God bestows mercy and salvation upon humanity.

He has compassion on sinners.

In the parable today, Jesus demonstrates that, but first consider the lawyer who “stood up to put [Jesus] to the test” (Luke 10:25). Consider what he says:

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25).

In response, Jesus asks him two questions, and it’s important to notice exactly what He asks.

Because it’s not just, “What is written in the Law?”

It’s not just, “What do the words on the page say?”

Jesus adds, “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26).

Any fool can tell you what the Bible says.

Unbelievers quote the Bible all the time, right?

Only to call you a hypocrite though, right?

Lately, I’ve heard this quoted: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).

What they mean is—do whatever the government tells you to do, but they forget that some things—your conscience, for example, or your children—some things don’t belong to Caesar, so render them to God.

Any fool can quote the Bible.

Even the demons do that—and shudder (cf. James 2:19).

But only the believer, only the one who, by faith, is righteous and lives, only he can explain with confidence how a sinner can be and is saved.

Jesus isn’t concerned with merely “What is written?” but  also “How do you read it? How does what you read apply the mercy and salvation of God to you, to the poor, miserable sinner, and to all?”

For his part, the lawyer tries.

He’s read the words on the page: “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” (Luke 10:27; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5).

There isn’t a better answer than that, but the right answer doesn’t help him, because he doesn’t know how to apply them.

He knows the right answer from the catechism, but he doesn’t know what it looks like to live it out.

Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28).

That’s not a nice thing to say.

If you think you can love God perfectly, if you think you can love your neighbor perfectly, why don’t you?

Jesus confronts the man with his inability to love God and neighbor.

But, “Desiring to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29).

He doesn’t ask, “How could I possibly love God perfectly?”

He assumes that he does.

He assumes there’s nothing lacking in his heart with respect to God.

He thinks he needs only to define and redefine “neighbor” so that he can keep that, too.

So Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.

If you’re a priest, a levite, or the lawyer—this isn’t a nice parable.

Jesus’ words here hurt, just like when the rich young ruler went away sad when Jesus told him to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor (cf. Luke 18:18-30).

These words are Law, spoken to break our self-justifications, so we can know our need for and receive the Gospel.

This is how God bestows mercy on us.

This is how He has compassion on us.

First, the diagnosis. Then, the cure.

And then, the prescription.

“A man was going…from Jerusalem to Jericho and…fell among robbers, who stripped him…beat him and departed, leaving him half dead…A priest was going down that road…and when he saw him he passed by on the other side…Likewise a Levite…[who] passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan…came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (Luke 10:30-33).

Jesus then asks, “‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ [The lawyer] said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-37).

Forget for a moment that this conversation is between a lawyer who doesn’t get it and Jesus who’s teaching about eternal life.

We can’t hear these words and refuse to help someone in need.

“You go, and do likewise.”

Sometimes, help takes the form of a $5 sandwich, or $50 for groceries, or a meal they didn’t cook, on plates they don’t have to wash, eaten at a table they don’t have to clean up.

Who hasn’t needed that?

And so, Christians help.

But this is true, too:

Sometimes, the help a person needs is an empty stomach that’s had to survive on beans, rice, and lard.

That can be help, exactly the help you need, if—for example—you’re unwilling to work.

St. Paul writes, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Help, whether it’s the help you need yourself or the help you need to give, is not always a happy thing. Christians are commanded to help those in need—even and especially if they’re people you don’t like.

Love hurts.

That’s why it’s important that a Samaritan is the good guy in the parable—and the priest and the Levite aren’t. The ones who should help—don’t, and the one you don’t expect to help—does.

Jesus’ words cause some embarrassment here, on purpose, since we like our enemies to suffer and our friends to succeed. But see, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The Good Samaritan helps a man who’s unfit to pay him back and, moreover, the Good Samaritan promises to pay for whatever else is needed to care for the man.

That’s an unattainable standard.

This parable is told to a man who desires to justify himself, and so, this part of the parable must first condemn all.

Everyone knows the Good Samaritan is the good guy.

No one wants to be the priest or levite.

But you aren’t the Good Samaritan, because you have a breaking point, a stopping point, a point at which you have to say, “No more.”

You’ll pay someone else’s bills—to a point, right?

But thank God you can evict him now, right?

You’ll do all the chores, without help and without complaint—for a time. Until you snap.

You’ll even love the unloveable—until your body gives out and you become a wailing, wretched mess.

All it takes is one bad day.

The Good Samaritan has no such limit.

He says, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back” (Luke 10:35).

That’s perfect love.

You’re not the Good Samaritan.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help. The Good Samaritan’s the only one who proved to be a neighbor, showing mercy.

But this lawyer desired to justify himself, and that must be destroyed.

Here, then, is the first way to read this parable: The priest and the Levite are unbelievers and those who claim to be Christians yet justify themselves, glorify themselves, and thank God for themselves.

The Samaritan is Jesus.

And you are the man left for dead, the one Jesus sees, the one upon whom He has compassion. He binds you up, applies oil and wine, carries him to an inn, and takes care of him.

Jesus has done that for each of us.

At one point, each of us had a heartbeat and no faith.

Left for dead in our trespasses and sins, then, our Lord came to deliver.

On us all, He had compassion.

With oil and wine He heals our wounds.

Oil, applied to the baptized or to the sick, is a fragrant remembrance of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Oil, in Scripture, has to do with healing.

We read in James chapter five: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:14-15).

Our own rites for Holy Baptism have a place for anointing with oil, as do the visitation rites for the sick, distressed, and dying.

The Good Samaritan applies oil, because Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to help, save, comfort, and defend us all.

Regarding wine—we know Jesus took the cup, after supper, and when He had given thanks, that He gave it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins…” (cf. Matthew 26).

Wine gladdens the heart (cf. Psalm 104:15)…

Is good for the stomach (1 Timothy 5:23)…

And was chosen, by God, to be the means by which we receive the all-availing sacrifice of Jesus’ blood—with His body, under the bread—for the forgiveness of our sins.

With these, our Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Jesus, the Good Samaritan, brings the man left for dead to an inn. The man can’t make the journey himself, so Jesus brings you into the inn of the Church.

And I think this is the best example of what the Office of the Holy Ministry is: you don’t survive off of the innkeeper—your survive off of the Word of the One who promises to make all things right when He returns.

I may plant.

And another may water.

But God gives the growth.

The Good Samaritan takes two denarii, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and tells the inn-keeping pastors, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back” (Luke 10:35).

That is the Lord’s bounty.

We may not be sufficient to the task, but He always is.

Jesus, the Good Samaritan, has gone. He’s ascended to His Father, and we see Him no more.

But we wait for Him to return—as He’s promised.

We are the man left for dead.

On our own, we couldn’t get to the inn.

On our own, we have nothing, are nothing, can do nothing.

But upon us, Jesus has compassion.

God’s bestows mercy and salvation upon humanity.

The lawyer must have been heartbroken since he desired to justify himself.

But you can rejoice.

You can’t “do” salvation.

But Jesus, the Good Samaritan, sees you, knows you, has compassion, and takes care of you.

From now unto life everlasting.

Having received His mercy, then, go and do likewise.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2021
Luke 10:23-37
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Does Jesus ever lie?

Of course not.

But when Jesus says, “Do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28), does He mean what He says? If the lawyer “does this,” if he loves God and neighbor, will he inherit eternal life—is that what Jesus means?

Actually, yes.

What Jesus says is, of course, true. Keep the Law in its totality, and you will live eternally.

But St. Paul writes, and this is also true, that “If a law had been given that could give life, righteousness would indeed be by the law” (cf. Galatians 3:21).

That is to say, there’s no law given that can give us life.

It’s impossible for us to keep the Law unto eternal life, and yet—we’re commanded to do so.

“Do this, and you will live” is law and promise.

The Law is good.

It’s God’s word, God’s will.

The dynamic in Lutheranism of Law and Gospel sometimes—and inadvertently—teaches us to pit the Word of God against itself.

Law, bad.

Gospel, good.

Law, damnation.

Gospel, salvation.

Law, death.

Gospel, life.

But Jesus says, “Do this, and you will live.”

That’s law, a command, a perfect summary of the Ten Commandments. Do this law, and this promise is added: “…you will live.”

The Law is good. It promises salvation—just like the gospel does, but it requires unattainable perfection.

That doesn’t mean the Law is bad—that means we are no longer very good, as God created us.

St. Paul makes it clear—there’s no law that can give us life. He writes that “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22).

So—the Law is good. The Law promises salvation.

But not to anyone who does not keep it perfectly, which is to say, not to you.

Jesus says what He does, because the lawyer’s putting Jesus to the test, desiring to justify himself.

He doesn’t desire to justify God, which is right.

He doesn’t desire to be justified by God, which is necessary.

He desires to justify himself, which is impossible.

The Law does promise life and salvation. Jesus says so.

But—and we all know this—salvation by the Law is impossible.

The parable of the Good Samaritan answers two questions specifically: 1) Can the Law save?

It answers this question practically, with a clear—no.

The second question is: who is the Good Samaritan? And the answer to that is also clear.

Thus says the Lord: “‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise'” (Luke 10:30-37).

Can the Law save you?

Clearly, no.

You are the man, beaten and left for dead. The priest and Levite, servants of the Law, pass you by.

They offer no help to one who is dead in sin, because the Law offers no help to one who is dead in sin.

But something unexpectedly good has come out of Nazareth—the plan of God from before the foundation of the world—the truly Good Samaritan—Jesus the Christ.

He applies the medicine of immortality to the one who is dead in his trespasses and sins, which is to say—you.

He gives water and bread and wine, simple things to which God has attached the promise of life eternal.

He brings you to the inn, the Church, He pays for your care, and provides an inn-keeping Pastor for you, that the medicine may be applied as needed.

And He promises to return. To settle accounts.

To make things right.

The Law cannot save you, but the Good Samaritan, Jesus the Christ, can and does.

That seems to answer the second question, right.

Jesus is the Good Samaritan who finds the beaten, half-dead man, binding up his wounds, whether that man’s in the parable or in the pew.

Jesus is the Good Samaritan who found you by the side of the road, dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, who applied the water of Holy Baptism to you and fed you with simple temporal, bread and wine, and eternal things, His Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of your sins.

Jesus is the Good Samaritan.

That’s the first part of the answer to our second question, but Jesus has a bit more to say.

The Law is good.

It’s true, primarily, the Law shows us our sin.

It’s true that, hearing the gospel, we hear the words, “Do this and you will live,” and we know we can’t “Do this…” perfectly.

We hear Jesus say, “You go, and do likewise,” and we say, “Yes Lord, but I’m the one who needs the help.”

And I don’t mean that falsely.

It’s the prayer of faith that flees to God for refuge and strength: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

But here is where you must realize the help that God has provided.

He sent His Son, the Good Samaritan, to seek and find you, to bind you up, to feed and clothe you, to help you in time of need, to give you life when all you had was death.

What is there that cannot be endured if life is waiting for you, come what may?

I’m not saying that’s easy. But I am saying that’s true.

You—the Christian—need to hear this parable as God’s plan for your salvation.

You were lost and dead.

Christ finds you and gives you life.

That’s the way of it.

But you—the Christian—also need to hear this parable as an exhortation to live and practice the Christian faith.

First, Jesus is the Good Samaritan.

And then, once you realize how you have been saved and by whom, then, you are free to be the Good Samaritan that your neighbor needs.

Saved, now, not by works of the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Galatians 2:16), you bind up the wounds of the sick, poor, and dying, and you bring them to the same inn where God serves and saves you.

And now, you—the Christian—recognize the Law for the good and godly guide it is.

Do this, and you will live—not because you can save yourself—you’ve been carried by Christ to Church and washed and fed. He keeps you.

Jesus says, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37) so your neighbor, left for dead on the side of the road, in need of help the world cannot provide, would rejoice, with you, in the truly Good Samaritan.

Like the lawyer, you can’t justify yourself.

But the Lord our God is just.

He sent His Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our savior.

He justifies sinners and sends them out to serve.

Believe this, and you will live.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 13 Sermon, 2020
Luke 10:23-37
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt