Lord, teach us to know love and always to practice it. Amen.
Text: Luke 10:23-37
And He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The teacher of the law knew well what God wants us to do and he had good opportunity to keep the law, but didn’t. Likewise the priest and the Levite. They both came from the Temple service in Jerusalem, and they both happened upon someone in crying need, that calls for mercy, but they pulled themselves away and passed by and didn’t do what they knew they should. They didn’t do what they could to get to heaven, but they did what they could to enter hell. God placed this poor man in their path, but they turned away and didn’t go to the home of love. “Do this,” says the Lord to the teacher of the law, before He tells the parable. “Go, and do likewise,” He says after He told it. These words: “Do this,” God’s Spirit wants to lay on our heart today.
The priest and the Levite had done their Temple service, kept the Sabbath, and brought their prayers and offerings. For so long they had read and heard the command to love without following it, that their outward worship seemed enough to them. The teacher of the law was perhaps not so secure. His insight into the law and his conversation with Jesus show that there was still something better in him, even though he asked his question almost to test the Lord. What became of him, we do not know, but we hope that he went away and did like the Samaritan, and that he is in heaven. Does God’s Word promise us heaven for our deeds? No, it’s like this: When someone wants to do God’s will from his heart, this desire is worked in him by God Himself. And when he continues in it and examines himself sincerely according to the command to love, then he realizes two things more and more clearly: 1) What he does is his obligation, and 2) he does not do it from a pure heart and holy love, as he should. He doesn’t stop with the Second Table like the teacher of the law, but acknowledges that first and foremost he should love God with all his heart. He learns that he is a sinner, and not merely from book knowledge about man’s original sin and actual sin, but in living experience. Then that person becomes mortally wounded, saved not by the priest and the Levite, but by the Samaritan, – just as the law cannot make alive, but the merciful Lord Jesus does. So he receives life and salvation, and now he delights in doing good, and his righteousness and his hope are only in Jesus’ merit and blood.
Go now and do this: love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The poor are in your path; there you can find God. Do like the Samaritan! Isn’t this good and right? Let love take root in your heart, flourish on your tongue, and bear fruit in your deeds. If you take your neighbor with you, like the Samaritan, then he shall receive you into everlasting habitations [Luk 16:9], “but if you pass by him like the priest and the Levite, then he will stand in your way and shut you out of heaven.” “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” [Mat 5:7]. Dear friend, go and do this!
Lord Jesus, give us Your Holy Spirit to do this! O give us Your Holy Spirit! Amen.
Love doth crown the life eternal,
Love the brightness is of light,
Therefore on His throne supernal
Jesus sits in glory bright;
He, the light and life of heaven,
Who Himself for us hath given,
Still abides and reigns above
In His Father’s boundless love.
Love, alone the law fulfilling,
Is the bond of perfectness,
Love, who came a victim willing,
Paid our debt and brought us peace;
Therefore love and peace in union
Ever grow in sweet communion,
And through love we may abide
One with Him who for us died.
Grundtvig: Love, the fount of light from heaven L 227:2-3 LHy 448:2-3 tr. C. Døving;
tune: Du, O schönes Weltgebäude (ELH 336); alternate hymn: Hark, the voice of Jesus crying ELH 191:4