Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
August 21, 2016
What Jesus shows you in the Gospel reading today isn’t easy to see. What you see is a confirmation of what you already think. That Samaritan guy who helped out the other guy in need—that’s what we ought to do. Jesus said it Himself, “Go and do likewise.” The man who approached Jesus asking what he must do to obtain eternal life was given the answer, “Be merciful to others. Help them in their need.” And this is on top of what Jesus had told him earlier, “Love God and love your neighbor. Do this and you will live.”
What you see is not what Jesus is showing you. You see what you want to see. You see what you want Jesus to show you, but not what He actually is showing you. You want Jesus to confirm what you already know and think. If you do certain things and live a certain way, you’re in. You’re good.
But this is the world’s view of Christianity. And you are at home with this form of Christianity. You identify with the lawyer who came up to Jesus. You want to know what you should do. Because of your sinful nature you take the same approach to Jesus that the world does. It doesn’t matter if others belong to other religions or say they have no religion, you want the same thing they do. And you want it in the same way.
The lawyer in the Gospel reading was a professional. He wasn’t a lawyer as we know them today. He was a professional in the Word of God. He knew the Scriptures. That was his job. As a lawyer, he didn’t study the law of the land. The lawyers of Jesus’ time were those who were trained in the Law of God. They knew the Bible.
So he knew what he was supposed to do and not supposed to do. But he didn’t know grace. You can see exactly how well he knew the Scriptures in that he got every question right Jesus asked him. And yet, he got the whole thing wrong. He knew what the Bible said, but he didn’t believe in the grace of God. He didn’t see that God’s Law isn’t the whole of God’s revelation in the Bible. Grace is the thread that runs through the whole Scriptures. The expert in the Law was under the misunderstanding that it is all about the Law. He comes up to Jesus to test Him. He thinks Jesus is going against God’s Law and so wants to trap Him. But when Jesus actually confirms what the Law of God says, namely, to love God completely and your neighbor as yourself, the lawyer knew that that didn’t get him any better off than he was before. So he wanted to justify himself.
If you look at God’s Law and think you’re doing pretty well you’re not taking it at its word. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Love God with your whole being; with everything you are and do. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor not with conditions and expectations attached, but simply out of what he needs.
The world looks at the Law of God and sees it as confirmation of their goodness. The hymn Salvation Unto Us Has Come eradicates this notion by showing what God’s Law really shows: “The Law is but a mirror bright To bring the inbred sin to light That lurks within our nature.”
What about Jesus’ parable? He tells us about a good Samaritan and then says, “Go and do likewise.” Isn’t this Jesus answering the lawyer with what the lawyer should do? It seems so. But Jesus isn’t giving the world’s version of Christianity. He is giving His. And when He gives His He shows you what you cannot see except by faith. What He shows you is not what you should do, which is what the lawyer and the world and you seek. What He shows you is Himself.
First you need to see yourself. When He holds up the mirror of the Law, pray the Holy Spirit to show you your utter failure at keeping God’s Law. Repent of your sin. See yourself as what you are, dead in your sins. The man who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead wasn’t able to get up and walk for help. He wasn’t even able to cry out for help. It was only when someone else saw him and his need that he was able to be saved.
And who was it that saved him? It wasn’t the priest. The priest was bound by the laws of purity, not able to touch a man in such a condition. He put the Law before his neighbor. The Levite followed suit. These men thought they were keeping God’s Law but Jesus shows that they missed the whole point of the Law. It is compassion. It is not your being pure in the sight of God but rather getting your hands dirty where the need is. The lawyer was pictured in the priest and Levite. He could not see himself as the one in need. He was too busy focusing on what he must to do earn favor from God.
The Samaritan saw the man in need and had no thought of what he must do. He had compassion. Compassion flowed over into action, using all that he had to bind up the man’s wounds and carry him to safety where he could be restored.
Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” But how can you do so when you at first you do not see yourself in the man who was left for dead? We call the Samaritan in the parable the Good Samaritan, but Jesus is really showing us Himself. He is the true Good Samaritan. He sees you in your need and binds up your wounds. When you’re dying in your sins He doesn’t tell you to get up and stagger for help. He lifts you up and carries you to the place of rest, His Holy Church. There He pours on you the oil of the waters of Holy Baptism and gives you the wine to drink of His very blood.
Your answer to What must I do? is what Jesus shows you. What He shows you is Himself. He gives of all He has to bind you up and save you. You need look no further than the cross to see the extent of what He has given you. He gave of Himself completely on the cross, giving His life and shedding His blood. He has done everything to save you. He raises you from the dead.
The answer to salvation is Christ. The answer to what you must do is not what you must do. It is how you live. How you live is in Christ. The lawyer who came to Jesus seeking to know what he could do to gain heaven apparently interrupted Jesus telling His disciples that they were blessed to see the things they saw; things the prophets who went before them longed to see. This is what the lawyer missed, though Jesus was standing right in front of him. How often do you miss the very same thing? You have even more than the apostles did. You have the fullness of the Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments. You don’t talk to Him face to face, but you commune with Him. You are united with Him in Baptism. You say with Paul, “It is no loner I who live but Christ who lives in me.”
Because you live in Christ you do not live as the lawyer or the priest or the Levite, focusing on what you must do; in other words, on yourself. You live, rather, as one who has compassion on others, showing mercy to others. Your thought is not for yourself but the Lord your God and those He has placed in your life to serve. This is why you come here to the Lord’s House. Certainly it is to hear the Gospel and be forgiven. But it is also so that you may be here for your brothers and sisters in Christ, an encouragement to them. It is why you give a portion of your income as an offering. Not simply to keep the electric bill of the church paid but also so that the mission of the Church continues in making known the Gospel in this community.
It is why you take care of your family, and pray for your neighbors. It is why you smile and ask others how they are doing. It is why you take the time to listen to them and pray with them and give them your aid as you are able. It is why you care enough about your friends who do not believe in Christ to tell them of Him and how He loves them enough to die for all of their sins and rise from the grave to accomplish eternal life for them.
See what Christ shows you and go and do likewise. See what the lawyer failed to see, the fulfillment of the Law, Christ Himself. See that it is not what you do that saves you, but what Christ has done. See what the hymn Salvation Unto Us Has Come helps you to see about the relationship between faith and works: “For faith alone can justify; Works serve our neighbor and supply The proof that faith is living.” God works flow from faith. You are not saved by good works, you are saved for good works. Luther said, “God doesn’t need our good works but our neighbor does.”
He has saved you, bound up your wounds, raised you from the dead. You are free. You will live eternally and you are freed up to live in compassion and mercy. Amen.