Sunday, September 18, 2011
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity 9/18/11 Luke 10:23-37 Bror Erickson  Then turning to the disciples he said privately, "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."  And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"  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."  And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  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.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  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.  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.'  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"  He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." Luke 10:23-37 (ESV) “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus really twists things around here on the lawyer. The lawyer wants to justify himself. He knows he hasn’t loved his neighbor as himself. So he hopes that maybe he can narrow neighbor down to just those whom he has loved. Perhaps one could escape judgment concerning this commandment to love you neighbor as yourself, if you are your neighbor. See that was the effect of “do this and you will live.” There is truth to that statement, if you did do that you would live. But the immediate response is that the man wants to justify himself, that is he knows he is guilty, he knows he is convicted. Innocent people don’t try to justify themselves, they are justified. Only guilty people try to justify themselves. But Jesus doesn’t let the man justify himself. Instead of answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells a parable teaching him how to be a neighbor, “show mercy.” Of course, the parable is one of the more famous these days, people who know nothing of scripture have heard the parable of “The Good Samaritan,” the title of which indicates that all other Samaritans were not good. Well, that was more or less the belief that most Jews in Jesus day held. Jesus plays on their prejudice in telling this parable. Perhaps it makes them choke on their pride a little. But I think there is something a bit more profound here. See the Priest and the Levite were, or should have been, experts in the law, but their concern for their own justification blinded them to mercy. Presumably, the Priest and the Levite had pressing matters to attend to in the temple, that they could not allow the touching of a dead corpse justify, they’d rather leave the man to rot in the street. That is the way of the law on a person. It blinds a person to mercy. So there is a bit of irony with the Samaritan. Here is a man ignorant of the law. The Samaritans were distant relatives of the Jews, long ago disowned. They had intermarried with other ethnic groups, they worshiped other gods, and pretended to worship “God” at their own temple. They had long ago lost their way with the word of God. The Samaritan would not know that he shouldn’t touch a dead body, or he’d be unclean. The law quite simply wasn’t a concern for him in all its particulars, he wasn’t concerned with justifying himself. All he saw was a man in need of help, a man in need of mercy, and he showed it to him. See what is profound is we don’t need scripture to teach us right from wrong. The Samaritan obviously knew the right thing to do without looking at scripture. Plenty of people out there do good without ever knowing the Ten Commandments, as evidenced by the fact that even those who clamor hardest about the Ten Commandments can rarely ever name them. But, for the most part people know it is wrong to steal, or murder, or commit adultery, they often know intrinsically to show mercy. And when you aren’t concerned about justifying yourself, then you begin to show mercy without concern for justifying yourself but out of love for your fellow man. And see that is the wonderful thing about Jesus here. This is the wonderful thing about Christianity. It frees us from the law, it frees us to love. Oh by the law we are all together condemned, Priest, Levite and Samaritan. If the law was the only way to live, we would be just as concerned as the lawyer for our own justification, looking for the same loopholes, and we know those who do that sort of thing. And when that fails they begin to make their own laws, and replace God’s law. Guilty of the law in one area they just can’t seem to fix they try to make up for it in another area. It never works. One always stands condemned before the law, except for Jesus Christ. He fulfills the law, and he shows mercy. Finally we are the ones left for dead on the road, and it is Jesus who shows us mercy. But the mercy he shows requires that he take our place. He shows mercy by dying for us on the cross and forgiving us with his blood, washing us in baptism, and nourishing our faith with the forgiveness of sins found in bread and wine, his body and his blood. And having thus been shown mercy by our Lord and Savior who justifies us with his death and resurrection, giving us life, and showing us love. Well now, neither need we be concerned with the law for the sake of self justification, but are free to love and show mercy as our Lord has shown us mercy. Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.