In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Ask a Law question, get a Law answer. That’s what the lawyer did. And you might say, “Well of course he did. He’s a lawyer!” But this is not a lawyer like you and I think of. This is a lawyer of God’s Law. An expert in the Old Testament. So, in reality you might say he’s a theologian or teacher. A rabbi. He asks a Law question: what must I DO to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25) For the Law measures. It tells you what you have done and not done. It grades on a pass-fail basis. And the Law’s measure is perfection. Completion. Full and perfect love, freely given, to all in need, without limit. Meanwhile, the Gospel gives what you have not earned, grants what you can not accomplish, saves you while you are yet a sinner and enemy of God.
And the Lord says, “What does the Law say? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26) And the Lord does not necessarily mean “Law” the way Lutherans think about it. As in the 10 Commandments. What is right and wrong. How should you live. What does God require of us. But when our Lord says “Law” in this context He is likely referring to first five books of Bible. The books written by Moses. Referred to as the Law of Moses. (Josh. 8:31-32) Or in Hebrew as the “Torah”—which doesn’t mean “Law” but rather “teaching” or doctrine. The problem comes in that when the Old Testament was translated into Greek the word “Law” became the word that not only refers to 10 Commandments—the moral law—but also to the whole of the Torah. To books which contain both God’s Law and His Gospel promises of life and salvation in the Seed of Abraham, who is Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:16)
But this man is asking a Law question, not a Gospel question. Which becomes clear in how he asked his question—what must I DO (Luke 10:25)—and in how he answer’s our Lord’s question. By listing a summary of the moral Law: love God, love neighbour. (Luke 10:27) For he is focused on himself, not on his neighbour. He uses the moral law as means to his goal. (Luke 10:25) As a way to justify himself. (Luke 10:29) He “loves” in order to get something: salvation. But “love” which is compelled by ulterior motives is not love. (1 Cor. 13:4-8) Love flows freely from who you are. God says ,“Love” because that’s who He is. (1 John 4:8) If we are of Him, we love. (1 John 4:7) Freely. Fully. That’s the point of the Good Samaritan story. Love all. Always. Without limit. Above and beyond the call of duty. (Luke 10:36-37)
Which reveals both this man’s predicament and ours. For you do not love. For you can not be a neighbour in the way of our Lord. In the way of the Good Samaritan. Your love has limits. (1 Cor. 13:7) You can’t love your neighbour as yourself, for you don’t love anyone the way you love you. And so to justify your self-love your “love” is constrained by your time, your energy, your desires, or simply who you tell yourself you are obliged or obligated to love. But Love is never about obligation. Love is free. Love flows forth from the heart of the lover. From the heart of God.
You and I do not love in the way of God. We love in the way of mankind. In the way of limits. In the way of obligations. In the way of tit-for-tat. Of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Love is not in part. (1 Cor. 13:9-10) But our “love” is. Love does not come to an end. (1 Cor. 13:8) But our “love” does. Love is without limit. (1 Cor. 13:7) But we are limited. We do not truly love. Repent.
But now, hear how our Lord answers his own question: what does the Torah say? How do you read it? (Luke 10:26) He reads it that everyone is His neighbour. (Luke 10:36-37) Even His enemy. Even those who hate Him without meeting him. For Jews and Samaritans didn’t speak. because they hated each other.
He loves His neighbour as Himself. So that at great cost to Himself He pours out the oil of His Spirit on the half-dead people of this world in Holy Baptism (Luke 10:34; Rom. 6:3-4; Tit. 3:5-6) giving them life. He pours out the wine of His blood on their wounds, disinfecting and healing them. (Luke 10:34; Matt. 26:27-28)
He takes the invalids He rescues to an inn where He tends to you (Luke 10:35) paying all the bills of your ongoing convalescence at His own expense. (Luke 10:35) From His own wealth. For strangers who hate Him. He entrusts into the hands of His inn keepers the two coins of Law and Gospel till He comes back on the 3rd day in victory paying all your debts. It is the finest of health care. For it is not built on a wicked world and on your taxes grudgingly given. But rather it is the kingdom of Christ Jesus. Funded not by silver or gold, but by His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.
He is your neighbour. He is your righteousness. He is your all in all.
For He is not merely a man that He should lie. (Num. 23:19) He is the Lord God Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, come in human flesh. So that while we humans saw Him we esteemed Him not. But rather we counted him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. (Isa. 53:4) Mankind considered Him our enemy justly judged by God .Yet, He was God in love dying for you Taking your death. Giving you His fullness. For He had promised it to Himself in a ratified covenant with Abraham. (Gal. 3:15-16) And just as a will or testament goes into effect upon the death of a person, so, in His death His new covenant in His blood has gone into effect. It is “new” for it replaced the Old Covenant laid out in the Law of Moses which came 430 years after the promise made to Abraham. (Gal. 3:17) But God’s intention all the way along was that Christ might justify you by faith. (Gal. 3:22) It was the essence of the promises He had made to Abraham and to His offspring. For God is one and though a covenant put in place by a mediator by definition must have more than one party in order for their to be a mediator, God is one. (Gal. 3:20) And the one God who promised this to Abraham and to His Seed is that same Seed who would bring it all to fulfillment by His own death. (Gal. 3:16)
For Jesus, your Jesus has purchased your salvation with His death. Not with your works, for the Law was never a definition of how to gain salvation. It was always there to point us to Christ the saviour. (Gal. 3:19, 24) It was always there to limit human sin and depravity in the world. (Gal. 3:19) But now that Christ has come our salvation is clear. It is here. It is yours. For you are loved. For Christ has loved you like you could not. He has granted you all and picked you up when you considered Him an enemy. You are in His care. And He will come back for you to take you to His eternal home.
In the name of +Jesus, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church