Home > Trinity 6-15 > Jesus Walked Your Road to the End. Trinity 13 Sermon, Luke 10.25-37

Jesus Walked Your Road to the End. Trinity 13 Sermon, Luke 10.25-37


pieta mantegna13th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 10:25-37

August 25, 2013

“Jesus Walked Your Road to the End”

 

Jesus

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

If we want to live forever, how should we live now?

 

Not everyone worries about that question, but many people do.  People you wouldn’t expect.

 

But people don’t ask the question out loud.  They already know the answer.

 

Does it take an expert in Hebrew Scripture and the teaching of the rabbis to know that you should love God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself?

 

No.  The pagans knew it too.  Not only wise people know it.  Children know it. People who try to love God and their neighbor and people who make no effort whatsoever all know this.

 

So the question is seldom asked, “How must I live now if I want to live forever?”  Because people know.

 

The question only becomes a question when people begin to do what their consciences tell them they must do if they want to live and not die.

 

Then the question arises.  “How must I live?”  It is evident enough that we ought to love God above ourselves and our neighbor as ourselves, but when a person begins to try to do what he already knows he should do, begins to behave as if eternity depends on whether or not he loves God and his neighbor (as it does), then the questions begin.  Which God is it that I’m supposed to love with all my heart?  Who is my neighbor and what does it mean to love him?

 

The text

 

The lawyer who asks Jesus, “What must I be doing to inherit eternal life?” does it to test Jesus.  It seems as though he already has decided on the answer and is looking for a way to find fault with Jesus and discredit His claims to be the Messiah.

 

Even if that is the reason the lawyer asks, it is also true that Jesus, in His preaching and in His deeds, has disturbed the lawyer’s assurance that he was living as a son of Abraham who would inherit eternal life with Abraham.  Jesus’ preaching and His actions had accused the expert in the Law of sin, of not living in a way that would be rewarded with eternal life.  Jesus had preached what John the Baptist came before Him preaching,–“Repent!”  John didn’t say it only to the notorious sinners, but also to the Pharisees and scribes and lawyers, the good, zealous, religious Jews.  “Repent!  Turn around and become totally different than you are or you will perish, for the kingdom of God is near”.”

 

Even with your disciplined life and your study of the Scriptures you are not the children of Abraham, heirs with him of eternal life.  You are Satan’s children—a nest of baby snakes, Jesus and John preached.

 

So if that’s how it is when I’ve lived my life as a religious man, the lawyer is asking Jesus—if these works aren’t good enough, then what works should I be doing in order to inherit eternal life?

 

Our Lord points the lawyer back to the Scriptures.  “What does the law say” which you read and teach for your living?  It says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Well, there you have it, says Jesus.  That is how you must live to inherit eternal life.  That is what you must turn around and do.

 

How frustrating an answer was that!  Obviously that’s what we’re supposed to do.  Even pagans know that!  But You are telling me I haven’t done it, and these supposedly converted prostitutes and tax collectors with whom You fraternize, who never cared about God’s law a day in their lives—they’ve done it?

 

Obviously I love God with all my heart.  I’ve dedicated my life to studying His word.  If Jesus were to find fault with my life, thinks the lawyer, it would have to be in loving my neighbor, because He says we don’t do enough to reclaim the sinners.  He says we should love our enemies, including the Romans who oppress us and the Gentiles who make themselves unclean with their idols and their detestable practices.  “Who is my neighbor, then, Jesus?”

 

And to this Jesus responds with the story of the priest and the Levite who walk by the man who has been stripped and beaten by robbers, and the Samaritan who interrupts his business, puts medicine on his wounds, takes him to an inn and pays for him to be nursed to health while he finishes his journey, promising to cover all expenses when he returns.

 

The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews.  They were people of another country whom the Assyrians had settled in the land after they conquered the northern tribes of Israel and taken them as captives.  The Samaritans had adopted a form of the worship of the Lord, but it was unorthodox.  They claimed that God had commanded people to worship Him in Samaria instead of the temple in Jerusalem.

 

On the other hand the priests and Levites served God at His true dwelling place, the temple in Jerusalem.  They had a holy calling.  They were called to serve in the holy place of the most High.

 

The Lord requires you to love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus tells the lawyer.   That’s not done just because you know where to find the true God, or even because He honors you to stand in His presence and serve in His house.  The life that you must be living to inherit eternal life is not simply that you have a holy calling but that you love your neighbor as yourself, which means you don’t stop to ask “Who is my neighbor that I have to love?”  But instead when you see someone suffering or in need you become his neighbor, even if he is your enemy.  You spend your time and your wealth to save his life.  You trouble yourself for him.  You have compassion and serve him in any way that he needs, as though he were your own self.

 

That is what you must be doing to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells the lawyer.  It’s not enough to be a priest, a levite, or a circumcised Jew.  It’s not enough to have orthodox knowledge of God, or to love people you regard as holy and worthy.  God commands that you love your neighbor as yourself, which means that you become a neighbor to everyone in need, having compassion in your heart for them and showing compassion in your deeds toward them, whether they are friend or enemy, deserving or undeserving.

 

Now what can the lawyer say in response to Jesus?  He can go away muttering, “This guy is a fanatic.  No one can live that way!”  But he can’t deny that this definition of “Love your neighbor as yourself” sounds a lot more like what the words mean than the explanation we usually give them, which always involve in some way shrinking the commandment into a shadow of itself, something which does not require that we become completely different than we are.

 

Chorus

 

But this kind of love is not something Jesus only preaches; He performs it and does it.  Jesus loves you as Himself.  So He takes you upon Himself, walks to the end of your road for you, and comes to bring you to the end of His road.  He loves you as Himself, so He takes your life into His, so that you no longer live, but He lives in you—so that the life you live in the body you live outside of yourself by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.

The text among us

 

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, a widely-loved chapter of the Bible.  I don’t think the chapter would be loved as widely if people didn’t think that they already had love.  “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

 

How many people do you know who would claim to have love that are ready to give all their goods to feed the poor or give their body to be burned?  I think I might possibly give all my goods to feed the poor if I was convinced that if I didn’t do that I would be damned.  But that would profit me nothing, because it would not be love that caused me to give away everything I had.  It would be self-love and self-interest, and works that flow from self-love and self-interest are unclean and repulsive in God’s sight.  It would be sin.

 

“And hereby we do know that we know [Christ], if we keep His commandments.  He that saith, ‘I know Him,’ and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoso keepeth His word, in him [truly] is the love of God [fulfilled]…”  (1 John 2: 3-5)  So writes John in his first epistle.  He elaborates: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  (1 John 3: 16-18)

 

The word which John the Baptist and then Jesus began by preaching to the people of Israel, both to the scandalous sinners and the religious Jews, He preaches to us as well as them.  “Repent!”  That does not just mean, “Start living a moral life and come to church;” it means that, but it means much more than that.  It means, “Become completely different than you are by nature.  If you are moral or immoral, repent!  Your deeds are not complete in the sight of my God and Father, because they do not come entirely from love.  You do not honor, serve and obey, love and cherish your parents and people set in authority over you.  You do not defend your neighbor or protect his reputation, and even when you do outwardly you secretly delight in hearing about the sins and downfalls of your enemies.  You don’ t actively love and honor your spouse and teach others by your example to honor marriage as God’s holy institution, but most of the time you simply put up with your spouse or speak and behave as if marriage is a burden and not a blessing.  And you treat those in need around you as a burden instead of having compassion on them.  You must get a new heart and become a new creature if you are to inherit eternal life.  You must do more than love on the outside and be in the presence of holiness on the outside.  You must worship God in Spirit and truth, and that will show itself in heart and actions that love the unworthy freely and joyfully.”

 

And what can we say?  Jesus shows us that whatever righteousness we have in the flesh, on our own, is no righteousness at all, but filthy rags.  He makes whatever righteousness we have in ourselves useless for salvation.  He puts us with whatever measure of religious striving on the same level with those who have never cared, as He did with the lawyer.

 

Unless we have a heart that forgets about ourselves and thinks only about our neighbor’s blessing we do not live in a way that merits eternal life.  And we do not have this heart.  Even if the Holy Spirit works by love in you the works are not complete.  Grace is necessary, otherwise they too would provoke God’s wrath.

 

We lie in the dust like people ambushed by bandits, stripped naked and beaten until half-dead.  Such a man lying on the side of the road in the Middle Eastern sun won’t live unless someone saves him.

 

The scriptures say more.  We are not merely half-dead spiritually, we are born dead.  The law of God is holy, but when it sees us it leaves us lying in our blood in the gravel

 

But Jesus does not.  He is first of all your good Samaritan.  He is moved with pity for you and kneels down in the bloody dust to medicate your wounds and soothe them.  He bandages them so that you will not bleed to death.  He puts you on his donkey and leads you to the inn, where he watches over you and cares for you.  In the morning he leaves money with the innkeeper and a promise to pay him for everything he does for you while he is away.

 

He does this through the gospel and sacraments.

 

He also not only comes to you and has compassion on you, but love brings Him near to you.  He puts on your self, and walks to the end of your road for you.  He put Himself in the womb of a woman for you.  He put Himself under the whole law for you, obligating Himself to it when He was circumcised.  He put Himself into your sin and its consequence when He was baptized; He was numbering Himself among the transgressors and putting Himself up to make atonement for you.

 

He put Himself on the donkey and road to Jerusalem.  There He was set upon by robbers who wanted to steal His kingdom.  He allowed them to strip him, beat Him, nail Him to the cross.  He received from God what is the end of your road.  The road on which we were born is the road of death and hell.  That is what comes to sinners who love themselves and not their neighbor.

 

He walked to the end of this road and tasted God’s wrath and was laid in death.  That is the end of your road.  He became one of us and walked it for us.

 

And because He walked our road all the way to the end, his road is our road.

 

His road went down to hell in victory.

 

It led through the grave back to His disciples in joyful reunion.

 

It led to the right hand of the Father and to reign.

 

And He comes to bring you to the end of your road.  He comes in His church, the hospital, in word and sacrament, and assures you that your road and his are intertwined.

 

Your heart is still not a heart that loves the neighbor as itself.  It has only begun to be changed.

 

But He comes to you while you are still weak and says, “The road you are walking is no longer the same.  It is not the road that leads to death and hell, but your road and mine are one.  Your road leads to resurrection and to the Father’s right hand.

 

He took you upon Himself so that you might no longer live, but He live in you, that you live outside of yourself by faith in Him.

 

When lovelessness wants to rule you you place yourself in Him who already placed you in  Himself.  You pray, Lord, do what you have said, make me love.  You say, Lord, I have died and I am no longer what I was.  You walked to the end of that road.

 

When the lovelessness of your heart accuses you you live outside of yourself.  I no longer live for I have died with Jesus in Baptism.  There is no more me except that which was put into the tomb with Jesus and has been swallowed up in victory.

 

Bridge.

But what about, “let us not love in words but in deed and in truth?  What if we do not see love working in us?

 

See what your heart is like.  It is like the lawyer’s heart and the priest’s heart.  It sees a crumpled man on the side of the road and says, “Thank God, that is not me!”

 

Chorus

But it is Jesus, because He was stripped and beaten, laid in the dust of death and the wrath of God because He loved us as Himself.  He loved you as Himself.  He fulfilled the law for you, loving you as Himself, so He took you to Himself and made you His own.  And He walked to the end of your road, and turned the end of your road into the end of His road, which no longer ends in hell but reigning at the right hand of the Father.

 

Because he made your road His, His road is yours.  By faith you are already seated with Him who is your life.

 

And His love for you and for the whole world as His own self is counted to you.

 

The judgment that is the certain end of our road in the flesh He made His own, and now our old judged life is passed away.  When it shows itself, confess it, and then see it as it is.

 

When Jesus’ body was taken down, crumpled and dead, crushed under the feet of pitiless robbers and left to be condemned by God’s holy law for you, the judgment on you was accomplished.  That was your old life.

 

Then see Jesus risen and reigning.  ‘Peace to you,” He says to terrified disciples.  “If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven.  If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

 

Conclusion.

 

What is it to love your neighbor as yourself?  Not to ask, who do I have to love and how much.  But to see someone in need and become a neighbor to them, forgetting yourself, but loving them.

 

This is how Jesus has loved you, and because Jesus has loved you as Himself, you who cannot fulfill the law have fulfilled it.  He who is bringing you to the end of His road also lives in you.  The life you live in the flesh which is still selfish and loveless, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave yourself for you.  You no longer live, but He lives in you; He who promises you this today as He places in your mouth the medicine which heals all your wounds—His flesh, stripped, beaten, slain for your sins.  His flesh in which your old life was buried.  His blood, which, poured out for you in divine love, gives everlasting life.

 

You have new life in this body of death; the life of Jesus, who made your death His, and who even now is your life, hidden in God.  May He give us joy and love that does not fear sin and death as He comes to us now.  Hosanna!  Come, Lord Jesus.

 

The peace of God which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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