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"Which One of These Are we?"

Luke 10:23-37

Rev. Kurt Hering

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 

Sermons from February 8, 2015 to October 16, 2016 preached to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

Have you ever heard the adage, “He is so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good”? That could be the moral of today’s Gospel—if the Gospel was about morals.

To hear the entire sermon preached for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, click on the MP3 audio link provided above. The audio 2 Chronicles 28:8-15. The sermon begins at the 14:54 point of the mp3 file.

A servant of the Word and His folk,

Pastor Hering

For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript follows below.

TEXT: Luke 10:23–37

Turning to the disciples [Jesus] said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “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.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He 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. 35And 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.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Dear people of God,

What is it the disciples saw that prophets and kings, the priest and the Levite—and, of course, the lawyer—didn’t see?

The kingdom of heaven is at hand in Jesus of Nazareth. What they had heard, indeed were still hearing and what was being missed by the lawyer, is that this Jesus was and is the Christ of God. This one Whom he dared to cross-examine was the heavenly Messiah for Whom he and all the prophets, scribes and keepers of the Law were waiting. And there the Messiah was right before his very eyes, come to earth in the flesh to join together again that which man had separated in the beginning—heaven and earth.

Have you ever heard the adage, “He is so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good”? That could be the moral of today’s Gospel—if the Gospel was about morals.

The lawyer really was so heavenly minded he was of no earthly good. The kingdom of heaven was at hand, staring him right in the face conversing with him in the flesh, telling him that eternal life was set before him for the living.

What was he missing? We need only examine his two questions of Jesus.

1. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

2. “And who is my neighbor?”

In his first question we see the misconception that every single person ever born into this world of an earthly father and mother has packed into his genetic code. The misconception that eternal life is something set before us to be earned by our right thinking, feeling, and behavior; or to be built by our own creativity, skill, and will power with our own blood, sweat, and tears. His question is the question we all have on our lips from the time we are born, even embedded in our genetic code from the time of our conception: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

And the answer is: Nothing. Eternal life is set before us as a “gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” And it is only faith that receives and knows it. It is only with the eyes of faith that one sees the eternal life we have in Christ Jesus. It is only with the ears of faith that one hears and believes. And, as we heard last week, that hearing comes only from the Word of God—the same Word of God Who was standing there in the flesh, talking to the lawyer, telling him a story to show him that eternal life is simply set before him for the living.

And that eternal life begins, ends, and all along the way is about Jesus, the Son of the living God—or, if you prefer, the Son of the God of all the living.

Now back to the lawyer’s second question. In it we see the selfish, inward turned eyes of unbelief that are born of our sinful, genetic code. In asking, “And who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer really is, “Who is deserving of my attention?”; or maybe better yet, “Whom should I serve in order to get the best return on my investment?”

If we are honest with ourselves, this is the same question that the lawyer in us asks when we are overwhelmed with or caught in our own guilt. Just as the lawyer asked it desiring to justify himself, so also do we trying to justify ourselves and let ourselves off the hook with the same sort of questions. 

The priest and the Levite didn’t despise the man on the road so much as they valued their own life. Yet, isn’t that what it means to despise or hate? Isn’t that what the lawyer’s question comes down to? And isn’t that our persistent problem as well?

In keeping with the lawyer’s question, Jesus did what He always did when unbelieving skeptics challenged Him. He told him a story. And as always, within that story was hidden an answer that could only be fully revealed when the eyes of faith see exactly Who it is telling the story.

Jesus did answer the lawyer’s question—with an equally lawyerly response—another question. And in both the story of the Good Samaritan as well as His concluding question and exhortation, Jesus was being something of a wiseguy with this wise cracking lawyer. Both His question and exhortation are dripping with sarcasm:

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Yeah, “You go, and do likewise.” Just try it. Both Jesus and the lawyer knew it wasn’t gonna happen--Jesus because He is the Son of God, Who knows everything; the lawyer because he knows himself and his despising of unclean things that might in turn make him unclean and keep him from obtaining eternal life.

But do you know what is the most ironic thing of all, and the reason behind Jesus’ righteous and heavenly sarcasm? The lawyer should have known the answer to his own question. “And who is my neighbor?” Indeed, perhaps he did and that is why Jesus went along with his little game.

Think about it. Words mean things. Isn’t the answer to the lawyers question the most obvious thing in the world? “And who is my neighbor?” Isn’t your neighbor the person you are with at the moment—the person closest to you who is hearing your words and being affected by your actions right now—and vice versa?

Who was the lawyer’s neighbor but Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God come to have mercy on this lawyer and all sinners.

And who is our neighbor now but this same Jesus? He comes to be our neighbor for our salvation and eternal life in the DS so we can see Him in every neighbor we come across in our daily lives out in the world as He speaks of in Matthew 25 in speaking of the sheep and the goats.

So finally, let me ask the question of the day for you, the question of your entire life in which eternity is in the balance for you.

“Which of These Three Are You?”

• Born a priest and Levite.

• Left on the road dying.

• Rescued by Jesus, The Good Samaritan

• Become a lawyer when we live in the flesh.

Can we really be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good? Well, yes. The lawyer is witness to and evidence of that. But only when we have a false idea of what it means to be heavenly minded and how one comes to eternal life.

The truth is, not only are we of no earthly good unless we are totally heavenly minded and have Jesus in sight, but there is no eternal life and no kingdom of heaven for us.

What must you do to inherit eternal life?

Nothing. Just know your neighbor. He is Jesus, come in the flesh. Find Him first of all in the hearing of His Word. Then find Him every day of your life in the lives of all your neighbors as He journeys down the road with you. He indeed is the road of heaven and is always before you—as well beneath you, above you and all around you. For this is the baptismal life into which you are born from above to be so heavenly minded that you are of every earthly good--in the name of the Father ,and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.

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