Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Go and Do Likewise - July 14, 2013 - Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Luke 10:25-37
Again, I remind you that we are in the Pentecost season, the season of green, of growth, of growing in our Christian faith and life. Thus, this morning our lessons continue. Jesus has been with His disciples for some time now, and they still do not understand what it means that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Yes, they have confessed, with Peter speaking for the group, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but they still do not know what that means. They have argued about who will be the greatest in the Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus has taught them about greatness in terms of discipleship reminding us that to be a disciple of Jesus means giving up everything, including our lives in this world. Jesus has sent them out to “practice” being disciples and reminded them that better than being able to show power and authority over the devil and the world is the fact that their names are written in the book of heaven. And now, here in our text, Jesus is confronted by an expert in the Law. Jesus had a lot of work to do in the three short years He spent in ministry here on this earth.
Our text begins with a confrontation between Jesus and a learned man, at least in human terms a learned man, a modern legalistic lawyer of the day, “25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ 27And 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.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (v. 25-28).
This is a man who has learned the letter of the law we are told, who comes to Jesus to ask this question. If this man truly is a learned man, you might be thinking, this must be another one of those traps that the Pharisees were continually setting for Jesus. But, Jesus is not deterred. The question of this learned lawyer is, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That question brings with it the implication that I must do something in order to be saved. This lawyer is not unlike many Christians in our world today who point to themselves for their own salvation. To this learned lawyer, being saved has to do with what is on the inside of a person, what is a person’s character, what is it that we bring to be saved.
In answering this man’s question we see that Jesus is truly a Texan, because He answers the man’s question with a question. Jesus refers the man back to his own law, letting him answer his own question. “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” You might say that Jesus is letting the man get away with his own interpretation and understanding of the law, and you hear this in Jesus’ word, “How do you read it?” The learned lawyer answers quite well, even quoting Scripture, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” What this expert has done, whether he realizes it or not, is that he has summarized all ten commandments into two statements of love. The first three commandments are summarized in the words, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” If we could love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, we would not break any of the commandments. The problem is, as we well know, we cannot love God this way. The last seven commandments are summarized in the words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we could love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we would not steal, kill, covet, commit adultery, gossip, speak evil of others and the like. The problem is, again, as we well know it, we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves. The problem is, this expert in the law does not know that these are things he cannot do. He actually thinks he can live in this manner as prescribed by the law.
Jesus’ response is simple, “Do this and you will live.” Okay, so we get this account right, the lawyer believes that salvation is dependent on him and his keeping the commandments and he actually thinks he can keep the commandments and that he has been keeping the commandments. At this point he may even believe that he has been and is good enough to be saved. He is really no different than many Christians today who like to think that they are good enough to be saved, because we have never actually stolen anything, killed anyone, or committed adultery. I guess we can all feel pretty good about ourselves.
But, this narrative is not over. We continue in our text, “29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He 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. 35And 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”’” (29-35).
Here we see that this learned lawyer did think that he was able to keep the commandments because we are told that his next question was asked in an attempt to justify himself. His questions is, “Who is my neighbor?”
To answer this expert’s question, Jesus tells the parable, the earthly story with a heavenly meaning. In the parable we are told that there was a man, obviously not a bright man, but a man, by himself, who was on his way through the rough territory from Jerusalem to Jericho. The implication is that this man was a Jew, a fellow brother in nationality as well as in faith. He went on a road which was known to have frequent robberies, yet he went anyway and by himself. As he was going down this road, he was mugged. He was stripped, beaten and left for dead.
As the parable continues, we are told that there was a priest who just so happened to be going down this same road. This priest was a pious man, a leader in the church. This priest was a religious man. Certainly, if anyone should stop and help someone in need, it would be a priest. Yet, all we are told is that “he passed by on the other side.” We are given no reason, no excuse for his behavior, simply that “he passed by on the other side.”
Next, as the parable continues, we are told that there was a Levite who also just so happened to be going down this same road. This Levite was a lay associate in the church. He too was a religious man. Certainly, if anyone, other than a priest, should stop and help someone in need, it would be this Levite. Yet, all we are told is that “he too passed by on the other side.” We are given no reason, or no excuse for his behavior, simply that “he too passed by on the other side.” It certainly does not look like a good day for pious, religious, church leaders. And I would suspect that if this same account happened today, we would get very similar results. How often do we have the opportunity to help someone and instead, we too pass by on the other side. But, we are not yet to the point of the parable.
Finally we are told that “a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was.” The fact that this man was a Samaritan is important. Samaritans were half Jewish because somewhere in their past some of the Jews married some of the people of the land they were to wipe out, thus Samaritans were half Jewish and half something else. So this Samaritan was a cousin, a half brother of this man who had been mugged. The problem is that Jews and Samaritans did not like each other. Jews did not like Samaritans because they were not full blooded Jews and Samaritans did not like Jews because the Jews discriminated against them. So, knowing that this man was a Samaritan, helps you understand that this was the man’s enemy who happened to be traveling by. Certainly, if anyone would pass by on the other side, it would be this Samaritan. But, and here is the twist in this parable, we are told that this Samaritan, this enemy of this man, is the one who stopped and helped him. And not only did he stop to help him, he bandaged his wounds, he took him on his own donkey to an inn and took care of him. He paid the bill for the inn and he told the inn keeper that if there was any further expense that he would pay for it.
And now the question Jesus asks the expert, “‘36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’” (v. 36, 37).
The question was a simple question. If you were paying attention, you could not get the answer wrong. Yet, this learned lawyer, because of his own prejudices, cannot even answer that it was the hated enemy, the Samaritan, rather he must answer, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus’ answer and commission is, “You go, and do likewise.”
Many times today, many people, even perhaps you and I might ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And, like the expert in the law, we know the answer is that we are to “Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.” And like the expert in the law, there may be times that we think we are doing these things. It is only as we are confronted by the facts, that we realize that we are unable to do this. We are sinful human being. We are conceived and born in sin. We are born in sin and daily we add to our sin. We are unable to be a neighbor, at times even to those we love, even though we have Jesus’ directive that we are to be neighbor even to our enemies.
Thanks be to God that there is another way, and that way is His way. The way of God is that He has given His only Son, Jesus to come and be a neighbor for us. Jesus did all that we are unable to do. He loved the way we are unable to love. He did everything perfectly for us and He gave Himself for us. He suffered and died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, so that we might have forgiveness, and so that we might rejoice in His Word to us, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Instead of asking, “What must I do to have eternal life?” we might well ask, “What has God done for us to earn for us and give us eternal life?” and His answer is a resounding, “Everything.” What a great God we have, what a loving God. Not only has God created this world for us and given us all we need for our body and life, He also sustains us, gives us faith, forgiveness and eternal life. God does all and gives all and we are done to and given to and we are even moved to respond with praise and thanksgiving.
And so, we pray God’s richest blessings on us that He might work in and through us so that we might, with His help and by the power of the Holy Spirit, “go and do likewise.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.