But our Gospel text today shows us that there are indeed wrong questions as well. That is, questions that proceed from unbelief and the rejection of the Christ Jesus, the Messiah of God and Savior of the world.
25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
The ones who do not see, or hear, or follow Jesus are the ones who want to inherit eternal life by what they do rather than by what they receive. No one ever inherits anything by what they do, but by what their benefactor does.
So the ones who go through life asking the wrong question, what must I do, get an answer that is impossible.
In asking Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" the lawyer is missing the distinction between Law and Gospel. Eternal life is a gift of the Gospel, thus not a matter of man's works but the saving work of God in Christ Jesus.
Thus, the lawyer is also missing who it is standing before him--this teacher. And he is missing the blessing he so eagerly seeks--the blessing Jesus speaks of to his disciples to open our Gospel lesson.
23Turning to the disciples [Jesus] said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For 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."
And just what is the "what" the disciples see? The glory of God and the salvation of the world that is no what, no act of man, but the person of Christ the very Son of the living God.
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:37-40
No, the lawyer, like the Jewish leaders to whom Jesus spoke about searching the Scriptures for eternal life does not see that the One standing before them is the fulfillment of all Scripture and the promised Messiah, the Savior that is all about giving the eternal life the lawyer insists upon achieving by his own work.
26He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27And 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." 28And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." 29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
The lawyer is all about showing himself to be righteous and demanding what is due him. And this is what every Christian, and especially every pastor, must be wary of, for it is so easy and so tempting to turn the Divine Service into what we do and a demand for recognition and reward from God and neighbor. We see this happen with those denominations that turn the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion into decisions and actions of men toward God, rather than primarily God's gracious service to us. We even see it among ourselves in
· "contemporary praise worship;" that focuses on and proceeds from human emotions and feelings that show God and each other how much we love God and how dedicated we are to Him rather than on "the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd" with pastor leading the liturgy, preaching and teaching the Word, and administering the Sacrament in the Divine Service. [Smalcald Part III, Article XII. Of the Church.]
· laity demanding and being given roles in the Divine Service contrary to our confession of Scripture which teaches "that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called;"
· open communion practices (along with performing baptisms, weddings, funerals, confirmations) where anyone who comes demanding they be served receives the body and blood of our Lord (or other gift) even though they come demanding their reward rather than begging for God's mercy and grace.
So Jesus tells a parable that if the lawyer had eyes to see and ears to hear would reveal to him the blessing the disciples have seen, but that he and so many religiously Christian people miss in their desire to prove their godliness and Christianity. 30Jesus re
plied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And 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.' 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." Luke 10:23-37
Clearly this is not something the lawyer was likely to do. It would be inconvenient. It would be dangerous. It would even make him unclean.
Yet this is the requirement of the Second table of the Law--not only that we do "not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body]."--Small Catechism Explanation to the Fifth Commandment
Lest you and I think we would never be so smug and uncaring as the lawyer and the priest and the Levite, think about who your neighbor really is and where that starts:
· In the home honoring father and mother, "that we not despise or anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve them, obey them, and hold them in love and esteem."-- Small Catechism Explanation to the Fourth Commandment
· If that is not enough, "help him to improve and protect his property and business."-- Small Catechism Explanation to the Seventh Commandment
· "defend him, ‹think and› speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything." -- Small Catechism Explanation to the Eighth Commandment
· To give us the practical "What does this mean?" for how the baptized Christian is to live his daily life (that is, to fully answer the lawyer's question), the Small Catechism lists as a TABLE OF DUTIES (LSB, p. 328) of the various neighbors in our daily lives and just how we are to live in relation to them.
FOR BISHOPS, PASTORS, AND PREACHERS
WHAT THE HEARERS OWE TO THEIR PASTORS
CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT
WHAT SUBJECTS OWE TO THE RULERS
FOR MALE AND FEMALE SERVANTS, HIRED MEN, AND LABORERS FOR MASTERS AND MISTRESSES
FOR YOUNG PERSONS IN GENERAL
FOR ALL IN COMMON
The commandments … are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:9) "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people." (1 Timothy 2:1)
· Ephesians 5:21 sums up baptized believers in faith live their lives "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Clearly, submitting to and sacrificing for others is not a strong suit for us any more than it was for the lawyer who fancied himself as putting Jesus to the test.
But this is the Law. And the Law does not save us. It shows us our sin. There is another way to understand this parable--the Gospel way.
The man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho is none other than Adam and every man born into his sin.
The Samaritan is Christ Jesus. The inn is Christ's church, and the innkeeper His servants of the Word.
34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And 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.'
Dear people of Trinity, dear baptized children of God, the words Jesus spoke privately to His disciples in today's Gospel lesson are words He speaks to you as well. Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For your eyes of faith see here in the Divine Service the same glory of God and the salvation of the world that is no act of man, but the person and work of Christ the very Son of the living God. You will depart in peace today and sing with Simeon, "mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel." All of this is so for you today because The Good Samaritan is the One who shows mercy and He is the One you are hearing today; the One whose very body and blood you have come to eat and drink; the One in whom you live and move and have your being; the One who lived, died, rose, and ascended for His neighbor; the One who has sent the Holy Spirit to forgive you all your sins and keep you with Him in the inn of His holy Christian Church until He "comes back" and gives you eternal life as your inheritance--in the name of the Father ,and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen