Pentecost 8c

Preached: July 22, 2007

Only Jesus Can Impart
Balm To Heal the Wounded Heart
Luke 10:25-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who pours out the Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. The Word the Holy Spirit speaks to us today is Luke 10.

And behold, a lawyer stood up testing Jesus, Teacher, he said, By doing what will I inherit eternal life?
He said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?
He answered, Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus said to him, You've answered correctly. Do this and you will live.
But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
Replying Jesus said, A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell among robbers. After they striped him and beat him, they went away leaving him half dead. By chance a priest came down that road. After seeing him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise also a Levite, happening upon the place, after he came and saw him, passed by on the other side. As a Samaritan was traveling, he came down to him, and after he saw him, his heart went out to him. Going to him, he dressed his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Having set him on his own animal, he led him to an inn and cared for him. When he went out the next morning, he toke two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. He said to him, Care for him, and whatever extra you spend, I will fully give to you when I return.
Therefore, which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the one who fell among thieves?
He said, The one who had mercy on him.
Jesus said to him, Go, and you also do likewise. (Luke 10:25-37)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

1. What time would you choose to live in?

If you could live during any time, what time would you choose? Would it be the days of the frontier, a simpler time when the Great Plains laid open with opportunity for any hard worker? Would it be the days of chivalry with castles and knights and ladies in waiting? Or maybe you would think back to an epic moment, such as Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or Washington's crossing the Delaware or even the great events of the Bible. What would it have been like to have seen Noah's ark in person or watched the walls of Jericho fall? Or maybe you would pick some time yet to come in the future to see the world a thousand years from now.

Jesus tells us what time the prophets and kings of old wanted to see, people like Moses and Samuel, David and Hezekiah, Elijah and Isaiah. They longed to see the fulfillment of the ages. They longed to hear the voice of the Messiah in the flesh. They wanted to see God's promises fulfilled. Jesus tells his disciples, Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it (Luke 10:23, 24 NIV). Yes, they were living in that pivotal time, the consummation of the ages, when the Lord fulfilled his promise to send the Savior.

However, a certain expert in the law did not see it that way. Maybe he longed to be at the time of Moses at Mt. Sinai. At Sinai God himself spoke from the thunder and fire of the mountain. He gave his Law. What wonders and what wisdom was revealed! How could this present time be as good as that?

2. What does the Law require for eternal life?

So he puts Jesus to the test. Maybe he thought: How can this time be any greater than the time of Moses? Doesn't the Law of Moses tell us everything we need to do to inherit eternal life, or do you, Jesus, know of some new requirements? So tell me teacher, he says, What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25 NIV).

Now Jesus did not come as new lawgiver. He didn't add new rules like a life of poverty and celibacy. If someone wanted to know God's requirements for earning eternal life, the Law of Moses told them everything they must do. So Jesus directs this expert to the law that he knows so well. What is written in the Law? . . . How do you read it? (Luke 10:26 NIV).

The expert gives the right answer. He quotes from the Law the key passages that so well sum it all up: Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and,Love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27 NIV)

Do this and you will live (Luke 10:28), Jesus tells him. That is the message of the Law: Keep on continually doing everything perfectly and you will have eternal life. Of course, the Law has no mercy even if a person fails only once. It has only one verdict for any failure no matter how great or small: Cursed. God's curse of death, hell, and damnation. Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this by carrying them out (Deuteronomy 27:26 NIV), the Law says.

3. Why did the expert ask, Who is my neighbor?

Maybe that was nagging at this expert's conscience. Have I really loved my neighbor as myself? Have I kept on doing that as the Law commands and as Jesus just said I must do? Ah! That all depends on who my neighbor is. If I get a favorable definition for neighbor, then I could argue that I have done so. I'd be justified as right. So Jesus, Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29 NIV).

You know Jesus' answer well. A man was robbed, stripped, beaten, and left half dead. Both a priest and then a Levite (Levites helped in religious work) passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan stops. Remember how the Jews and Samaritans hatred against each other? But this Samaritan's heart, filled with pity and mercy, goes out to the half-dead man. He helps at risk to himself, since the robbers could be back. He helps at his own expense and discomfort. He uses his own wine and oil to dress the wounds. He walks so that his donkey can carry the man. He spends the night caring for him. The next day he pays for whatever on going care the man will need.

4. Why should Jesus' answer crush the expert and us?

How the answer must have stuck in the expert's throat when he was asked, Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? (Luke 10:36 NIV). But what else could he say? The answer was obvious, The one who had mercy on him (Luke 10:37 NIV). And then realizing how often he had failed to show such love and mercy even to his friends, much less his enemies, and how impossible it was to do so continually, how the next words of Jesus ought to have crushed him: Go and do likewise (Luke 10:37 NIV)! But how can I? The power is not in me to produce such love? If that's what the Law requires, what hope is there for me to gain eternal life by what I do? Instead, I'm cursed and damned.

And that is the intended affect of God's Law on you and me as well. Go and do likewise, that is, Love your neighbor as yourself. Show perfect kindness and mercy flowing from your heart to those whom you can help. Even though they are your enemy, even though it costs you greatly, treat them as you would treat yourself. Pray for them. Do good to them. Speak well of them. Sacrifice your time and money for them. And don't fool yourself into thinking, Maybe my love for my neighbor falls short, but I really do love God. Isn't that the greater commandment? The Apostle John writes in his first letter, Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen (1 John 4:21 NIV). If we truly loved God with all our heart, even if it were only with half a heart, wouldn't we obey what he commands, including loving our neighbor as ourselves, and all that that means? How badly we fail!

Now take note, when Jesus said, Do likewise, he isn't saying, You can or are able to do this. In fact, by that very command, he showed the expert in the law and shows you and me how incapable we are. For example, it's as if I claimed that I could fly. How could you prove me wrong? I suppose you could try to explain the laws of gravity and aerodynamics. You could try to persuade me that my arms are different than wings and my body much heavy than a bird's. Yet if I were stubborn enough, I could just argue back. Or you could simply say, Do it. Then I must face reality how incapable I am. No matter how much I flap my arms, I'm not getting off the ground.

So Jesus' command, Do this, forces us to face the reality of what we are by nature how incapable we are. Exposed and convicted by God's law, we were worse off then a traveler left half-dead by robbers. We were fully dead in sin, mortally wounded, shamefully stripped naked.

5. How is Jesus much more than a good Samaritan to us?

But here is why the prophets and kings of old longed to see Jesus' day and hear what the disciples heard. For Jesus did more for us than any good Samaritan could do. He took us dirty sinners and washed you in his holy blood through Baptism. He made us alive by pouring out his Spirit into us. He healed your mortal wounds with balm and healing of forgiveness that flowed from his wounds suffered on the cross for you. He covered your nakedness with his righteousness like a white wedding gown, for he has pronounced you to be his bride.

He woes you. He calls to you. Leave behind your filthy rags. Abandon your trust in yourself and your works. I will heal your wounds. I will soothe your heart. I will care for you. For my flesh and blood sacrificed for you are real balm and medicine that not only heals but makes you alive. Hear his call.

6. For whom can you be a neighbor?

And then alive in the Spirit, you and I no longer ask, Who is my neighbor, as if we were looking for a technicality in order to justify ourselves by arguing our own goodness before the Law. You know and believe that Jesus is your goodness. Alive in the Spirit and moved by Jesus' love that gave himself for us, instead of asking, “Who is my neighbor,” we ask “To whom can I be a neighbor?” th Commandment directs us to our parents and others in authority. th Commandment directs us to those in bodily need. th Commandment directs th Commandment directs us to show love and kindness to our neighbor by respecting their property even as the 8th Commandment directs us to respect their reputation by defending them, speaking well of them, and taking their words and actions in the kindest possible way.

And though each day we fall short, we go back to our Savior, praying: Jesus, grant that balm and healing In your holy wounds I find, Ev'ry hour that I am feeling Pains of body and of mind (Christian Worship 121:1).

So what a wonderful time we live in! A time when we have seen in Jesus the fulfillment of God's saving promises. A time when Jesus abundantly pours out his Spirit, his balm, his forgiveness on us through his Word and Sacraments. A time when we are blessed with so much material good to use for God's glory and in service to our neighbor. Yes, this is a time of temptation as well, when the world with its many messages tells us to focus on ourselves, that we deserve a break today, that we need to live life focused on the fun the weekend brings, that we should love our neighbor after ourselves. But Jesus is greater than that message. Shut your ears to the world and listen to Jesus and his promise of forgiveness. Focus your heart and mind on his Word and Sacraments. Then filled with his forgiveness, healed with his balm, empowered by his Spirit, use the blessings God gives you to serve your neighbor. Love your neighbor as yourself, for Jesus has loved you and given himself all for you. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313