᛭ INI ᛭
(5. Oops!: Our flesh creates a caste system for us and for others.)
Because of your fallen human nature, you walk around with a hidden caste system in your head. A system where we break people up into different categories and groups. You know who’s in, who’s out. There are those you treat well and those you don’t. I don’t just mean to their face. We’re usually kind when the person’s around, but there are those people for whom that rule doesn’t apply when they’re not.
Your system is unique to you, but there’s always some overlap with others. You got most of your system of those who are good and those who aren’t from your parents. (They got it from theirs.) Your children got it from you. Your grandchildren from you, too. As one hymn puts it: “Fallen Adam’s children learning Lessons fallen parents taught.” (LSB 527:2)
Categories, labels run amuck out in the world: Woke, BLM, deplorable, right, left, phobic this or that. That’s just institutional Old Adam. In our community it’s much closer to home.
“Oh, I’m not like that, pastor.” Oh, yes you are! In your personal life you are. People carry the weight of their last name and the rumors, half-truths, and maybe truths about them. You do, too! You’d never do it my presence (I’m not naïve), but give me enough time, and I’ll find a person, a family, a group of people where the judgments and condemnations start flying, where all respect and kindness go right out the window if not in your words in your thoughts.
That sort of behavior shouldn’t be among the saints of God, says James. But it’s all variations on a very old theme. Almost as old as the human race. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain’s question. Or, since lawyers are good at reframing arguments, let’s put Cain’s question another way, “Who is my neighbor?”
(4. Ugh!: In your Old Adam and Eve, you’re all the lawyer, seeking to justify yourselves—a dead end.)
In our personal lives we ask the same thing, and our behavior proves that we’ve come to the same conclusion as the lawyer. “Not everyone is my neighbor,” at least not neighbor enough for me to treat them in a neighborly way all the time. (Like even when they’re absent.)
He might be called “old”, but Old Adam never grows up. He’s still doing the same things, always thinking more highly of himself than he should, too big for his breeches. He can’t even ask a decent question! “Who’s my neighbor?” is actually the wrong question! “How can I prove to be a neighbor?” is the correct one, but we ask it the way we do, we behave the way we do, because, like the lawyer, we’re all seeking to justify ourselves.
We’re all try to make up for our failures, or, at least, remember the failures of others to offset our own. We create excuses for ourselves and cells for others, so that “love your neighbor” doesn’t include, well, you know who it is for you. The human way of thinking we fall back on when judging ourselves and others is that the Law will save us. So we redefine God’s Law in whatever way makes us look good. Old Adam keeps the letter of His Law and ignores His intent. Old Adam will keep it only outwardly, where other people can see, while our actual motives are hidden.
But the Law was never given to give life! It’s actually a dead end. That’s Paul’s point in Galatians. “The Scriptures locked up everything under sin, so that the promise of the faith in Jesus Christ would be given to those who believe.” And all our figuring, recalculating, redefining, limiting, or over-exaggerating of God’s Law shows how dead we are.
(3. Aha!: Jesus tells this parable to the self-righteous, Old-Adam lawyer.)
Jesus is locking everything up, too! His little Q&A session with the Lawyer is meant to lock him up under sin. The only reason Jesus entertains the Lawyer’s questions at all is to show him, to show you, for who you really are. Every Law question is met with a Law answer from Jesus. “Do this and live.” And the human response is basically “Do I really have to?” “Who is my neighbor?”
God’s Law is unrelenting. Every Law, everywhere “love your neighbor as yourself” is commanded in the Scriptures has “You shall.” But whenever a human being tries to find any way out or just a little wiggle room, gets the same response: “Do it.” “How much is enough?“ “Do it, and you’ll live.” “How long?” “Go and do it.”
Jesus shows something different with His parable, while also excluding all human effort. He tells the parable to the self-righteous Old Adam who would justify Himself. He tells a parable that human reason rejects, but it’s a parable that the Spirit uses to create joy and peace in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus. He tells a parable about Himself.
(2. Whee!: JESUS HAS COMPASSION ON DESTITUTE SINNERS TO SAVE THEM.)
The point of Jesus’ questions and answers as well as His parable is to show the lawyer—and you—that, on your own, you’re in the ditch and can’t do anything about it. The legal requirements of God’s Law can’t help, just like the Priest and the Levite didn’t help. They represent the Law, and the Law cannot give life, cannot give eternal life, won’t earn you an inheritance, won’t save you. The Law will just pass you by; it will always just say, “Do.”
What that man in the ditch needed was a neighbor, a Savior. What the Lawyer needed, what you need, is Jesus. Not the Law. Jesus is the one who comes to save sinners. Not sinners who’ve cleaned up their act, who’ve read their self-help books, made it through an improvement plan, who’ve made up for their sins. No, sinners who are dead before God, worse than “half-dead.”
The point of Jesus’ parable then is this:
JESUS HAS COMPASSION ON DESTITUTE SINNERS TO SAVE THEM.
Jesus saves the poor, miserable sinner. And don’t parade your “feeling sorry” before Jesus. That doesn’t earn squat with Him! Not even a pittance compared to even one of your sins. “Miserable” means beggarly, pitiful, destitute.
But in spite of your destitute spiritual state
JESUS HAS COMPASSION ON DESTITUTE SINNERS TO SAVE THEM.
(1. Yeah!: We are safe and secure with Jesus until He returns to bring us to Himself forever.)
Jesus comes, like the Samaritan to that man. Jesus bears the burdens of your sins Himself. He bears the punishment you deserve. He dies for them. He rises again on the third day.
Not only that: He binds up your wounds. He forgives your sins. He cleans you up, washes your sins away in Holy Baptism. He uses the healing medicine of His body and blood to give forgiveness. He brings you into His Church that daily confesses “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
He puts you in a place where you’ll be taken care of. And here you are taken care of until He returns. It’s the place He’s brought you to be taken care of. No other place to go. No one else has “the words of eternal life” besides your Good Samaritan, Jesus, who HAS COMPASSION ON DESTITUTE SINNERS TO SAVE THEM.
“Blessèd are the ears that hear what you hear!”