Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9, c) July 10, 2022
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] 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.
When you’re hearing Jesus, you just might get thrown into the ditch!
Because, that’s what Jesus is doing to us in this parable! He is throwing us into the ditch.
A lawyer stands up and asks Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He’s asking a law question. He’s looking for a law answer, of course. After all, he’s a lawyer. What does the law say? “Love the Lord God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself!”
That’s clear law. Do this and you will live. Ask Jesus a law question, he will give you a law answer.
The lawyer wanted more law. Luke 10:29: “But [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor’?”
That’s the key to the lawyer. He wants to live by the law. And the ultimate living by the law is to use the law to justify yourself. No better law than a law which let’s you do the work, let’s you justify yourself.
That’s what the lawyer wants, to justify himself by the law. That’s what we want, too, to justify ourselves. That’s our sin.
No need for grace, no need for mercy, no need to stand before God in weakness, no need of repentance, if you can justify yourself.
If we want a simple definition of what our sin is, of what sinful flesh looks like, there it is. Our ultimate sin is the demand to justify yourself by what you do; that is, to justify yourself by the law.
So, the parable.
Who are the ones in the parable using the law to justify themselves, using the law to live clean before God? The priest and the Levite. In the parable, they stand in for us when we are trying to justify ourselves by the law.
They live clean according to the way they teach the law. They have justified themselves by the Law, they have formed themselves up in good shape.
Which means, when the Law is that you love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus has theologically thrown them into the ditch.
Who does Jesus throw into the ditch? Anyone who tries to justify self. Anyone who uses the Law to inherit eternal life. Anyone who uses the law to look down on others.
Who does Jesus throw into the ditch? You and me. For in our sinful flesh, we want just that—to justify ourselves by the Law, so that we don’t need grace.
But with Jesus, the ditch is actually the best place to be.
For the man thrown into the ditch, with no hope, he finally figures out that he has no help from the Law. That’s the Priest and the Levite, men of the Law, who just keep walking by, rescuing no neighbor from the ditch.
No hope, no way to rescue self by the Law, no way to justify self and make himself healthy, who will the man thrown into the ditch look to for rescue?
To the most unexpected, even the most unacceptable savior of all—he looks to the Samaritan.
Samaritans are dirty. They don’t follow the law. They raise pigs, they eat and drink with sinners and drunkards. They are not trustworthy, not respected, not welcomed into any clean, law-abiding home.
You’re the man in the ditch and you want rescue? Who should you look to? The unexpected savior, the least likely savior of all, the savior no one would choose according to the measurements of the law—in the parable, look to the Samaritan.
When Jesus has finally thrown us into the ditch with the holy Law, when he finally gets through to you and me that we cannot justify ourselves, we cannot change our lives to be clean before God, we cannot use the law to inherit eternal life—when Jesus has finally thrown us into the ditch with the Law, who do we look to for rescue?
To the most unexpected, least likely savior of all. Look to the bloody man hanging on the cross!
Our world would never call that a savior. A victim, maybe, yes. A pathetic teacher who failed to the point of rejection by all those teaching the Law, yes. A weak and emptied out man, yes.
But not a savior—not to the eyes of our world.
Yes, a Savior. The one on the cross. The one who came not to throw sinners into the ditch, for we already had the Law before he came, we already were accused of self-justification before he came, but the one who came to pull sinners out of the ditch and give life.
Who came not to accuse, for we already had that, but to forgive.
A Savior who came not for retribution, but for mercy. Not to demand obedience, but to give grace.
Jesus came to throw us into the ditch with the Law, but only because with the Law, the ditch is where we were anyway, and he came to pull us out of the ditch and save us.
The Gospel. Pure grace. Pure gift. Pure picture of a beat-up, dying man being pulled out of the ditch by the most unexpected savior of all, Jesus, shedding the atoning blood on the cross.
“Go and do likewise,” Jesus said to the Lawyer who now, after Jesus’ parable, knows how to be done with the Law, and speak mercy instead.
An unexpected Samaritan pulling an undeserving man out of the ditch? “You go and do likewise,” says Jesus to the lawyer.
But we can’t do likewise. That’s why our sin has us in the ditch in the first place. The only one who has with a pure heart rescued undeserving sinners from the ditch—the only one—is Jesus.
So we are saved not by our works of the Law, but by faith in Jesus, and that faith, too, is pure gift which Jesus works in us by the Gospel.
With Jesus, it’s always gift, always grace.
With Jesus, it’s always coming to the sinner in the way that is unexpected, unacceptable, even offensive in the eyes of our world.
This morning we see the gift given.
In common, lowly water, by his Word spoken from the mouth of a mere man, a sinner at that, a pastor given to voice the promise, in these humble, unlikely ways, Jesus coming with the gift, with the promise, bestowing his Name on little Emma.
We would’ve chosen a different way, a more impressive way, a way showing strength to the world.
But not Jesus, the one who saved the world by the weakness of shedding blood, he has given his Name to little Emma according to his appointed way, and his Name is the forgiveness of sin—his Name is eternal life and salvation.
In the Name of Jesus.