Luke 10:23-37 Who Is Our Neighbor?
10 September 2006
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s Gospel is like when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer and Jesus saw the Spirit descend on Him like a dove and He heard the voice from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” At this time however, before Jesus speaks the parable of the Good Samaritan, He “rejoices in the Spirit” after the seventy returned with joy announcing that even the demons were subject to them in His name. He rejoiced because these things were hidden from the wise and prudent but were revealed to babes. This is about knowing the Father and the Son. Only the Father knows the Son. Only the Son knows the Father. Only those can know the Father if the Son reveals Him to them. Our text continues saying, “Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.’” This is like Jesus’ baptism for, on both occasions, the Spirit is involved and, on both occasions, there is revelation of who Jesus is, the beloved Son. His disciples are blessed to see the things that they see.
There is another similarity. After Jesus was baptized the devil drove Him out into the wilderness to tempt Him concerning what was written in the Scriptures. On the occasion recorded in today’s Gospel Jesus having just rejoiced “in the Spirit,” a lawyer tests him about what is necessary to inherit eternal life. The Church is also tested and tempted about what it means to be “blessed” and this even after having been blessed in Holy Baptism or in the hearing of the Holy Gospel or in the Holy Supper. Immediately after these works of God take place and the gifts are received we are back in the world in our daily lives, thinking about and worrying about money and other things. We quickly forget the eternal benefits we receive in Christ. It is no surprise then that blessing loses its spiritual meaning and becomes equated with physical and material success, even within the Church. Others, after baptism or confirmation, fail to see the importance of God’s means of grace for their lives or what it means to be part of Christ’s Body and to remain steadfast in His Word and they fall away from His Church. Jesus told His disciples not to rejoice that the demons were under their control on account of His name but that their names were written in heaven. In Baptism our names are written in heaven and this means that we have God’s faithful promise but it also means that we will be tested.
On this occasion a lawyer tests Jesus with a good question. His question is of real spiritual value for it deals with eternal life. Blessing does come from what one sees and what one hears but what is it that you see and hear? What is daily before your eyes? What is it that you daily listen to? Jesus directs the lawyer to what is written in the Law. What is the Law? “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.” The man answered Jesus correctly. Jesus told him, “Do this, and you will live.” The man knows that we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things. He knows that he is to love his neighbor as he loves himself. Yet he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” It is the same sin of Adam that leads Cain to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” These and other questions we come up with to justify ourselves before God, to cover up our sin and to question God’s knowledge. The lawyer knows the answer but he is wrong. He knows the Law yet he fails to find his life in it. If he keeps and does what the Word of God says he will live. This is brought out more clearly for him and for us in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man falls victim to robbers who strip and beat him and leave him half dead. A priest sees him but passes by on the other side. A Levite also sees him but passes by on the other side. A Samaritan sees him and has compassion. He binds up his wounds, “pouring on oil and wine.” He puts him on an animal and takes him to an inn leaving money with the innkeeper to care for him. Who is the neighbor to the man? The lawyer is right again. “He [says], ‘The one who showed him mercy.’” He is right but he does not have eternal life. Jesus says to him, “‘You go, and do likewise.’” Of the three it is the Samaritan who is the outsider. He is neither a priest nor a Levite. Of the three it is the Samaritan who has compassion on the man. He “showed him mercy.” The lawyer must do the same to inherit eternal life. “You go, and do likewise.” “Do this and you will live.”
The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” The one who is blessed is not the one who tests God to cover up his own sin but he who delights in the law, the TORAH, or Word that God gives to him. He is blessed by the hearing, keeping and doing of this Word. It is a Word that encompasses his whole being, his whole life, his every moment. This blessed one is not one who has need to test God but rather one who sees and hears what God has to give him – His mercy. Jesus, therefore teaches the lawyer of the mercy of God. “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Ps. 1)
True blessing is not dependent on keeping one’s promises but on seeing and hearing what the prophets and kings desired to hear and see but did not hear and see. The lawyer knew the answers but he did not hear and see the Blessed One who stood there before his eyes. The Good Samaritan was there to show him the way of the righteous, the way to eternal life. He came and bound up the wounds and carried the sin of the lawyer and the sin of every man as He suffered and died on the cross. He is robbed of his dignity, beaten and stripped. “By His stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53) “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) God is merciful in giving eternal life to sinners who are unable to love God and their neighbor. In Christ we are given the forgiveness of sins for we have been reconciled to God. The blessing is that in the Law, in the Word of God we are given words of eternal life.
The one who shows mercy in this world is our Neighbor. He is the one who walks in the way of the righteous and leads us in the way of everlasting life. We in the Church will always be tempted to seek God’s blessing where it is neither given nor found. Eternal life is not something that can be gained by testing God or failing to see Him when He is there before us. God’s blessing is placed before our eyes and it is not here for our entertainment. Rather, Jesus shows us what is written in the Law. He speaks His words of forgiveness of sins into our ears. He gives to His Church His very body and blood. Here at the altar we are given His mercy for here He gives us life and salvation. Jesus is our Neighbor and He comes to us at this altar today. Blessed are you and the Church throughout the world who sees and hears of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.