5th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 10) LSB #’s 869, 848, 698
Text – Luke 10:37b
And Jesus said to him, “You go, & do likewise.”
Failure! It’s an experience that all human beings have in common. If you deny it everyone knows, without a doubt, that you are lying. As with all things, people confront failure in different ways. Some of those methods cause even more failure & just add fuel to the fire. Other methods are constructive & work to bring good out of bad.
For example, a man who made his living transporting slaves might not seem like an obvious choice to help bring an end to the slave trade. But God reached out in mercy to the unbelieving slave ship captain John Newton. In gratitude for the mercy he’d received, Newton eventually helped bring an end to the British slave trade, & wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
People who chose abortion might not seem like natural choices to speak up for children in the womb. Yet, women who’ve had abortions, along with doctors & nurses who’ve performed abortions, but now live in the healing warmth of God’s forgiveness, have come to be some of the most effective advocates for the unborn.
The God who saved us in a way that mankind never would have guessed – by taking on human flesh & dying for our sins – that God continues to astound us in the ways He works & the choices He makes. His thoughts are certainly not our thoughts, nor are His ways ours. As a result do you ever wonder if you are going to make it to heaven?
Failure is a fact in your life. A fact you are a fool to deny. Each one of us is a total failure when it comes to anything important in life, & the last thing we ever want to do is to admit that. And that dilemma is what Jesus is confronting when He tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. The scene begins with an expert in the Law who is confident that he is qualified to test this “man” who is nothing more than the son of a carpenter: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Although these words are being spoken 4000 years later, their intent has been echoing throughout the universe ever since the Fall, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The expert in the Law knows, & Satan knows, that love for God & love for the neighbor is the way of everyone who has eternal life. So Jesus replies, “You have answered correctly; do this, & you will live.” Suddenly, the lawyer realizes that the tables have been turned. He had come fully confident in his ability to test Jesus & finds that now he is the one being tested.
We all know that feeling & you & I know it well! It bites when we fail! Especially in public, in front of everyone, for all to see. So, what does a person do when you’ve been caught red-handed? First, Adam & Eve tried to hide among the trees of the garden. Then they blamed someone else, even God, for their sin.
The expert in the Law, who had come to test Jesus, & instead found his own lack of love being exposed for all to see, tries to hide in the Law. “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” It’s like a parent, upon finding that the dishes have not been cleaned, saying to a child, “I told you to wash the dishes.” And the child replies, “What dishes?”
If you watch any criminal trials, you see defense attorneys doing exactly that, all the time. But, instead of getting drawn into the argument, which the expert in the Law intends to hide behind, Jesus tells a parable. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, & he fell among robbers…”
Already there, the expert in the Law feels the convicting power of the Law. With just that one, first sentence, Jesus is essentially accusing him of robbing his neighbor of the love that he owes to him. Then, Jesus illustrates his point with the individual characters of the priest & the Levite who both further the robbery by withholding their love from the victim. Finally, a despised outcast comes along, the Samaritan. He goes way beyond the call of duty in order to show love & mercy to the victim of the crime. Even the expert in the Law, when questioned by Jesus, had to admit that the one who was neighbor to the victim is the one who showed mercy.
The expert in the Law now has nowhere left to hide his lack of mercy & love. If he does not refuse to see it, his failure is obvious. His attempt to reveal Jesus as a fraud had backfired & had exposed himself instead. The expert in the Law has been revealed as a victim of Satan’s robbery, who was himself in need of mercy & love. Would he receive it?
That’s where the parable of the Good Samaritan leaves him. Luke does not record what happened to this expert in the Law. Now the question applies to you & me this morning. Will we receive the mercy & love of Jesus? If we do it’s because the Holy Spirit has called us by the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. If we refuse it’s because of the hardness of our hearts.
If we do receive God’s mercy & love then we are a new creation, one that by nature will show love & mercy to anyone in need. Yes, our sinful nature still gets in the way. We still, daily, need to repent of our failures & sins, but as long we do so God’s Spirit remains in us.
It is when we refuse to acknowledge our sins, when we choose to hide from God’s forgiveness, that we endanger our soul. The parable of the Good Samaritan is meant to show us what life in Christ is like. If we are trying to justify ourselves, it is meant to show us our sinful condition. If we are repentant the parable is meant to show us what Jesus has done for us.
As with all things, people confront sin in different ways. Some of those methods cause even more sin & just add fuel to the fire. Other methods are constructive & work to bring good out of bad. God brought good out of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to save the world from sin.
You & I do not define who is our neighbor. The Holy Spirit does that for us as He
brings people into our lives, people who have needs & struggles & sorrows. Unbelievers are not capable of responding rightly to their neighbor since they have rejected the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. On the other hand, St. Paul in Colossians 1, writes to believers who do have the power of the Holy Spirit:
“…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work & increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance & patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness & transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:10-14 ESV)
For children of God, failure & sin do not define us, because Jesus has covered us with His robe of righteousness. His perfection & holiness cover all our sin. We do not live in fear of running out of God’s blessings or holiness, so we can love our neighbor as ourselves without fear or envy. In our lives, there is no need to justify anything we do. God does that for us.
In the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord, whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need, Who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed, we, Your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart, consecrating to Your purpose every gift that You impart. Called by worship to Your service, forth in Your dear name we go, to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show; hope & health, goodwill & comfort, counsel, aid, & peace we give, that Your servants, Lord, in freedom may Your mercy know & live. Amen. LSB 848:1, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet