Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In our catechism class, we talk about the two components of the Word of God, or the two themes of the Bible. The Law and the Gospel, or we could say, the justice and mercy of God. The Law is the holy will of God for us to live as your children. We find this universal moral law in the Ten Commandments.
And the Ten Commandments have two parts. The first three deal with our relationship with God, beginning with, "Do not have other gods apart from me." And the second, "Love your neighbor as yourself," beginning with "Honor your father and your mother." So, the summary of the moral law is love of God and love of neighbor. Therefore, this is our text for today.
"And behold, a doctor of the law stood up and said, to test him: Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And He said to him: What is written in the law? How do you read? And he answered and said, 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. And he said to him, Well you have answered, do this, and you will live."
This response was not enough. Jesus had said, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see: for I say to you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and hear what you hear, and did not hear it." All His hearers knew the books of the Old Testament, books written before the birth of Jesus, that speak of the covenant that God made with the Israel people before Mount Sinai. This covenant included not only the Ten Commandments, but also many rules to prepare the people to be the nation from which the Messiah, the Savior of the world, would come. What else does Jesus have to say?
In our epistle (Galatians 3: 16-22), St. Paul says that this promise of the Messiah was made to Abraham before the Law that God gave to Moses.
"Now, to Abraham were made the promises, and to his seed. It does not say: And to the seeds, as of many; but as one: And your seed, which is Christ. And this I say: The covenant previously confirmed by God in Christ, the law that came four hundred and thirty years later, does not annul the promise, so as to invalidate the promise. "
God promised Abraham descendants as the stars in the sky or the sand on the shore, but on top of these descendants, one Descendant, which will be the Christ. And the Gospel, or "good news" that Jesus had to proclaim is the Messiah had arrived. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, so Abraham and all of us are saved, not by obedience to the Law, but by faith in the promise.
Because in this sense the fulfillment of the Law is simple: We should only love God and our neighbor. But, as we confess every Sunday, we have not loved God with all our heart and we have not loved our neighbor as we love ourselves. The love of God and our neighbor is not our nature because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. In baptism, we have the gift of a new life, an eternal life, by the work of the Holy Spirit. However, the sinful nature lasts until physical death. So, the Christian life is a struggle against the tendency to sin.
Well, the doctor of the Law knew in his heart that he could not fulfill the Law. But, he did not want to confess his sins and recognize Jesus as his Savior, so he tried to redefine the Law according to his terms. To test Jesus, he asked, "Who is my neighbor?" What he meant was, what are the limits of love of neighbor? What are God's expectations?
"And Jesus answered and said, A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him; and wounding him, they left, leaving him half dead. And it came to pass that a priest descended that way, and when he saw it, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he came near that place and saw it, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on his way, came to him, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him; and coming near, he bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and putting him on his mount, he took him to the inn and took care of him. And another day when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, Take care of him; and all that you spend more, when I return I will pay you. Who, then, of these three seems to you to be the neighbor of the one who fell into the hands of the thieves? "
The Samaritans lived in the same land as the Jews, but they were enemies. From their own perspective, the Jews were the pure race of Abraham, while the Samaritans were a mixture of the blood of the Jews and others. Centuries before, when the Jews returned from their captivity, the Samaritans fought against them. It is similar today, the conflicts between the Jews and the Palestinians, the Arabs who lived on the land before the establishment of the modern nation of Israel by the United Nations in 1948.
However, that Samaritan appeared and for him the past did not matter. He had mercy on the Jew and helped him. In a sense, this is a model of the Law, God's will for us to live. Mercy should not be dependent on nationality or past conflicts.
But there is a deeper level. We read in the Gospel of St. John (John 8:48) that the Pharisees denounced Jesus as a Samaritan. Maybe they had heard gossip that Joseph the carpenter was not the true father of Jesus. In this parable we can see the figure of the Samaritan as the figure of Jesus. For the Jews Jesus did not look agreeable, so they did not accept him as the legitimate Son of David.
But, for the half-dead man, the appearance of his Savior does not matter. And we are more than half dead in our sins. We are completely dead. Blind, deaf, paralyzed. We do not have the ability to get up off the ground. And our Savior is a foreigner, an enemy because of our sinful nature. And He has no obligation to help us. But, in his mercy, Jesus came and paid everything for us. In addition, he died in our places and suffered in our places the punishment of our sins.
Because God is just, someone should satisfy the justice of God. But God did not want anyone's destruction, so he sent Jesus to satisfy justice on the cross. We are saved by unmerited grace, which is the mercy of God. And because the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, we can show the same quality of mercy to others that God has shown to us. We have reason to look for ways to help others in their afflictions and share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. It does not matter race, nationality or past conflicts. The Law is like a mirror to show us our sins, to recognize our need for a Savior. But, the Law does not save us. Salvation is in the Gospel, in it we have the hope and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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