Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trinity 13 Sermon

Trinity 13 – August 25th, 2013 – Luke 10:23-37

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Jesus today begins with an interesting statement.  “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.”  This verse is the context, is the setting for the whole discussion in which the story of the familiar story of the Good Samaritan is told.  What are the disciples seeing, what do we by faith see when we hear the Gospel proclaimed?  That the Messiah has come.  That God Himself has come down from heaven to win mankind salvation and forgiveness, to restore us to life.  This is what the prophets longed to see, this is what David prophesized about in the Psalms.  The fulfillment of the ages is here, o Disciples, for Christ is here!

          And right after Jesus says this, we hear, “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’”  Prophets longed to see the Messiah, Kings yearned to see Christ.  And this lawyer just wants to put Him to the test, wants to see if he can tangle up Jesus in some sort of trick question.  This is the heart of the problem – the lawyer has no faith, no trust in Christ.  He does not see Christ as his Redeemer.  And so, he asks a foolish question.  What must I do to inherit eternal life.  You dunce, you do nothing!  No one does anything to inherit – if you inherit something you receive it as a gift left for you by one who has died – and look, there before you is the Suffering Servant promised by Isaiah, there is great David’s Greater Son who will die for you so that you will inherit eternal life!  There is God seeking to redeem, and you stare and bray at him like an donkey!  This lawyer does not see.  He does not hear.

          There is an old adage amongst theologians.  Ask a law question – get a law answer.  The Law of God speaks to what we are to do, how we are to behave, and if you ask a law question, you will get the law answer, in it’s fullness, with no room for escape.  And so Jesus turns this “I do” question back on the fellow.  Alright, what does Moses say, what’s written in the Law.  “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.”  That’s a great summation of the law.  Love.  Perfectly.  Completely.  God and your neighbor.  That’s what *you* are supposed to be doing.  And Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”  Now, we don’t hear the beat down in Jesus’ response.  This is damning with faint praise.  Yeah, you know the law, and if you do it, you’ll live.  How’s that “you will live” working out for you?  You feel age creeping up on your body, you feel soreness and aches and pains?  You understand that you aren’t going to live, that you are going to die, just like Abraham and Moses and David and the prophets… yeah… how’s that “doing the law” working out for you?  It’s not, because you are a sinful man, and you do not and cannot keep the law perfectly.

          And the lawyer knows that Jesus has smacked him down.  “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”  Note: he wants to justify himself.  He wants to prove himself right and good and not a fool.  And only makes himself look more foolish.  He wants to justify himself – not seeing that Christ Jesus who has come to Justify the world is standing there before him.  Oh, you are the Redeemer, no thanks, let’s see if I can redeem myself.  And this question is all about the lawyer’s ego.  Again, note this – Luke doesn’t say that he asks Jesus – it’s not a question seeking knowledge.  He just says it.  It’s back talk.  It’s a teen giving his parent some sauce when he knows that mom is right and he’s wrong but doesn’t want to admit it.  I’m not an idiot Jesus – now prove how smart You are.  Tell us who our neighbor is.

          And then Christ gives the familiar tale of the Good Samaritan.  Now, we say that title like it’s no big deal.  Replace “Samaritan” with “Jihadist” or “Muslim Extremist.”  That’s closer to the attitude in Christ’s day – Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other – they viewed each other as heretics, and they’d been fighting for 900 years.  The story as Christ tells it would basically have an Al-Qida operative as the hero.  Sort of stands out, doesn’t it.  And we know the story – a man on his way to Jericho falls among robbers and is beaten near to death.  And two folks pass him by – a Priest and a Levite.  The priests were the best of the best in Jewish culture, and the Levites were not far behind.  They were the models of behavior, and they were of course the ones who took care of the earthly temple.  And they do nothing.  Why?  It’s not safe – clearly it isn’t, for clearly there are robbers around.  You see stuff going on, you high tail it on out of there.  And what if the guy is already dead – these folks deal with the temple and if you touch a dead body you are unclean and can’t do your temple work… oh, well, see, I’d like to help but I just can’t because I’m too good.

          And then walks up the Samaritan.  The one who is hated and despised.  The one who is seen as a threat to all that is good and right and dear.  And what does he do?  “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.”  First, he binds the wounds.  Keep in mind, this fellow had been beaten near to death.  Binding up those wounds is going to take some time.  So there is the Samaritan, pausing.  In the open.  A target.  With robbers around.  Doesn’t matter – love your neighbor.  And he takes oil and wine – valuable goods, and gladly gives them away.  Free medical care!  As we are well aware, there ain’t no such thing as free medical care, someone always foots the bill, and it’s a big one.  Samaritan pays.  Out of his own stock and stash.  “Then he set him on his own animal.”  Second, placing the hurt man on the animal.  Again, this is something that we can just slide right on by.  Think about an old Western… if there’s danger about but only one horse, and you put the other guy on the horse… what does that mean?  It means when danger comes, he can get away… but you can’t.  You’re stuck.  He might get away, but you certainly won’t.  And that is what this Samaritan does.  He will not be able to escape the robbers if they come, all for the sake of this half-dead stranger.  And finally, “[He] 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.’”  And now, pocket book is opened.  Gets him a room at the inn.  Not cheap.  And then He gives the innkeeper a few hundred dollars, take care of him.  And more than that – he opens up a line of credit – whatever you spend, I’ll pay you back.  Now think about this – a Samaritan, one who is despised and hated, opens himself up to being cheated.  He could come back and a cheating innkeeper (who were notorious for being cheats) could say, “Eh, you owe me 40 denarii”… he gave the innkeeper a credit card with no limit.

          That’s what the Samaritan does for this man.  And so Jesus asks the lawyer – which one of these acted like a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.  Clearly the Samaritan.  Alright – you want to know what you are supposed to do – go do that.  Ask a law question, get a law answer.  How you like them apples?  How do you measure up to that?  And this could be the point where I go off on some high handed moralistic diatribe about how you are supposed to love your neighbor.  You know that.  And I’m not going to give you 7 secret steps to make it easier or anything like that – because loving your neighbor is never going to be easy.  You’re a sinner, they’re a sinner – that makes things hard and difficult and if the story is about what we do, then we are up the creek without a paddle.

          But let’s get back to the verse first thing that started this whole sermon off.  “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.”  You have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, because by faith the Holy Spirit makes you to see Christ.  Is there One who was despised, looked down upon, and mocked?  Yes – Christ Jesus.  And does this Christ Jesus love His neighbor perfectly?  Yes.  For there you are, beaten and condemned by sin, left to die.  All the nice religious idealism or all the motions of looking like good people – they can’t save you.  The “holiness” of the priest and the “good christianness” of the Levite walk right on by and leave you stuck in death.  But Christ comes, and what does He do?  “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.”  He comes to you, and He binds up your wounds with His Word and Spirit.  Are you beaten and broken and aware of your sin.  Christ Jesus is your life, and you are forgiven by Him.  He comes into this fallen world for your sake.  What else does Jesus do?  “Then he set him on his own animal.”  You will escape from death, because Christ Jesus stayed behind and let Satan, that old robber and murderer come for Him, let Satan nail Him cross while you escaped.  Christ will face the terrors of death for you, He will go there to the Cross so that you might be rescued from death.  And what else does Christ do?  “[He] 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.’  Christ Jesus rises from the dead, and brings you to His Church, and here He cares for you.  And His care for you is full, and it is all about Himself.  There is to be no question of what *you* do.  He will provide.  This is not a law question – this is a Gospel thing.  I don’t care, innkeeper, whatever it takes, I will pay for it.  I don’t care Pastor Brown, how grave and vile their sins are – I have paid for them, and I will return, and all accounts are square in My Name.  It’s all on Christ.  It’s all about what He has done – this is your inheritance, because He has died and left you all His righteousness and holiness.  That’s just the way it is.

          This is what we see by faith.  Our lives are not defined by what we do or don’t do.  We do not have to play some twisted game of trying to impress God.  No, we simply live, because we are defined by what Christ has done, and He has died and has risen and has given us life.  He is the One who cares for us, redeems us, heals us, restores us.  Our life is His life and His life is our life.  God grant that we see and understand the depth of His forgiveness for us ever more!  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen.

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