St. Luke 10:23-37
August 26, 2018
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
How much time this week have you spent trying to prove that Mohammed was a false prophet and that Allah is a fake, non-existent god? How much mental energy have you used trying to convince yourself and others that Zeus did not do the things that people say he did? How many times this week have you found yourself thinking, if only the Wiccan gods and goddesses were good, then there wouldn’t be pain, suffering, and inequality in the world? My guess is that you haven’t spent one ounce of energy or even one second of your week thinking about these things. But I also have a guess that this week believers and non-believers alike have wondered why there is evil, pain, and suffering in this world, why God would let difficult times hurt their family, and why a loving God would allow people around the world suffer.
These are important questions—central questions. And even more central, more foundational, is how one inherits eternal life. But we don’t ask important questions of fake deities. Christians don’t waste energy challenging claims of false gods. We only ask the most important questions of the true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the God Christians seek, and He is the God that non-believers try to refute. He is the only God, and non-believers betray this fact (even if they’re not cognizant of it) when they try to refute Him (because they acknowledge, by even asking the question, that He has answers).
The New Testament writers recorded for us many times when the Pharisees, the Scribes, and even the Priests challenged Jesus on His preaching and teaching about His Father and the kingdom of heaven. They challenged Him, because their eyes and ears told them that what He was saying about Himself and His Father were true. If Jesus’ life, works, and teachings didn’t have the truth, they would not have wasted their time questioning Him. Just like you don’t question Zeus, or Oden, or Allah. But, in fact, what Jesus said about the Old Testament, about the Messiah, and about Yahweh, were all true, and they knew it. What He did was consistent with what they knew of the Messiah from the Old Testament. That’s why they questioned Him. They wanted to try to appease their consciences and remain in their sin, by trying to prove Him wrong. And they failed miserably every time, because Jesus constantly pointed them back to the Bible, which they knew. They were always accused by their false belief, but most of them refused to be humbled, turn, and repent. A few did, however. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and others. And more would after Jesus died and was raised from the dead.
In our text today Jesus begins by telling His disciples “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” The saints in the Old Testament desired to see the fulfillment of God’s promise in Jesus Christ and did not see it. They believed it was coming and trusted. They were Christians before Christ was even born, to be sure. The people of Jesus’ day saw it with their own eyes, but only the disciples were blessed, because they alone believed. And in order to demonstrate why they were blessed, Matthew gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A certain lawyer came forward to test Jesus. Now this wasn’t the kind of lawyer that we think of in our litigious society where lawsuits abound. This wasn’t a traffic lawyer, divorce lawyer, or big business lawyer. This was a man who was employed by the church to read and make judgments on church law, really a theologian, who made his living studying the Old Testament. He knew the Bible inside and out—every verse—and every contemporary interpretation of it for his day. So when this man comes to Jesus to “test” him, he is starting a theological debate to try to show that Jesus was at odds with the doctrines of the church, and should be labeled a heretic.
Obviously, then, this man did not believe in Jesus. He asked the questions from the point of view of unbelief. He thought he knew better and wanted to trap Jesus and prove Him wrong. This is different than how we ask questions of God. Christians can question God. But the questions come from a point of humility, repentance, and desire for the truth. We can pour out our hearts to God asking why things are the way they are, but we never put ourselves above Him as if we know better. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David all asked questions of God—tough questions—but they asked them from humility, knowing their place before the Creator and Redeemer of the world.
However, we must hand it to the lawyer, he asks an important question. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He wanted to know about heaven—salvation. But Jesus knows his heart and throws the question back at him. “You tell me Mr. Smarty Pants. What does the Old Testament, that you claim to know so well, say? It speaks of these important matters. You tell me.”
And the lawyer does. He quotes from the Old Testament, from Deut. 6 (v.5) and Lev. 19 (v. 18). “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Basically, keep all the commandments perfectly and you will go to heaven. The Old Testament tells you how you can inherit eternal life IF sin did not stop you. But the Lawyer is smart enough to realize that he does sin, that everyone sins, and therefore no one will go to heaven this way. So he seeks to justify himself and justify his sins by seeking a point of clarification in the Law that would soothe his conscience. He follows on, “Who is my neighbor?” He thinks that if he can redefine the terms, then he can interpret the Law in such a was as to keep it and inherit eternal life. Or at least he could make the right sacrifices after sinning and cover his own sin, so God would have to allow him into heaven.
But the true Teacher has more to teach. The Old Testament has more than the condemning Law. Jesus came to bring salvation. The Old Testament preaches also the Gospel. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6). “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come… and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4). “The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts…[He] will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” (Hosea 6:8).
Salvation belongs to God. He wants to show mercy. He has no pleasure in the death of the sinner. So Jesus tells the wayward Lawyer a parable. You know the details well, and time will not permit me diving into all of them. But the central features of this parable are 1. the priest passes by without helping—earthly sacrifices will not save the man. 2. The Levite (A Lawyer, theologian of the Law) can not save the man, he passes by on the other side. 3. But the Samaritan has compassion and uses all of His means to save the man. “Compassion” is only used of God and Jesus in the New Testament. The Samaritan is the divine character representing Jesus. The Law and the temple Sacrifices cannot save, but God himself saves in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Believe this and you will live. Believe this and you will inherit eternal life. There is nothing else. This is the Gospel.
But God, why am I hurting so much? Why does grief seem to consume me on so many days? Why do I miss my loved ones so much? Why am I so sick? Why do I have this disease? Why do I feel so bad? Why can’t I get ahold of my emotions? Why is this marriage so hard? Why do I struggle so much with my kids? Why am I separated from my loved ones? Why do I struggle with temptations so much? Why God, why? Asking questions is good. You place them before the one, true God, the God who knows and controls all things, the God who can hear and answer prayer. This is good. You present them from the position of a forgiven sinner, as a dear child asks his dear Father.
And the Lord Jesus does answer. He does not leave you alone. The world, sin, death, and the devil will beat you up, leaving you for dead in the ditch. They seek your soul. They seek to destroy you by means of false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Your intellect, your good intentions, and your discipline (even generic spiritual thoughts or wishes) will all fail you and leave you in the ditch. But Your Good Samaritan has come. He is neither generic, nor merely “spiritual.” He is a man,–the incarnate God. He continually binds your wounds with the Holy Absolution, with the fact that you ARE Baptized. And He binds you up today with the Holy Supper of Christ’s true body and true blood. These are the divine medicines that heal eternally. There is nothing more for you to do. Your Redeemer and Savior places you in the Church, where the inn-keeper can take care of you until He returns. You are here with all of your fellow travelers for care and for support. The Lord’s mercy is for all people. And if for ALL, then it is for you, too.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.