11. September 2022
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
“Do this and you will live.” And later, “Go and do likewise.” Perhaps you came today to church, to sit at the feet of Jesus, and be told what you must do to be saved. So here it is: Jesus demands that love spread throughout your whole body and being, into all your members, so that everything from head to foot, inside and outside, are done with love and delight toward God and neighbor. That’s why you love the Good Samaritan, who does everything that God demands and is surely rewarded by God for it.
So, there is no place for being annoyed, loathing the neighbor, or even reluctant to care for him. Your eyes must overlook anything indecent. Your ears must not be offended. Your mouth must not speak anything evil. Your hands and feet must be clean and innocent in their actions. In short, you must be clean in your thoughts, kind in your words, above reproach in your works, disciplined in your seeing, genuine in your hearing, honest in everything, and thereby keep all of God’s words.
“Do this, and you will live.” But that’s not going to work for you, is it? Jesus has set up an impossible standard with rules, statutes, and decrees that not even the most noble or virtuous man can accomplish. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. But you, like the lawyer, want it to be. You cannot bear to hear and see that you have not even begun, let alone accomplished, anything.
“And who is my neighbor?” So you try to find that little wiggle room to justify yourself, to make yourself right with God. You want to limit God’s Law and add conditions where it can be ignored. You imagine up scenarios and situations where love does not apply, where the victim of his own fault can be neglected, where the poor laid at your gate can be forgotten, or where the enemy can be condemned. You try to slip through the wide net of accusation of God’s Law and avoid God’s wrath towards sin.
“Do this and you will live,” and “Go and do likewise” must be understood according to the parable. These statements are given in that context and explained by Jesus in that way. With the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus proved to the certain lawyer that neither he nor all his crowd, including the chief priests, Pharisees, and Levites, had fulfilled any of God commandments or practiced any works of love and mercy. The lawyer, thinking to win glory away from Christ because of his own godliness, learns that he has never done it at all.
Indeed, the lawyer had never even begun to do the Law, not to mention accomplished it, even though to everyone around him likely regarded him as a saint. All his fellow lawyers, the Pharisees, and even the High Priest himself would swear that he was one of the most pious, holy men they’d ever known. He was as accomplished as the greatest missionary, the most notable saint, or the wisest philosopher. That’s what you’d say about him and even in humility, that’s close to how he thought of himself, too. But again, notice that lawyer tries to weasel himself out of what Jesus demands, looking for a loophole. Why? Because when Jesus says, “Do this and you will live” or “Go your way” or “Do likewise also,” these words do not give the means or ability to do what they command. They never achieve what they demand, whether in your heart, your family, or your world.
Perhaps you came today to church thinking that Jesus was going to give you a big pat on the back for all the good you did this week and reward you for your labor. Perhaps you though Jesus might even give you a profound motivational speech to encourage you to be more like the Good Samaritan—more kind, more loving, more gentle, more patient, and the like. Perhaps you thought Jesus would sit you down and give you a good stern talking-to so that you could amend your words and ways.
As the lawyer rightly confesses, this is the way of salvation by the law of Moses. Make no mistake: the Law is good and holy and commands purely holy works and promises life. It is rightly God’s Word. What is wrong, however, is that no one has ever fulfilled the Law perfectly. No one, not even the most virtuous, pious, and holy saint as been saved by the Law. Instead, as the Apostle teaches, the Law was given that we might learn of our weakness and inability. The mirror of the Law shows us that we haven’t done a damned thing towards your salvation.
The response of faith to Jesus’ Word, “Do this and you will live,” is not, “Who is my neighbor?” but instead, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death!” Jesus is working by command and parable to utterly humble you into confession. He is not setting up for you another example of pious living that will save you. Instead, He is pointing you away from yourself, your own boasting, and your mistaken righteousness. He’s returning you to faith in Him, who justifies and saves freely out His gracious giving. For Christ alone is your righteousness, your redemption, and your salvation. Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Gate, the Ladder, and Step by which you are brought to the Father.
So, you are the man who departed Jerusalem for Jericho, that cursed city, abandoning the church for secularism. You are the man who got mixed up with thieves and other corruption. You are the one who has lost all your righteousness clothing, abandoning the gifts of Christ. You are the wounded one who doesn’t know if he can live through another day in this world. You are the man was left behind by everyone else dead in the ditch. “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”
And you are one whom Christ Jesus will always have compassion. Your wounds have been healed by Christ’s forgiveness. Your body and soul are cared for by the wine and oil, as the Law and the Gospel is preached to you. You were carried by Jesus on His own animal into the holy inn of the church. And Jesus entrusts you to His church and His preacher to care for you until you are delivered at last from all hardship, anguish, distress, and indeed, every sin. Each day, you hear, learn, and are fed. And finally, you are the baptized and are citizens even now of the heavenly Jerusalem, having your names written in God’s Book. You will be carried together with all the elect children of God on the shoulders of your Savior Christ into the heavenly inn of eternal life. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin