because it is bigoted or evil but simply because there is no way for it to help. That doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to the Christian. It simply means it is incapable of answering the Lawyer’s question about salvation. The Law is useful to Christians not only to show them their sins but also to show them what is good and what is evil. God gave us the ten commandments and the Law for clarity. We can’t always trust our consciences. It might seem to us that marriage is mainly about love and commitment and therefore homosexual marriage seems reasonable. It might seem to us that poor people deserve to be poor and that the wealthy have earned their wealth. It might seem that abortion is like the removal of a tumor rather than the murder of a baby or that women are just as capable of being pastors and carrying out ministerial duties as men. For those and a host of other questions we need the Law’s clarity and direction. Even as we need its accusations to lead us to repentance and to give up our self-reliance, so also we need its threats to hem us in and we need its instructions to guide us.
- The lawyer isn’t a priest or a levite in this parable. Nor is he the Samaritan. He is the man in the ditch, left for dead, without resources. He doesn’t need someone to help. He needs to be helped. The Samaritan owes him nothing. He is a despised outsider. The Samaritan has that godliest of attributes: compassion. He dirties himself with the lawyer. He binds up the wounds. He pours on oil and wine. He puts him on the donkey while he walks. He takes him to an inn for recovery, pays for everything, and promises to come back and pay for anything else that is needed. That is what the Messiah does. That is who Jesus is. The way to salvation and eternal life isn’t in loving your neighbor it is in being rescued and carried by Christ. It isn’t finding a good deal at a hospital, it is being the beneficiary of His generosity and love, not in paying but in being paid for. Eternal can’t be bought or earned. It can only be received as a gift.
JESUS’ QUESTION and ADMONITION
- After the parable, Jesus asks the man a question. This is important because when the lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor”” he was still asking a Law question. He wanted to find out who he had to love to get to heaven. The answer to that question is “everyone.” The Law leaves no loophole. There is obviously no room for racism in Christianity. But so also, there is no room for moral superiority. To keep and obey the Law you must love drug dealers and child pornographers, democrats and republicans, terrorists and dictators. You must love perverts and cheaters and liars. You must love addicts and betrayers and racists. You must love everyone. BUT THAT IS NOT THE ANSWSER TO JESUS’ QUESTION. Jesus changed the question to get the answer he wanted, the real answer to the Lawyer’s original question. Jesus asks: “Who was neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” Not everyone – but the One who had mercy.
- To inherit eternal life is to get mercy not to be merciful. The lawyer needs mercy. He is in a ditch but doesn’t know it. So first he needs the Law to expose him and show him his need. That way he is ready for the Samaritan and is able to recognize Him. The Samaritan fulfills the Law. He is truly a righteous man in whom there is no guile. He rescues the dying sinners who could not save themselves. And then the lawyer, now recovering in the inn, needs the Law’s direction: go and do likewise – not to save yourself but in response to what has been done for you. Go and be like Jesus, merciful, preaching Law and Gospel to your neighbors, helping them in their physical needs.