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Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37

by pastorjuhl ~ September 3rd, 2009

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

Saint Luke leaves us hanging at the end of today’s Holy Gospel. Jesus asks the lawyer Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? The lawyer answers He who showed mercy on him. Jesus responds Go and do likewise. We never hear how the lawyer responds. Did he ask another question? Did the lawyer walk away repentant or obdurate? We’ll never know the answer. However, we can put ourselves in the lawyer’s sandals and come up with an answer.

There is one right way to respond to Go and do likewise. NO. The “no” has two different interpretations. “No, I can’t”, or, “No, I won’t”. The expected response from a Pharisee, Sadducee, Jewish ruler, or a lawyer might be, “No, I won’t”. I won’t go and do likewise because what I say and do is good in itself. My neighbor doesn’t need my help. He can help himself. I’m too busy to be bothered by a half-dead man lying by the side of the road. I might become ritually unclean. Someone might see me helping a Samaritan and kick me out of the synagogue.

Saying “No, I won’t go and do likewise” is to remain obdurate in sin and unbelief. It is asking the question Who is my neighbor expecting an answer that condones self-righteousness and despises others. Showing mercy to one neighbor but not to another neighbor is walking in the way of the priest and Levite in our Lord’s parable. They knew better, but could not be bothered by the Samaritan’s helpless state. They of all people should have mercy upon their neighbor regardless of whom they are or where they live. However, they keep moving. Nothing to see here.

We have many opportunities to show mercy to our neighbor. Yet we won’t seize the opportunity because we think we know the outcome. It’s one thing to be wise as serpents and harmless and doves when it comes to showing mercy. If our neighbor comes to us asking for money, perhaps it would be best to give him food, drink, clothing, shelter, or tangible goods rather than money. There are too many temptations to use money for the wrong reasons. It’s another thing to ignore every plea for mercy from our neighbor because we know our neighbor will abuse the privilege.

The other way to respond to Go and do likewise is to say, “No, I can’t.” It’s the honest answer. I can’t go and do likewise to my neighbor because I am a poor, miserable sinner. I will fall short of the matchless mercy of the Good Samaritan, Who asked no questions of the half-dead man. He came where he was, had compassion, bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. When he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”

Talk about setting the bar high! If we are honest with ourselves, we can only answer one way: “No, I can’t.” I cannot go and do likewise. It’s the only right answer. My mercy saves me as much as the mercy of the scribes and Pharisees. In other words, it doesn’t save me at all.

So we go back to the lawyer’s first question: Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? The answer is in the Collect for the Day: make us love what you promise. We love what God promises when we repent. We repent of not showing mercy. We repent of showing mercy to some and not others. We repent to receive God’s promise of mercy given us in the blood and righteousness of His only-begotten Son Jesus.

Our Father in heaven does not pass us by because He has more important people that need mercy. He comes to where we are. He doesn’t send a lightning bolt from heaven so we instantly receive His undeserved love and compassion. He send His Son into the flesh; born of a woman, born under the Law to fulfill the Law for us. The Introit from Psalm 74 says God remembers His congregation that He purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of Your heritage! Do not forget the life of Your poor forever. Let the poor and needy praise Your name.

“No, I can’t” becomes “Yes, I can” because of Jesus. Yes, I can have mercy on my neighbor because Jesus has mercy on me. Jesus came to where I was, half-dead and in the ditch of sin and death. Jesus has compassion on me, binding my wounds in His wounds, pouring His cleansing oil and wine of forgiveness and life in Holy Word and Holy Baptism. He takes me to the inn of the Holy Church and takes care of me with His Holy Absolution and Holy Communion. When He comes again, He will take me with Him to the heavenly Inn of eternal comfort and joy. While I wait for His return, I show forth His mercy and compassion to my neighbor in works of mercy. Day by day, I grow in faith, hope, and charity toward God and my fellow man.

Go and do likewise. An impossible task when we trust in our sin-sick righteousness and mercy. Go and do likewise. A joyous task made possible because of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan Whose compassion upon sin-sick mankind frees us from sin, death, and hell so we may show His compassion to a sick and dying world in need of the God who works wonders… [Who] redeemed Your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.

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

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