Today’s Gospel lesson is a very special one.
Most Christians who have been reading their Bibles for any amount of time know the story.
Luke set this parable among Jesus’ parables of grace, yet it’s a little hard to find the grace in it.
Let’s see ourselves in light of what Jesus and this lawyer talk about.
The question - How can I earn an inheritance?
How can you earn an inheritance? Jesus turns the question around.
ignore the impossible - an inheritance can’t be earned
Love the Lord with all your...
Love your neighbor as yourself.
How are we doing on that?
Our lives show that we don’t love God.
What is more enticing? The Bible or the television?
What do we know better? Sports statistics or God’s word?
What do we care more about? When we can hear God’s words of grace or when we can eat?
How about God’s priorities - to seek and to save the lost? Yet one of our great fears is sharing the Gospel with our family, friends, neighbors, and associates.
Our world cries out for authenticity. And here we claim that Jesus is the only savior, the only one who will ever rescue anyone from certain doom. And we don’t tell about him. We don’t look to him in hope. We don’t love God.
Yes, lawyer, you are right. Love God with all your heart. Do that. Please.
And the lawyer thinks he’s doing well. How is it that we look into God’s Word and don’t see ourselves reflected? How do we see the speck in our neighbor’s eye and overlook the plank in our own?
But he goes on, and Jesus lets him. Love your neighbor as yourself.
NOW he sees something wrong. Who is my neighbor?
Chilling words I read this week. An acquaintance on the Internet posted a plea especially for pastors. What do you say to someone who is dealing with depression, fear, or other troubles and says, “I can’t come to church for a while. I can’t seem to put on my mask that says everything’s all right.”
What will happen to us if we come to church without our masks on?
What if our neighbors in the pews see us for who we are - people who are hurting, people for whom everything isn’t really all right, people who are crying out to the Lord to rescue us from this painful world? What if our neighbors in the pews see us as people who really are confessing real sins and really asking that the Lord would take them away because if he doesn’t we will be crushed?
Do we love our neighbor?
Wait a minute, says the lawyer. You’re thinking of someone who isn’t my neighbor.
Jesus tells him a story, and in the story, Jesus is there.
Rejected, beaten, disfigured, unable to help himself, scorned, the priest and Levite may even have wondered if he was actually alive. All this happening on his journey down from Jerusalem, the place of worship and forgiveness, to Jericho, not only a city most famous for being sacked, but also a place some 3500 feet below Jerusalem. It’s almost a thousand feet below sea level. This man is descending into the earth from the mountaintop. And he is captured, attacked, everything he has is taken away from him.
Who is this man? It is surely Jesus, your neighbor and mine, the one who seems to have nothing to offer, the one who is unloved and who, in his humiliation has nothing to give us.
last, lost, least, lonely
stricken, smitten and afflicted, ‘tis he
How do we love Jesus? How does this foreigner, the one who was at enmity with God, the Samaritan, someone called from afar, like you and like me, love the man of sorrows?
risks time - cares for him and puts him on his animal so the Samaritan has to walk
risks credit - gives him all he needs
risks attack - there are enemies in the area, remember?
loves his neighbor
If this is all the parable says, we leave you short. We have left you with the Law. We’ve already established that we don’t love God well enough and that we don’t love our neighbor as ourself. As we’ve described the neighbor it looks worse and worse. There are three responses we can have.
1) God didn’t really intend that high of a standard. We can decide that really we love God quite well and that we are loving our neighbor as well as he could expect.
Be perfect as I am perfect
Be conformed into the image of Christ
Seek and save the lost
Pray without ceasing
Lord give us repentance of our arrogant attitude that says we keep Your Law! Change our hearts!
2) God does have that high of a standard. I can’t keep God’s standard. Therefore I despair. There’s no hope at all.
If we confess our sins
Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners
The Father made the Son to become sin for us so we could be the righteousness of God in Christ.
He forgives us each and every sin.
Despair won’t cut it, then. Arrogance and despair are out. We need our third possible response.
3) Jesus, the man of sorrows, the one who suffered and died, did it all for you. He is the only one who has ever loved God perfectly and he is the only one who has ever loved his neighbor as himself. He has done this. He died doing it. And he rose from the dead so that all who believe his promises may have his perfect life.
Trust that Jesus is the savior of the world.
Trust that Jesus is your savior.
Come to him again and again, receiving his forgiveness, which we can never earn ourselves.
The Lord’s table is a time of repentance and restoration. It’s a time when Jesus gives himself in a very concrete way, in true body and blood for you, for your forgiveness. It’s a means of receiving the forgiveness we need. As we prepare for the Lord’s table, may he create in us a clean and new heart, filling us with repentance and pouring out his grace upon us. Jesus has loved you, his neighbor, as he loves himself. He will rescue you.