Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 13)


Luke 10:23-37; Galatians 3:15-22; 2 Chronicles 28:8-15


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

 “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” said Jesus to His disciples. But what did they see? Jesus had sent the seventy-two before Him as lambs in the midst of wolves, with no provisions or protection, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was drawing near. What they could see was that the kingdom of God was drawing near in the person of Jesus. They had just returned to Him exclaiming, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus replied to them saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

What did their eyes see? Jesus wasn’t much to look at, an itinerant rabbi, the son of a carpenter from backwater Nazareth. What did their eyes see? They went before Him with no food or water, little clothing, and no weapons, like sheep in the midst of wolves, proclaiming that the kingdom of God had come in this lowly, humble, and relatively unimpressive man. What did they see, what did they hear, that prophets and kings of old desired to see and hear but did? They saw the Word fulfilled. They saw the kingdom of God coming in the person of Jesus. Then Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children’.” “Then turning to the disciples he said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see’!”

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life’?” This man was an example of the “wise and understanding” from whom the holy things of God had been hidden. His wisdom and understanding had made him blind. Though God’s Word had been revealed and His promises kept in often humble and unexpected ways throughout Israel’s history, this lawyer’s wisdom and understanding concluded that eternal life must be earned by obedience and works under the law. “What must I do” is a question of self-righteousness and self-justification, with the prideful assumption that I can do it and have in fact done it. One who can save himself doesn’t need a savior, and therefore he doesn’t need Jesus. The lawyer wanted to save himself, to justify himself before the law. “What must I do?” he asked. That’s a law question. Therefore, Jesus turned him to the law: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” “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 lawyer answered confidently. Yes, indeed! Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.”

What must you do to inherit eternal life? That’s a law question. Love God and love your neighbor, perfectly, always, in thought, word, and deed. That’s the law’s answer. Do this perfectly, always, and you will live. That is, assuming you weren’t corrupted by original sin from the moment you were conceived. Oh, you were, you say? Well, that’s really too bad. But, that’s the law’s job, to convict you in your sin, to expose your sin that you might be turned in resentence and see your Savior Jesus Christ. The law is supposed to make you uncomfortable, just like it made the lawyer uncomfortable. The lawyer was exposed. He was right, the law demanded love – perfect love for both God and neighbor – and he knew that he failed, that he was a sinner, that he didn’t perfectly love his neighbor because he didn’t perfectly love God. He knew it, and he was convicted and uncomfortable, and so he tried to justify himself. “And, who is my neighbor?” he asked Jesus. The lawyer knew that he couldn’t love everyone and that he didn’t love everyone. He thought that, maybe if he could limit the number of people he had to love he would have a shot. He wanted to lower the demands of the law and make it more doable. He couldn’t see that the fulfilling of the law is not obedience, but love, God’s love for us sinners with which we love other sinners, and that one who cannot love his brother whom he has seen cannot possibly love God whom he has not seen. Jesus’ response to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan.

A man, a Hebrew man, Jew, was robbed, beaten, and left for dead by the roadside. Two wise and understanding men whom the lawyer could surely relate to passed by and did nothing to help. Then a despised Samaritan arrived on the scene, took pity on the man, and at his own risk and expense helped him. Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer had no choice but to answer, “The one who showed him mercy.” This parable was Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor.” In the end, the lawyer had to answer his own question, “The one who showed mercy.”

The lawyer wanted to justify himself by his obedience and works, and yet he failed to do even the first work the law requires, love. Love is the fulfillment of the law because love is selfless and sacrificial, never looking inward to the self but always looking and acting outward to the neighbor. Mercy is love in action. Mercy is the love of God for us sinners. Mercy is what the Samaritan had for the man who fell amongst robbers. Mercy is what Jesus poured out for the world in His selfless, sacrificial death on the cross. Mercy is what we have received from God in Jesus Christ and mercy is what we are called and sent to show to others in love and thanksgiving to the glory of God.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” What do you see? You see the love and mercy of God in the death of Jesus Christ. You see the kingdom of God in our midst in the person of Jesus who is present in Word and Sacrament. You see Jesus in your neighbor, your brother, your sister, and even in your enemy. God desires mercy, not sacrifice. And Satan falls like lightning from heaven.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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