5th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 10 – C)
July 14, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
Back in the day, an indicator of how trendy and fashionable you were was your shoes. It seemed like every guy wanted the Nike white leather tennis shoes with the red swoosh. I remember thinking how cool I was when I finally got my first of many pairs. It was about this time when Nike debuted their slogan, Just Do It. It was a powerful message of encouragement to get up and follow your dreams. I don’t know if they still use Just Do It as an official slogan or not, but even if they don’t, many people know it. Just Do It can fit a variety of circumstances and I think it even applies to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Gospel begins with the age-old question, “What must I do to be saved?” In this case the lawyer was testing Jesus to see if he could get Jesus to answer incorrectly. Being a lawyer meant he was an expert in Jewish religious law and as an expert he clearly knew what the Jews believed about being saved. He wasn’t asking out of a deep desire to know because he already thought he had eternal life. It’s always tempting to make Jewish religious leaders out to be bad guys, but the lawyer probably was a good man. He knew the law and he did his best to keep it. He tithed, he worshipped, and he avoided the things that he would make him unfit to be one of God’s chosen people.
Jesus was a great teacher and as one He led the man to find the answer for himself. “You know the Law. What’s written in it?” This the man knows; love God and your neighbor. You want to be saved? Just Do It. Do the Law by keeping it and you will live forever. That sounds easy enough, right? Just Do It. Do what God tells you to do and you’re saved. Do it and you’re on the way to salvation.
Over my years as a pastor I’ve learned that people are still asking the same question: “What must I do to be saved?” They may not phrase it this way, but that’s what they’re asking. Think about this way: if I were to ask you right now the question, “Are you saved and going to Heaven?” How would you answer? Think about it. What’s your answer? If you’re thinking something like “I hope so”, you’re asking “What must I do to be saved?” You’re saying “I hope I’ve done enough. I hope I’ve been a good enough person. I’m not perfect but I’ve tried, and that’s all God can ask of me. I hope God doesn’t hold my past or my sins against me.”
If you didn’t think “I hope so” and instead thought “Yep, I sure am saved”, why did you say yes? Did you say yes because you’re a good person? Did you say yes because like the lawyer, you know the law and you think you’ve kept it? “I haven’t murdered. I haven’t stolen. I haven’t had an affair.” Do you compare yourself to the Ten Commandments and see that you’ve done pretty well over the years? Do you think you’re saved because you’re a good Christian? If this is true, you’re saved. God told you to Just Do It, just do the law and you’ll be saved. What Jesus says is true: keep the Law and you’ll be saved. This is easy, right? Do your best to be a good Christian and you’ve done it.
Like people everywhere, the lawyer just didn’t it. He thinks he’s kept the law and should be saved. But then he asks the question, “Who is my neighbor?” He knows who God is but the fact that he can’t identify his neighbor reveals what’s really in his heart and it’s not love for his neighbor. Since he’s lacking love, he’s failed at the keeping the law. He just didn’t do it. And as much as you may not like to hear it, you’re not doing it either. You may try keep the law, but you break it every day. You help your friends and the neighbors you like, but you ignore your enemies or those you don’t really like. You think you keep the law, but you don’t. Just do it isn’t going to happen. You’re not saved because you’ve kept the law fairly well and you’re not saved because you’ve tried your best. The lawyer wasn’t saved this way, and neither are you.
To understand Jesus and Just Do It, you have to see this parable in a different way. The parable about the Good Samaritan isn’t primarily about you, it is a little, which we’ll get to in a bit, but it isn’t about doing something to be saved. It’s not about good works or the lack of good works. It’s about your salvation!
“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.” This is you! You’re the person travelling through this life being mugged, beaten, and left for dead by the heartaches, the pains, the sins of this world. It’s not wrong to say that you’re left not just half dead but all dead because that’s what sin has done to you. Sin has left you dead on the side of life and like the man in the parable you need help! And you’re not going to find help by keeping the law and being the best Christian you can be. If you look to what you’ve done, salvation is just going to pass you by.
If you want to be saved, if you want to know what you must do to be forgiven and granted eternal life, you have to look at the Good Samaritan who is also the Compassionate Samaritan. This parable is about Jesus who finds you beaten, robbed, and dead. He sees you and has compassion on you. He goes out of His way to save you. Think about all that the Good Samaritan did for the victim. He stopped his journey, he patched the man up, he transported him to an inn, took care of him, and then paid for further care. The Son of God put aside His heavenly glory and honor to come to earth. The Son of God put aside His needs to meet yours. Jesus saw that you were dead and gave you life by taking your place in death. It’s Jesus who binds up your wounds and pours on them His blood. It’s Jesus who didn’t pay for your salvation with a couple of coins, but with His holy, precious body and blood.
This is how you’re saved! This is how all your sins of the past, present, and future are forgiven. This is how you obtain eternal life! It’s not about you or what you do, because you can’t Just Do It! You’ll never love God or your neighbor well enough. You’ll never keep the law even in its tiniest form. But Jesus did! He kept the Law perfectly as He loved His Father, His neighbors, and, yes, even His enemies. And for a brief period of time He allowed Himself to be mugged by Sin and Death, to die on the cross, so that you will live!
When you understand this, when you see that Jesus is the one who has saved you, when you see that Jesus is the one who frees you from the burden of having to be perfect to be saved, you can give yourself over to God and let Him be the sole source of your salvation. When you understand this then you can see how we serve as neighbors to others. A neighbor is the one who has compassion. God was compassionate, so we are compassionate. We love others because God loved us first. We serve others because God first served us. See where I’m going with this? We Just Do It, we love and serve others because the Good Samaritan has changed us. Jesus says, Just Do It, love others because He has given us the ability to do so. We don’t do good works or our best to keep the law to be saved, but because we are saved. We serve others as Christ serves us.
The lawyer wanted Jesus to identify his neighbors when all he had to do was to look around him. Just by looking around we can see those who need our care. We can see Christians and unbelievers who need our love. There are people all around us who have been beaten down by life and need us to show them the love of Jesus. They need us to meet their physical needs and they need us to bind up their spiritual wounds with the Word of Christ that gives forgiveness, peace, and hope.
I used to be a Nike fan, but not anymore. I hate their politics and I’m not going to support them. To be honest, it’s easy for me to boycott them because my priorities have changed since I was in high school. When our priorities aren’t aligned to Christ’s it’s easy to walk on by the hurting and oppressed around us. But it’s never the right thing to do. To be a Christian means we see them, have compassion on them and Just Do It for them because our Savior Just Did it all for us.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen