The Lord Creates a New Man
8th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) July 10, 2016
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
The Lord has standing in front of him a dead man. But Jesus is the Lord not of the dead, but of the living, so he will raise this dead man to life.
Behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The man wants eternal life. But he is standing in death. Jesus is the Lord of life, and yet the lawyer is trying to put him to the test.
How does he intend to test Jesus? Jesus has been sending out his Apostles and disciples to heal diseases, cast out demons, and forgive sins—he’s been sending them out to proclaim the Gospel. But this lawyer is trained in how to put people under the Law, how to induce people to justify themselves. So now he’s going to try to trap Jesus also into teaching how to use the Law to justify self.
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit life?” The very question demands a law answer. You shall do this, or you shall do that, and if you do, then you will live. That’s how the question is formed. So Jesus plays along:
“What is written,” [said Jesus,] “in the Law? How do you read it?”
To which the lawyer answered,
“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.”[Luke 10:27]
And Jesus said,
“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
It is a technically correct Law answer. If you keep the Law, you will live. But the lawyer knows no one keeps the Law perfectly, so he scrambles for the escape hatch:
29 But [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”[Luke 10:29]
The lawyer thinks he’s keeping himself alive, by figuring out how to keep control over the Law and use it in a way that will let him slip through unharmed.
But now Jesus will show him how the Law really works.
Two men walked by the dying man in the ditch. A priest and a Levite. Priests taught the Law in the Temple. They taught Israel how the love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Levites served in the Temple, keeping everything in good order. Their whole lives were ordered by the Law. The priest and the Levite walk by, giving no help to the dying man in the ditch.
Were they neighbors to the man? If they were neighbors, then the word the Law puts with that is, Love—love your neighbor as yourself.
The way, then, to determine who is your neighbor, is not to look at their address or to see if they are in your zip code, not to look at how often they go to the Temple or to look at language or skin color—the way to find your neighbor is to see who the Lord gives you to love.
A hurt man in a ditch, he’s your neighbor. There are no loopholes and caveats to the Law of love.
Were the priest and the Levite neighbors to the man? They were not. Even the lawyer can’t find a way out of that.
And in that, Jesus has thrown the lawyer into the Law’s ditch. The lawyer who thought he could live by the Law, who thought he could justify himself by how he lived, and who even wanted to know how to earn eternal life by the keeping of the Law, the lawyer is now convicted by that same Law. He’s in a ditch unable to help himself.
Who was neighbor to the hurt man in the ditch? The one, the lawyer says, who showed mercy.
In that, in the lawyer’s statement of mercy, Jesus has raised a dead man to life. The lawyer was standing in death, looking for no Savior, thinking he could justify himself by the Law.
Jesus has destroyed that for him. The lawyer who had been teaching the Law, and of who you must love under the Law, and how to justify yourself by the Law, this lawyer now has on his lips the opposite, the word mercy.
Mercy picks up the beat up man out of the ditch. Mercy gets the lawyer out of the ditch of the Law. Mercy is Jesus’ word to you and me.
We try to justify ourselves by the Law. We’re tempted to use the Law to clean things up. That’s our sinful flesh. That’s the old man of sin trying to grab some small piece of life, while he’s dying under the Law.
Then we hear that word from Jesus: mercy.
Mercy is sins-forgiven. Mercy is rescue from the ditch of the Law. Mercy is a gracious Lord binding up wounds and giving rest. Mercy is to be raised up from the dead and created anew, to be made to stand not as the old man trying to survive under the Law, but to stand in faith in the righteousness of Christ Jesus given as a gift.
Finally, the lawyer who had been trying to trap Jesus with the Law gets it.
Which of the three—of the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan—proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? said Jesus.
The one who showed mercy, responded the lawyer. Finally the lawyer gets it. The season of the Law is over. The season of mercy, of the Gospel, is begun.
You, said Jesus, go and do likewise. Likewise—that is, no longer live by the Law, no longer put others under the Law; live by mercy; live by knowing that your sins are forgiven; live by knowing that Jesus, the Lord of life, has raised you up from the dead and makes you alive by his Gospel; live in the confidence that your Lord wants no one left condemned in the ditch of the Law, but wants all to know his grace and mercy; go and do likewise, rejoicing in showing mercy to your neighbor, even as Jesus shows mercy to you.
Mercy is our Lord’s Word for our guilt, for our shame, for anything bringing anxiety to our conscience. Mercy is our Lord’s Word of life.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.