Trinity 13 Sermon 2012
September 2, 2012
Rev. Ed Maanum
This morning we see exactly how foolish it is to seek Jesus’ salvation in the Law instead of the cross. The first thing this lawyer does is to wrongly put the emphasis on himself by asking: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
The lawyer correctly answers Jesus by giving what he thinks are the two most important verses in the entire Old Testament. The first is Deut. 6:5, “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.” The second verse is Lev 19:18, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We can’t fault the man for his response. After all, Jesus Himself gives the same verses in Matt 22 when asked the same question. However, the lawyer’s and Jesus’ meanings and intents in quoting these verses are opposites. Jesus is saying that you need to believe and trust in God for every need of body and soul. The lawyer was using these two verses to support his view of works-righteousness.
Yet, this lawyer just can’t let it go. He has to push further. He wants to know the bare minimum requirements for works-righteous based salvation. He is like a young adult at an Amusement Park for the very first time. He just got tall enough to ride all of the rides. He doesn’t care what the ride is like. Height of drops doesn’t matter. Speed is something new to him on rides so it really doesn’t matter much yet either. Neither do the number of loops, twists, turns, inversions or “air time.” This person just wants to make sure that he can meet that minimum standard height to be able to go on the rides and have fun.
This lawyer is asking the same question we ourselves ask: “Are these fellow people in my church my neighbors? What about those that are rude, dishonest and spread lies about me? Are the people who don’t agree with me, those with different political, philosophical and religious views my neighbors? What about those that have offended me in some way? What about those that have caused me harm? Surely, they can’t all be my neighbors.”
How foolish it is to seek Jesus’ salvation in Law, those good words of God that bring despair, destruction, and finally, death, because the Law demands perfection and will not settle for anything but perfection.
This is foolish because in the Gospel all salvation is already given to you. There is no minimum height requirement to get on this ride. It’s for the newborn baptized infant to the baptized one hundred year old and everyone in between. You’ve been buckled in, so hold on tight.
Jesus begins this morning by telling His Disciples that they are blessed because they saw Him and heard words coming from a human mouth that passed human lips. “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.”
These blessings extend to all who, like the disciples, believe in Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Whenever you see Jesus bodily present in His Supper you are equally blessed as those Disciples. When Jesus speaks words of forgiveness in the Absolution, the Gospel, the Sermon, you hear His Words and they make you blessed like those Disciples as well.
Jesus blesses you so much that you need nothing more. Jesus gives you salvation, that is to say, Jesus raised you from the dead in your sins of minimum requirement works-righteous views to new life in Him. Jesus using His Word, His body and blood in the Supper and on the cross, His Waters of Baptism gives you everything, free of charge.
This is why it is foolish to try to use the Law to earn the salvation that Jesus has won for you. When you do, you deny Jesus’ free gift of new life and salvation, and replace it with a continued existence as one of the living dead. You replace the freedom that Jesus won for you on the cross with slavery to the idea of works-centered salvation that damns because no one can keep the Law perfectly.
The Old Man in each of us loves reading and hearing this parable that Jesus gives. The devil whispers in our ears and convinces us that we are that Good Samaritan. After all, who doesn’t like helping others, especially if you get some sort of return out of it. Even words of thanks and gratitude can sometimes satisfy the old man’s ego. This only entrenches our works-righteous mindset more firmly.
Truth is, you and I are not that Samaritan. We’re that bum lying on the side of the road. We’re the ones lying beaten by the cares and desires of the world and left for dead. We’re the ones crying out for mercy through lips that are spitting out blood and teeth. Yet this world shows no mercy, and has no pity. It enjoys kicking, punching and stabbing until there is only a crumpled mass writhing in pain on the floor where a person used to be.
In the parable two religious men walked by. Men just like the lawyer asking the question, “who is my neighbor?” The priest walks by, head in other direction, pretending to ignore the groaning from the heap that used to be a man. He doesn’t want to touch blood because he doesn’t want to make himself clean again afterwards. It’s too much of a bother. Too little benefit for the amount of work to be done later to make himself clean.
The Levite does the same. Sacrifice time must be getting close. I can’t miss the sacrifice. The sacrifice will save me from not helping this man. He put too much focus on the sacrifice and ignored what Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The knowledge of God shows itself in actions like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, helping the afflicted, visiting the sick and those in prison. Because when you do these things you are doing them to God.(Matt 25).
Yet there comes along this Samaritan, an outcast in the Jewish mindset. Somebody no longer part of the tribes of Israel because of his ancestors’ constant intermarriage with foreigners. If anyone knew that this Samaritan was on this road they would have beat him, stabbed him, left him for dead just like this man that he was trying to help.
So this Samaritan, this person utterly despised by the Jewish world, and who has every right to despise it back in return, sees this man. The Samaritan has compassion upon him. He sees the man’s pain and feels it himself, as if he is the one that is lying on the ground bleeding. Without care or concern for his own well-being this despised man does what he can to help the man that has been beaten.
He comes to the man and quickly applies wine and oil. Wine to disinfect the sores, and oil to help them heal and take away the pain.
Eventually, the Samaritan gets the man bandaged up enough that he is able to take him to the inn that he likes to frequent. He pays for two months lodging, that’s room and board, upfront.
Jesus is the ultimate Samaritan, the God-man despised by the Jewish leaders and the world (Is 53:1-10). Jesus is the one who came to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men who loved to try to earn salvation and were forcing others to do the same. Jesus died and for three days was buried and rose again on Easter morning. Jesus would have endured all of the cross, betrayal, beatings and hell upon that cross even if it was just for one of you.
In Jesus’ resurrection He gives all those anointed in baptismal waters, like kings of old who were anointed with oil, into His name, Jesus gives resurrection, peace, salvation, healing from the beatings of the world. Jesus alone makes what was dead alive in His death. Jesus administers His healing, this new life to you personally with nail pierced hands when He puts His blood and flesh in, with and under the wine and bread into your mouths for the forgiveness of your sins.
Jesus is your neighbor that has fulfilled the Law for you. As today’s parable shows, how foolish it is to seek salvation in the Law, especially since Jesus has done it for you. Amen.