Trinity 13 (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 25, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 10:23-37

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The lawyer thought to put Jesus to the test with his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He was testing Jesus to see if Jesus would agree with him. It’s like when we ask someone a question we know the answer to; we just want to see if they know they answer. Jesus passes the test. What does the Law say? It says that to inherit eternal life one must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. The lawyer knew the answer; he just wanted to make sure Jesus agreed with him. Jesus agreed: “Do this and you will live.”

But that’s not enough. It’s not enough to know what we should do or should be doing. We need to actually do it. The lawyer knows this, too, so wanting to justify himself – that is, wanting to make sure he’s towing the right line – he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

We want Jesus to answer the lawyer’s question by saying that everybody is our neighbor. Or maybe the poor or the hungry. Give us categories so we can keep the Law. Because in truth, we have cared for the poor and hungry. We have done good by categories. Even the category of sinner. We have forgiven sinners. We have let go grudges against those that have hurt us. If the Lord answered in categories, we would be justified. But the Lord didn’t answer the lawyer in categories. The Lord said, “A man.” Your neighbor is not in a category. He is a flesh and blood person with a face. Be merciful to him or her as your Father in heaven has been merciful to you.

Somewhere along the way people started asking the wrong question. Most of the time you hear people ask, “How do I get to heaven?” But that’s the wrong question. Heaven is wherever Jesus is. So if you want to get to heaven, go where two are or three are gathered in His name, for there He is in the midst of them. The right question is the lawyer’s question who came to test Jesus. His question was, “How do I inherit eternal life?” That’s the right question for us humans because it answers the one problem none of us have solved: death. Going to heaven can be – and I think largely has become – a spiritual question. When people ask, “How do I go to heaven?” they’re usually not thinking of the resurrection of the body, but the ascending of the soul into some mystical paradise. The resurrection of the body has become for many people – even for many churches and congregations – a secondary or even obsolete point, though St. Paul says that it is precisely the resurrection of the body for which we wait and cry out, and for which all creation groans with eager anticipation, waiting for the adoptions as sons, the redemption of the body. (Romans 8:23)

The real question, then, is not how do I get to heaven, but how do I inherit eternal life? And the real answer is: you don’t. You can’t inherit eternal life because you are not the promised seed of Abraham. Jesus is. He inherited eternal life. He kept the Law perfectly, loving the Lord His God with all His heart and with all His soul and with all His mind and with all His strength, and His neighbor as Himself. And He keeps the Law today, right now. He keeps it on your behalf. That is the mercy of God.

By the obedience of Jesus the way to eternal life was opened to you and me and all humanity. He is the promised seed that takes away the sin of the world and brings salvation and rest to all mankind. But more specifically, He is the promised seed that takes away your sin and brings salvation and rest to you. Because you are His neighbor and He loves you as He loves Himself.

Right now the Lord Jesus keeps the Law by doing the Father’s will, which is to reconcile sinners and forgive the trespasses of many. That’s what He’s doing today, right here. Today the Lord has had mercy on you, not generically, but personally. It is you He has brought here to His inn so that His innkeeper would change your bandages and apply the salve of His word and sacraments. It is over Brandon, that the water of life has been poured. It is to your ear that the good news has come. It is upon your tongue that the body and blood of the risen Christ will rest and feed you the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation.

It is to you personally the Lord has come and made His home and opened to you the way of eternal life. You cannot inherit eternal life, but by the mercy of God in Christ eternal life is given to you by the promises of God in Christ Jesus. And here you sit in His inn. Not a church building, but in the Body of Christ wherein His gospel is preached and His sacraments are administered to we who have fallen among robbers and have been beaten and left for dead by them. And to you is the promise that He will come again to take you to where He is, where there is no more death and no more suffering – where the lion lays down with the lamb and the child plays with the viper; where the old are considered young. His new heavens and the new earth.

Why doesn’t He come now? Because there are more men, women, and children going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who are falling among robbers, and the Merciful Samaritan who is the Lord must care for them, too, and bring them to His inn. So we wait in His inn, listening to His innkeepers and being cared for by His provisions while He continues to gather all the beaten, bloody, dying sinners that will make up His kingdom.

+ In Nomine Iesu +