God commands you today to love Him with all your heart and soul and strength and mind. He also commands you to love your neighbor as yourself.
That is a lot to ask. ALL your heart and soul and strength and mind is a tremendously difficult command. Loving God with 100% of everything is too hard for your flesh to bear, no matter how hard you try. It is, in the end, impossible.
To love your neighbor as yourself is also harder than anyone imagines. Perhaps someone may protect a loved one with great care, as if protecting his own body. Perhaps someone may guard a spouse as himself, or a parent defend a child. But what challenge is it to show love to those close to you?
Christ says that you must love your enemies who despise you. Pray for them, and see to their needs when you have opportunity. You do have enemies, whether you like it or not. The Jews had their Samaritans. There is always someone who hurts you or slanders you. If there is not, then you are already in Paradise, and you don't need this sermon. But if you are still in this vale of tears, then you must also learn to love your enemies as yourself. This your flesh cannot abide.
No one does these things, despite the self-righteous claims of many. All have sinned and fall short of these commands of God. No one loves purely. No one's mercy is steadfast like the Lord's mercy.
But then why does the Lord command you what no one is able to do? Many people say that God would never command something too hard for you. If He says, "Be perfect!" then human strength must be able to be perfect, they say. Likewise, if He says, "Love God with all your heart and strength and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself," then it must be within our ability, they say.
But Scripture says something different. It says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It says that the human heart is corrupt even from childhood, so perfect love is not possible.
Saint Paul says, "The commandment that was supposed to bring life, I found to bring death." In other words, God has commanded you many things that your flesh is simply unable to do. You should receive life as a reward for your obedience to the Law. Instead you find the Law condemning you as a sinner, and sentencing you to death.
It is not God's fault. It is not the fault of His holy commandments. It is your fault, because you are a sinner.
The lawyer, a so-called expert in the Law, thought that the Law is attainable. He thought that he could obey it and receive life. Jesus seemed to encourage him by saying, "Obey these commandments, and you will live." And that is true. If anyone obeys the commandments, then they will enter eternal life simply because of their obedience, without any need of a Savior.
But there's just a tiny problem with that. There is no such person who can obey the commandments. All have sinned. So Christ wanted the lawyer to see this fact. He wanted the man to realize his sinfulness and repent, and be turned to Christ for salvation.
But the expert in the law could not see what was right in front of his eyes. The very Man he was talking to was the only One who ever completely, fully loved God and purely, perfectly loved His neighbor. The expert in the law could not see the Law's fulfillment in human flesh. He could not recognize Love incarnate. He could not see that here was the salvation of all men, for that is what His Name means, "Jesus" the Savior.
May you see Him when He is before your eyes. His Body and Blood are here today, and He is speaking His Word in this place, and freely bestows His own forgiveness. Today He is giving you a righteousness that is not by the Law, but by free grace. May the Spirit open your eyes to recognize Him, so that you do not rely on your own righteousness to justify yourself, as the lawyer did.
No expert in the Law can save you, but only Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law. No priest or Levite can save you, except the High Priest who offered Himself as the final, one and only sacrifice for all sins, including yours.
The priest and Levite in the parable walked by on the other side when they saw a man in need. Their love was not enough to give aid. Christ did not say why they walked by on the other side. It is easy to imagine possible motives for these men. Perhaps they were afraid of becoming defiled by a dead body and becoming ceremonially unclean. Perhaps they were afraid of being entangled in the problems of the injured man, or becoming a target for a family's blind vengeance. Perhaps the priest or Levite, like the lawyer, were not certain who their neighbor was. So it would be easy to say, "Well, THIS man is not my neighbor," to justify ignoring his needs.
Sinful human flesh has many excuses. Many reasons are used to justify a failure to help. Human flesh is always trying to make itself look righteous by giving excuses.
But as the people of God, you should clearly see the truth. You are not healthy examples of strength and love. No, you are weak and frail. Your flesh is dead in sin. Even now, after the Spirit has brought you to faith and your wounds are bound up by the Gospel, still you must be carried by your Good Samaritan. You cannot walk by yourself, but must be laid upon a dumb animal to the house where He continues to heal you. You are at the same time both dead and alive, both saint and sinner. You are forgiven and fully possess Christ's gift of eternal life. But at the same time, you are unable to do anything by your own strength, since you have been brutally wounded in your soul by sin. You are completely saved, yet still in constant need of His saving Word.
See this truth, and understand it, and repent. Since you cannot do anything, you need someone to love you, to show mercy to you, to heal you, to pay for you, to give you a dwelling place, to revive you from the dead. Christ is your only true Neighbor, the only one who could do all this for you. He has fulfilled the Law in your place and has brought you God's mercy. Your true Neighbor continues to give you the gifts of pure love and life in this House of healing where His Name dwells.
Especially, Christ is the One who put Himself in your place. This means that He purposefully walked the path of danger where bandits were sure to attack Him. This earth is the place of danger where bloodthirsty murderers live. He came to His own people whom He lovingly created from dust and gave the breath of life. But they in turn attacked Him and robbed Him of His lifeblood. We are the enemies of God who murdered His only-begotten Son. Yet He walked into our grasp, knowing full-well what would happen, and let Himself be beaten and killed.
Even in death, He has given you life. From the tomb, He has created the healing for your soul. By His death and resurrection, you have everlasting life, and shall never die. For Christ alone has truly loved even His enemies. He has loved you, and has reconciled you to His Father. So He no longer calls you enemies, but His beloved friends, even His brothers and sisters.
Your Good Samaritan is Christ the Lord. Only He could give you what you needed, the oil and wine of true healing. This He has accomplished for you, now in this place, and to the resurrection and all eternity. All glory be to His holy Name, above all names, with the Father and the Spirit. Amen.
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