Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Lawyers, Loopholes, and our Unlikely Neighbor
Sermon Text: Luke 10:25-37
Sermon Sunday: July 14th, 2013, Pentecost 8 (Proper 10)
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s/evening’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 10th chapter
Beloved in the Lord,
What must I do?
When this lawyer approaches Jesus in our text he’s drawing near for the wrong reasons. He’s not too concerned about his salvation. He’s not worried about keeping the Law. And . . . he’s not looking for mercy. He’s there to set a trap, to put Jesus to the test. “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Though the question is oxymoronic – doing is earning and no one earns an inheritance – Jesus meets him where he is. Jesus doesn’t avoid the test. He doesn’t shoo the man away. There are no stupid questions with Jesus. Jesus wants everyone to come to the knowledge of salvation, even the stubborn, hard-hearted, self righteous and naively secure lawyers.
Since the lawyer asked a question about “doing” Jesus gives him something to do. “What is written in the Law?” “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied, “you have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” Jesus meets him where he’s is – in the Law, doing things for God and for neighbor. The problem with doing things for God and for neighbor in order to inherit eternal life, is that how do you know you’ve done enough? How do you know you’ve done them right? When the heart is unsure about what it’s been doing regarding the law we naturally look for loopholes. We look for a way out or a way around. And it’s not just lawyers that are good at this. People, you and I, we look for loopholes to justify ourselves.
Who is My Neighbor? Loopholes of Self-justification
“But, he, desiring to justify Himself said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor.” Now who is really testing whom? Jesus has turned the tables and all of a sudden this lawyer is looking for a loophole. He’s looking for a way out, a way around the law. He wants to justify himself. He’s behaving like any other descendant of Adam, just like you and I do everyday. He’s doing what people do when the Law hits home. He’s squirming about in his bad theology and looking for a way that seems right, a way that allows him to keep his pride and not despair, a way that will support his self-esteem, falsely affirm his ego and enable him to feel good about himself. Now who doesn’t want that these days?
Though Jesus meets us where we are – as we are – He refuses to leave us unchanged. Thus the parable for the lawyer is also a parable for us.
By telling the parable Jesus invites you nearer, to listen to learn and to not be afraid what He wants to work in you. He invites you to see yourself in the parable and most importantly to see that He is for you.
So . . .where is the Lawyer in this parable? Where are you? There are robbers and there are victims. There are the self-righteous and there is an unexpected hero. There is binding up and there is a place of refuge. Some hurt and harm others. Sin in our life has consequences outside of us. Some ignore their fellow man by walking around or walking way. Avoiding our neighbors in need is just as sinful as harming them. The command to love is more than just “doing no harm” but also includes “help and support in every physical need.” And then some, like this man on the side of the road, are beaten and bruised. Who among us hasn’t been there? And then there’s the Samaritan, the one hated by any and all righteous Jews – he turns out to be the neighbor, the hero, the Savior!
Now remember the question by the lawyer? He asked, “who is my neighbor?” “Who is a neighbor to me?” After the parable Jesus asks him, “which of these three was a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” In other words “who was the neighbor?” Clearly Jesus sets the lawyer, and thus all people, as the beaten man along the side of the road when he asks who was a neighbor to him. The good people, the priest and levite – the expected heroes, were not so good. That’s the way it is when we begin to think we’re good enough. If the lawyer saw himself as either of them he now sees himself in a better light. In no way does he see himself as the hero!
The hero is a Samaritan. Jews hate Samaritans. So who is left for this lawyer? The man on the side of the road.
Where are you? Which one are you? Where is Jesus meeting you in this parable? Are you the robbers using your neighbor as a means to an end, hurting and harming your fellow man, woman or child to get what you want? Are you the self-righteous passing by your neighbor? Are you the Samaritan? Are you the hero to everyone around you, helping and supporting everyone? Loving everyone? Showing kindness to everyone? Sacrificing yourself, your time, talents and treasures for everyone? I don’t think any of you can do that, not the way it needs to be done for everyone.
A Neighborly Jesus
But there is One – and this is point of the parable. The answer to the Law is to love God and to love your neighbor. Do this and you will live. The problem with this lawyer is that he assumes he loves God and can pick and choose who will be his neighbor. In denying the person of Jesus He fails on both accounts. Jesus is both his God and as God made flesh – his neighbor. Everything begins and ends with Jesus. There can be no talk of loving God or loving our neighbor until we first talk of Jesus.
Thus in the parable we find this hated Samaritan being a neighbor to the one who was beaten and left for dead, who is also his hated by his neighbors. The Samaritan hero is Jesus. You and I are the half-dead souls on the side of the road. As priest and levite pass by we learn that there is no hope in the Law. We are unclean because of sins we’ve done and the sins we’ve suffered. And neither of them will have anything to do with us. Who will help? Who will rescue? Who will be a neighbor to us as we have need? Jesus! Jesus will be our good Samaritan! Jesus will draw near to us when others ignore us. Jesus will bind up our wounds with wine and oil, Holy Baptism and the Blessed Sacrament. He will do for us what no man would do. He will love us and He will love us perfectly, all of us, everyone of us, each as we have need. Loving us He will give everything to save us. It will cost Him a trip on a donkey, six hours on a tree, and time spent in the darkness of the tomb. He will suffer and He will die. He will bleed out to cleanse your wounds. His flesh will be torn to bind them up. He will take your place. Suffer your ills. Forgive your sins and share His resurrection. He will offer Himself and He will carry you to the inn.
The inn is our place of refuge. It’s where we heal, where we rest, where we are safe in His care. The inn is the Church and in the Church we find the Savior’s gifts for us. We find fellow sinners gathering around these gifts, sharing these gifts with one another, confessing our sins and being absolved. Here in Christ’s church we heal, we rest and we are safe from the perils of this world as we cling to the promises of our Good Samaritan by faith.
Whom Should I love? Jesus the Justifier
Thus with this lawyer we find that Jesus is a neighbor to us who are lying by the side of the road. There’s no self-justifying here. There’s no – “don’t worry about me. I can do it. I can pull myself up, brush the dust off my pants, bind up my own wounds, and get where I’m going all by myself.” The man on the side of the road can do no good works to save himself. Nor can this lawyer, nor can you. But the man passing by, the Samaritan drawing near, the One offering all – He can and He does. Jesus is neighborly to you when He baptizes you, cleanses you, absolves you and nourishes you. This great work of His for you heals you and changes you.
Until Jesus is God and Neighbor to us we will not be able to serve God and our neighbor in our vocations. This parable answers the Lawyer’s question and sets out to change his heart – to shine the light on his heart in a way that is meet, right and salutary.
This is a change He wishes also to work in your hearts today. The focus in our text is not the Law, not about doing this or doing that to get to heaven. There are things to be done to get us to heaven– don’t get me wrong. There’s no “get into heaven free” ticket. There is work to be done and there is a cost to be paid but Jesus does them and Jesus paid it for you and me and for everyone. He justifies all who believe and are baptized. And He makes us right with God and our neighbor. The focus isn’t the law. The focus is Jesus. The focus is the gospel who is Jesus, who is savior, who is Good Samaritan for you and me and the world.
Go and Do Likewise?
Beloved in the Lord, the Lawyer tried to put Jesus to test and found himself tested. Jesus does that sometimes. He works His wonders when we think we’re working. Working His wonders in the parable Jesus takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them squarely on Him. With our eyes squarely fixed on Jesus we are then given to be neighbors to those around us. Bearing His Name in our baptism we are sent to be like Him in the world. We are not given to be like this lawyer looking for a way out or a way around our neighbor. Neither are we to be like the priest and levite in the parable – avoiding our neighbors, withdrawing from the world around us. But like Jesus we are to seek out the poor, the beaten, the bruised, the hurting, the least among us and we are given to help and support them in every physical need. But most importantly we are given to bring them to the inn. We are to bear them up and suffer them to the church where they too can hear of the great and wondrous things our God has done for them and for all.
Yes, beloved, go and do likewise. Go and be Christian to your neighbor fulfilling the Law of Love – not to save your own soul for Jesus has already paid that price – but to bring His salvation to those in your path. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
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