Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday July 10th 2016 - / Luke 10:25-37 / Inheriting Eternal Life
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 10th 2016: The Season of Pentecost, Luke 10:25-36. "Inheriting Eternal Life"
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And 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 neighbour as yourself.” And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus 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. 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 neighbour 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.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Our Gospel reading today is one where people just love to dive right on into the parable part of the parable of the Good Samaritan, but let's not skip over the first part, the set up, the question that Jesus is being asked. Here we have a teacher of the Law, a lawyer who is asking the question, he asks Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Maybe he was looking for an answer like, 'you must be a Jew, and if a man, a circumcised Jew, who has kept the covenant,' it seems as if he's expecting Jesus to say, 'you must be a Jew and you must keep the law.' But Jesus turns it back to him and asks, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” basically Jesus is saying to the lawyer, 'if you're so smart tell me, I think you're just testing me anyways, In fact I think you all ready have an answer in mind - so spit it out. What do you think the answer is?'
before we go any further we need to stop. Did you hear the odd thing that was in the lawyer's question? Here's the question again: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Have you ever inherited something or received an inheritance? The painful reality of an inheritance is that someone has to die in order for you to receive it. And unless it's an oddly unfamiliar distant relative it will actually turn out to be someone awfully close to you who has to die for you to receive their inheritance, it will be a person you know very well; in fact it will likely be a family member who you love very much: a mother or father, perhaps a grandparent or aunt or uncle of some kind. Let's get back to the lawyer. Who is the one who has Eternal Life to give, who could will it to you? God is eternal - man is mortal, so in order for a person to inherit The Eternal Life that God has, then God must die, God must will it to you and then He must die in order for you to have it.
So to recap quickly, the lawyer, this teacher of the law, is looking for a way to earn something that is not earnable, he's trying to earn something that is freely given. Truly the lawyer is looking at eternal life and the "getting" of it as a transaction. He wants to see what Jesus will say: Will Jesus say that this teacher of the law, this lawyer, is worthy of eternal life and if not what will Jesus say that the lawyer has to do to be worth of eternal life.
Now there are times when families end up fighting over an inheritance. Of course you've never heard of that happening before. There are also times when family members feel slighted in one way or another over an inheritance. Of course you've never heard of that happening before either. Mostly this is the case because people in the family get it into their heads that receiving an inheritance is related to how much the individual who died liked the one receiving the inheritance. Or it's related to who deserves it the most. Did they visit grandma every Sunday Afternoon, did they shovel dad's side walk every time it snowed, did they send aunt Mildred a card every Christmas? How close were they to the person, did they disappoint them with poor life choices, did they argue all the time? If so maybe they'd get less of an inheritance or nothing at all. Or even if that's not entirely true that's what family and friends speculate about after the will has been opened and the executor has started executing the wishes of the deceased. But is it this way with God? Is it this way with the inheritance of eternal life? Does God give eternal life to the ones he likes best, who did the little things for Him, does He only give it to the ones who never disappointed Him, not once, not ever? Who has never disappointed God, is there anyone who has never disappointed God, is there anyone who has kept the law of God without fault?
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [Jesus] said to [the lawyer], “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And [the lawyer] 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 neighbour as yourself.” And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Had the lawyer done this? Could the lawyer do this? Could he go and do as Jesus said? Could he love the Lord his God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength and with all his mind, and then likewise love his neighbour as he loved himself? Hearing this, did he think, 'well if that is what it takes then I'm out of the inheritance.' Or maybe he did think he was doing it. But then there is the whole idea that an inheritance requires a death. Did the lawyer think that his own death would be sufficient to inherit eternal life, he couldn't will it to himself he didn't have it to give. You can't will an inheritance to yourself.
So to recap quickly: regardless of our human frailties and whatever family twists and turns might present themselves the fact of the matter is that no inheritance is given to anyone without a death, and it's not a death that you have died, you - the recipient of the inheritance - don't die in order to receive the inheritance and furthermore whether you have been stellar or abysmal makes no difference because truly the one who gives the inheritance chooses who they will give too, so even that is not up to the recipient it must by its very nature be a gift. This is what makes the question asked by the lawyer to Jesus in our Gospel lesson today so peculiar, so irrational, even suspicious.
So if it's not about doing something, how then does someone receive the inheritance of eternal life? St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians says, "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages [God] might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." So again this is not something you get by doing something, no, this inheritance is something received as a gift on account of Christ Jesus.
Now in the Gospel of St. John Jesus says to His disciples of Himself that He is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” and that, "No one comes to the Father except through [Him]." Earlier in John's Gospel we hear how Jesus was given to all people as a gift when we read the famous words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Jesus then is the answer to the question asked by the lawyer from our Gospel reading this morning. The lawyer asks Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus could have just as well said "I am the Life which you seek." To Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” As Christians, based on what Jesus Christ teaches, we teach that there is no way to inherit eternal life except in Christ Jesus. Now the man asking is a teacher of the law, he's a lawyer so you'd think that he'd understand or at least see the irrational nature of his question, no one can really do anything to inherit anything. With an inheritance someone dies and then you receive what was theirs. Like I said, this doesn't require you doing something: It requires someone else's death.
As this lawyer comes with his question Jesus knows that He Himself, is the answer to the question. Jesus knows that this eternal life that the lawyer seeks will be won for the lawyer, and for you, and for me at the cross; Jesus is the one who dies so that you can have the inheritance of eternal life: Furthermore, on the one hand, Jesus is the one who truly loves the Lord His God with all His heart and with all His soul and with all His strength and with all His mind, and then likewise loves His neighbour as Himself; Where, on the other hand, you, I and the lawyer didn’t, and don't always love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul with all our strength and all our mind, and haven’t, and won't, always love our neighbour as we love ourselves. So in this way we have to receive it as a gift, we can't receive it on our own merits.
So with that squared away what impact might that have on understanding the parable that Jesus teaches to the teacher of the law? We often look at the parable of the Good Samaritan from a rather moralistic vantage point, we think that the Good Samaritan should be us, that we should be the one taking care of the man set upon by robbers. However, primarily, the Good Samaritan isn’t you; in the parable Jesus teaches that the Good Samaritan is Him. Jesus is the Good Samaritan and you are the one who was set upon by robbers and left for dead at the side of the road. And no one will stop for you but Jesus, because Jesus is the one who truly and perfectly loves His neighbour as He loves Himself. In fact most people who might think to stop will more than likely pick your pocket or kick you while you’re down, but not Jesus. Jesus is the one who will rescue you from the eternal death that is coming your way and from all your enemies, He binds you up and makes you whole, He alone can give you life and snatch you from the jaws of death. As you lay by the side of the road it is Jesus who sees your poor condition, He sees your sin which has left you so beaten and dead that you can do nothing to improve your sorry state. Jesus is the one who scoops you up, washes you in the waters of baptism, gives you His very own body and blood in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion to strengthen you. He is the one who pays the price for you recovery, He’s the one - by His Holy Spirit - who puts you into the church where you will be looked after. Jesus is the one who promises to return for you on The Last Day, the one who promises to take you to Himself when you die so that you may be where He is.
One last thing about the lawyer, his question was one of those questions that Jesus gets asked often, the kind of question that's meant to trip Jesus up and discredit Him in the eyes of the people. So Jesus is having a little good natured fun with the lawyer by making the man who stops to help in His parable a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews were bitterly divided peoples they had common ancestral roots but were at odds with each other. The idea that a Samaritan would stop to help a Jew or vice versa was outlandish - the fact that the lawyer came seeking to trick, test and trap Jesus in a gotch'a style question indicates that the lawyer wouldn't expect that Jesus Himself was the answer to his question, for all the world the lawyer was more than likely to think of Jesus as someone no better than a Samaritan in his eyes. To the lawyer it would be an unexpected turn of events that eternal life would be inherited to him through this Jesus who stood before him that day. So today I want you to hear that Jesus is always the Good Samaritan, He’s always the unexpected one who will pick you up from the side of the road each and every time you are laying there. He will always be merciful and kind and loving to you. He is the one who gives you eternal life.
So keeping this in its proper perspective, seeing Jesus first and foremost as The Good Samaritan, When it comes to those you have contact with in this life, then and only then can you endeavour to, strive to and struggle to be like Jesus, the Good Samaritan, in relation to them, in relation to your neighbour who is in need: And when you’re not like Him turn to Him for forgiveness and He will forgive you.
Lastly remember, you are Jesus' neighbour and He loves you perfectly with all His heart, all His soul, all His strength and all His mind. This is Jesus, this is Jesus for you! By His death He gives to you the inheritance, He gives you eternal life and in His resurrection you will be able to share in the inheritance with Him and with all those who receive it. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Ephesians 2:4-9
 John 14:6
 John 3:16
 John 11:25-26
 John 14:3