Trinity 13, 2015

 

The Epistle. Galatians 3:16-22

The Gospel. Luke 10:23-37

 

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

 

 

In Matthew’s Gospel, the 25th chapter beginning at the 31st verse, we read these words….

 

       “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me,

I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)

 

In the sermon last week, the concept of Justification was at the forefront. 

How are we just before God?  Answer: By faith in Christ….

 

Can we do anything to justify ourselves?  Answer: No, it is the righteous works of Christ that satisfy the requirements of the Law of God and we enter through being covered by the blood of Christ and His righteous works. 

 

Is Justification by faith alone?  Yes. Repeatedly this is the teaching of Scripture.  Old and New Testaments.

 

However, when this doctrine is taught, there is always the risk of some strangely thinking that it means that we can just say we believe in Christ and go on doing whatever we want.  We can just say we have faith and not do anything to demonstrate it.

 

But a correct understanding  of this concept will not lead to one thinking this way…and will definitely not lead one to live that way.

 

This is not what it means to have justifying faith or saving faith.  James has a comment that is almost sort of humorous to read. 

 

He writes, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17 ESV)

 

This is sometimes considered a sort of balancing passage of Scripture to the teaching that faith alone saves.

 

So faith is more than just a bare profession.

Faith alone saves, apart from works, says Paul, and that is true.  We have faith and that justifies us before God.  Works are an outgrowth of faith. 

 

Not many people will profess to have faith and then and then suddenly drop dead without any chance of doing any sort of work.

 

Are they saved by faith?  Yes.  But this is hardly the norm.

 

Most of us have faith, and part of our faith is to act on it by following all of the imperatives Paul and Jesus and the others tell us about. 

 

Again, we just don't rely on the works we do to merit eternal life.  Our works are done as an expression of our love for God and neighbor and our gratitude that we have been saved by God’s grace through faith.

 

So with that set up, we now have a Scripture passage before us.  Matthew 25.  Acting on our profession of faith, we serve our neighbor.  And in doing so, Jesus says we are doing it ultimately unto Him. 

 

In serving others, we are obeying Christ.  Our faith is active.

 

This is the point of our Prayer for today.  “Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Two lines in that prayer in particular are the summarization of our Lessons for today from the Gospel and Epistle.

 

Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel lesson today has a number of aspects to it. 

 

Jesus has sent out 72 of His followers.  They go out in pairs.  They are not to even take money, bags or sandals.  They are to preach the Kingdom and Christ’s arrival.  They return joyful that even the demons are subject to them.

 

They have had such success.

 

And Jesus is joyful that the Kingdom is being preached.  Yet he warns them not to get too excited about demons being obedient to them but the more important thing is that their names are written in Heaven.

 

Then He says….where we pick up today, skipping down a bit, Luke says: “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Luke 10:25 ESV)

There is the question.  That is the question that lies in the hearts of many.  That is what should lie in our hearts as well.  What must we do to inherit eternal life?  What must we do to be Justified?

 

Now this man was directing this question to Jesus because he was trying to catch Jesus saying something that he could report back to the powers-that-be and have Jesus arrested.

 

But despite Jesus knowing this man’s intent, He goes along and takes the question at face value. 

 

He asks the lawyer, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”

 

And the lawyer rightly summarizes the Law as we do each week here.  

 

“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 neighbor as yourself.’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’” (Luke 10:27-28 ESV)

 

Do this and you shall inherit eternal life.

Do this and you shall be justified.

Jesus is leading this man in a way because Jesus knows that no one is able to do this as he should….to obey these Laws to the fullest extent.

 

But the next line says this: “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

 

And from here on, Jesus delivers another one of the best known and beloved Parables, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

 

Who is my neighbor?  Who is our neighbor?  This Parable tells us exactly who our neighbor is.

 

Two of the men….the first two to go down the road and find the man beaten and half dead….they pass by on the other side. 

 

First a priest….then a Levite.  Both were men, who from their office and profession, ought to have been ready and willing to do good to one in distress.”[1]

 

We need not delve into the reasons why they didn't…..because Jesus doesn't. 

We can see plainly by implication that Jesus introduces two characters who should have had (by their profession) the most willingness to do something.  But they don't.

 

The man who does come down the road is a Samaritan.  It is assumed that the man lying dying on the road is a Jew.  And Jesus introduces a Samaritan to the story. 

John tells us that Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.  In other words, they don't like each other. 

 

OR, since the man’s nationality is not identified, we need not assume a race.  Rather, since the Jews despised the Samaritans, the story is still going to shock Jewish ears (perhaps less so) ….how could a Samaritan do ANYTHING nice to ANYONE??

 

Most likely it's the former.  But either way, the story is to illustrate to us that no matter who it is in need, we are obligated to view them as created in the image of God….they are as special to God as we are and we are obligated to help them in any way that we can.

 

If Christ died for the ungodly….for us….while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, how much easier is it to lend assistance to those for whom Christ also died?

 

Bishop J.C. Ryle says of this passage: “We have in this striking description, an exact picture of what is continually going on in the world. Selfishness is the leading characteristic of the great majority of mankind. That cheap charity which costs nothing more than a trifling subscription or contribution, is common enough.

 

But that self-sacrificing kindness of heart, which cares not what trouble is entailed, so long as good can be done, is a grace which is rarely met with.

 

There are still thousands in trouble who can find no friend or helper and there are still hundreds of ‘priests and Levites’ who see them, but ‘pass by on the other side.’

 

Let us beware of expecting much from the kindness of man. If we do, we shall certainly be disappointed. The longer we live the more clearly we shall see that few people care for others except from interested motives, and that unselfish, disinterested, pure brotherly love, is as scarce as diamonds and rubies. How thankful we ought to be that the Lord Jesus Christ is not like man! His kindness and love are unfailing. He never disappoints any of His friends.”[2]

 

The command, we could say of this Parable of Jesus, illustrates the working faith we are to have.  The faith of the priest and the Levite is demonstrated in this Parable to be dead.

 

Jesus calls us to not be priests and Levites.  He calls us to be Samaritans. He calls us to be neighbors.  He calls us to faith.

 

So, if we still have that first reading I added from Matthew in mind, notice the fruits of faith?  We are now called to act on the faith we profess.

 

Not looking for accolades or the applause of others.  We are called to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.

 

And the passage from Matthew has such a beautiful image to show us.   Because we have Jesus…

The King

The Lord, and The Judge.

 

Ryle again: “The last judgment will be a judgment according to evidence. The works of men are the witnesses which will be brought forward, and above all their works of charity. The question to be ascertained will not merely be what we said, but what we did,—not merely what we professed but what we practiced.

Our works unquestionably will not justify us. We are justified by faith without the deeds of the law. But the truth of our faith will be tested by our lives.”[3]

 

If we pray as we did today, that we are to desire and to do unto God true and laudable service, and so faithfully serve Him, let us begin today. 

 

And again, listen to how true and laudable service manifests itself according to Matthew’s Gospel…

 

Jesus says that we fed him when He was hungry.  We have given Him water to drink when He was thirsty.  We have given Him clothing when He was naked and we visited Him when He was in prison, and when the saints ask “When did we do all of this?  We never saw you hungry, thirsty, naked or alone….and He says,

 

Whenever you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.

Christ’s sheep….. Christ’s people, He says….we will not even be aware most of the time that we are serving Him when we serve our neighbors. 

 

 

We will simply be doing what God, by His grace, has put into our hearts through His Spirit to do. 

 

But that service that we render to our neighbor, as Christians, is true and laudable service ultimately to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 1, p. 376). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[2] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 376–377). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[3] Ryle, J. C. (1860). Expository Thoughts on Matthew (pp. 342–343). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.