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And Who Is My Neighbor?

Luke 10:23-37

Rev. Kurt Hering

13th Sunday after Trinity
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

Play audio of this sermon

Sun, Aug 29, 2021 

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.

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 to His judgment of the sheep and the goats, who ask Him: “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

Created in His image, His will for us is to see God in others and for others to see God in us. Thus, Jesus is both the Samaritan who helps and the one left for dead who is helped.

What must you do to inherit eternal life? Nothing. Just know your neighbor.

And who is your neighbor? He is Jesus, come in the flesh. You find Him first of all by gladly hearing and learning His Word, receiving His forgiveness for NOT seeing Him in your neighbor, coming together at His table for a holy meal with Him and your brothers and sisters in Christ. He sees you and has compassion on you and comes to you here and bound up your wounds, pouring on oil and wine.

To hear the entire sermon as it was preached to the saints at divine Savior-Niwot for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, "And Who Is My Neighbor?" click on the audio link provided above.

Graphic: "Parable of the Good Samaritan," by Jan_Wijnants.

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

Nota Bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Bullet points in the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY after TRINITY:

“And Who Is My Neighbor?”

TEXT: Luke 10:23–37

23Turning 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?”

Dear people of God, our Divine Savior:

It’s a great question the lawyer asks, isn’t it? And Who Is My Neighbor?

The simple answer is, yes, you guessed it, Jesus. Ah, but unlike the lawyer, we don’t have Jesus standing right in front of us. Or do we?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46

Created in His image. He wanted us to see God in others and for others to see God in us.

The answer really is that simple. Life and life together really was created to be that simple. But sin causes us to ask such foolish questions as “And who is my neighbor?” 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 asking, “Who is deserving of my attention?” Of course, the answer to that question is, “Who isn’t?” The lawyer’s first question reveals the real question he has. What shall I do to inherit eternal life? In other words, “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 or just wanting to be free to go our own way. 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. 

At first glance, the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable didn’t despise the man on the road so much as they valued their own life as the measure of all things. Yet, isn’t that what it means to despise or hate—to value others less worthy than ourselves? And 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 virtually 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 haskel, or wiseguy with this wise cracking lawyer. Both His question and exhortation are dripping with what from the mouth of anybody else would well have been considered 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?

Created in His image. God wanted us to see Himself in others and for others to see God in us.

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.

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 sin-infected genetic code--the misconception that eternal life is something set before us as a mere possibility that can only 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 virulent 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 in last week’s word of “Ephphatha,” 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.

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 to His judgment of the sheep and the goats, who ask Him: “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

Created in His image, His will for us is to see God in others and for others to see God in us. Thus, Jesus is both the Samaritan who helps and the one left for dead who is helped.

What must you do to inherit eternal life? Nothing. Just know your neighbor.

And who is your neighbor? He is Jesus, come in the flesh. You find Him first of all by gladly hearing and learning His Word, receiving His forgiveness for NOT seeing Him in your neighbor, coming together at His table for a holy meal with Him and your brothers and sisters in Christ. He sees you and has compassion on you and comes to you here and bound up your wounds, pouring on oil and wine.

Then, as you hold His Word sacred and depart this place, having received His very body and blood you will not only know He is with you always, you will find Him every day of your life in the lives of everyone you see and meet in person--all your neighbors, beginning at home, where sometimes it is the most difficult place and we are the most difficult people in whom to see Jesus as He journeys down the road with you. And finding Jesus in those people we encounter, we can and will forgive them their trespasses against us just as we have been forgiven our trespasses—trespasses in every case that are primarily against God only, if the truth of it be known as we learn from King David and his pastor, Nathan. And in this forgiveness we live with and give to them, they too will see Jesus.

Jesus is indeed 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 earthly good to everyone who is your neighbor--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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