What Does God Want Done?
"What does God want done?" Our 1,300 year-old Collect focuses on that. We pray that we "may cheerfully accomplish whatever things" the Almighty and Most Merciful God wants done.
God is clear in our text what He wants done. "Do this and you will live," He says to the religious lawyer. The doing that the Almighty, Most Merciful God wants done is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and will all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."
Read a dozen sermons on this text. In 11 out of 12 this doing will be the "Gospel." This doing will be what this text is all about. You're the priest or the Levite if you pass by the guy with the sign on the corner. You're the Good Samaritan when you give him a dollar. I'm going to leave the bar of the Law this low for right now, but even so, will you clear it every day of your life? On an average day I pass 6 or more corner people looking for handouts. Every day with everyone will I be the Good Samaritan with the cash or will I be the priest and Levite with his window rolled up?
So even if this text is what the majority of churches teach and most people believe - I'm not to pass by anyone in need at any time - does this teaching leave you with any cheerfulness to accomplish anything? But this is the answer Jesus leaves you with IF, and this is a big IF, if you're like the Jewish lawyer. Did you hear how he was described in the opening? He stood up to Jesus. Don't think this merely states a physical posture. It can refer to that but in situations of confrontation like when Jesus visited His hometown the word is used to describe how the people rose up in hopes of killing Him by driving Him off a hill.
The word can also refer to resisting Jesus' teaching, and grammatically it's the main thing the lawyer was doing. He resisted, opposed, stood up to Jesus' teaching that God had hidden His Gospel from the wise and understanding and revealed it to babes and that only God the Son could reveal God the Father. Opposing these teachings led the lawyer to test or tempt Jesus. The word the insert translates "test" can be translated "tempt." In either case it's an intensified form. The lawyer meant to thoroughly tempt or test Jesus when He said, "What must I do to inherit enteral life?"
If you're a tester or a tempter of God as He is revealed in Jesus the answer to what God wants you to do is "do the Commandments and you will live." Off you go now. Get on with it. And notice at this point in the text we're not to the priest, Levite, or Samaritan, we're just to the bald-faced, open-ended commandments to love God and neighbor. If you're a resister of the Gospel and so a tempter and tester of God Almighty, leave here knowing God requires your complete love of Him and everyone in your life before you can go to heaven.
But Jesus doesn't stop there because the lawyer doesn't stop opposing or tempting Him. "Just who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asks as if the loving was easy as long as you knew who you were to love. And again the Almighty and Most Merciful God is clear what He wants done, "Go and do likewise," He says.
Be State Farm, be a good neighbor for anyone in need. Cheerfully go into a dangerous situation. While you're travelling in a strange place, not when you're commuting like the priest and Levite were, stop to help the half-dead, totally naked man at the vacant rest stop. Care for him through the night putting his bloody wreck of a body on your leather seats. Then drive him to a motel leaving the manager enough money for two months' worth of food and lodging and leave your credit card as a guarantee for whatever else that total stranger spends.
As for that dollar, that 5 dollars, that 20 dollars you give to the homeless guy at Christmas, God laughs in your face if you think you've done as the Good Samaritan did. You think you are going and doing like the Good Samaritan did when you drop a can in the foodbank bin or give to the charity of your choice at work. Hah! The only way you'll pay for two months' food and lodging for a stranger at a motel is if your credit card gets stolen!
But this is the answer to what God wants you to do IF, and this is another big IF, if you are like this lawyer who resists and tempts the Gospel and then in the face of sharpest law you seek to justify yourself. Read the insert; that's what the text says the lawyer does in response to Jesus' preaching of the Law. "But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Every time you make a promise to do better keeping God's laws, every time you make an excuse for why you broke one of His laws, you are seeking to justify yourself, and God demands that you go and do what the Samaritan did.
However, if you are not opposing the Gospel for babies and fools, if you're not tempting God Almighty with your wit and wisdom, if you're not trying to justify yourself, God wants you to do something else: Nothing. He wants you to be the man who does absolutely nothing in this text. Not the priest who has an excuse for why he turned away from the beaten man, if he had been dead he would have lost his share of the temple food for him and his family by making himself unclean. Jesus wants you to be the man who does nothing, not the Levite who says at least I went up to where the poor man was lying. And Jesus certainly doesn't want you to be the Samaritan who does everything because that's Him.
The only choices of who hearers of this text can be are the beaten man, the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan. Under the Law the priest and the Levite can't cheerfully accomplish anything but to abandon a man to his wounds. And the Samaritan does what no human could ever do. The only person for you to be in this text is the man who did nothing but go down from to Jerusalem and fall into the hands of robbers.
See that you have fallen into the hands of robbers who have stripped you of your salvation, robbed you of your peace of mind, and stolen your cheerfulness. Do you think God sent His only beloved Son into the world to redeem it from damnation so you could worry day in and day out about your salvation? Do your think God loaded the sins of the world upon the conscience of His sinless Son so your mind could be troubled by sins that won't let you rest? Do you think God the Father had His Son beaten into hopeless damnation and death to sentence you to the life of despairing Eeyore?
How many of us spend our Christian lives stripped of all the glories and joys of the Faith and half-dead to all its promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation? We look hopefully to the Law passing by thinking maybe if I tried harder, loved more, believed more, I would be better. We hear the priests and Levites championing the law tell us all God is doing for them and all they are doing for others, and we see they're more cheerful than us and conclude we don't have enough law. No, according to this text the one who doesn't have enough law is the one who resists the simple Gospel, seeks to tempt God's promises, and wishes to justify himself.
No, don't get up from where you lie. Don't try to restore the tattered shreds of your hope, joy, or forgiveness by your efforts. The only one the Good Samaritan rescues is the naked, good as dead man. And that Good Samaritan is no one else but Christ. This is the consistent teaching of the early centuries of the church (Bailey, 54), and of later centuries too. Ambrose says, "'Who is he except He who descended from heaven'" (ACC, III, 179)? And this was Luther's teaching as well, "Therefore He also calls Himself alone our neighbor in the parable of the Samaritan in Luke" (LW 29, 134).
Jesus' enemies called Him that in John 8:48, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan?" And the phrase that says the Samaritan "took pity" is that one Greek word used in the Gospels of Jesus only. Nine times specifically of Jesus and three times of the Jesus figure in a parable. In Matthew 18:22 of the forgiving king. In Luke 15:20 of the father of the Prodigal Son is, and here of the Good Samaritan.
What does the Almighty and Most Merciful God want you to cheerfully accomplish today? Lie there and have the Good Samaritan pity you and bind up your wounds. Jesus paid a frightful price in order to be able to do this for you. He lived a perfect life in an imperfect world. When Sin, Death, and the Devil tempted Him every day and wearied Him every night, Jesus remained sinless in a flesh and blood that is no different, no more powerful or healthy than yours. And then on a battered, bloodied body He carried to the cross your sins that shred your joy and tear open deep gashes of guilt and paid for them there. And finally, He rose in a glorified body that couldn't be chased by Sins that were paid for, by a Death that had been died already, or a Devil who had lost the teeth of the Law against sinners.
Yes, this is the truth of this text that has been lost by many. Jesus is the Good Samaritan, you're the good as dead man, and the inn Jesus carries you to is His Church (Trench, 323). Here in the Church, Baptism, Absolution, and Communion bind up your wounds by applying Christ and His forgiveness to them. The Sacraments have often been called bandages for the wounds of the soul (Ibid. 324-5).
Healed people, whole people, forgiven people cheerfully accomplish whatever God wants done. This is a difference between us and the Reformed. They believe forgiven people still need to be goaded into good works; hence they preach this parable, "Go do as the Good Samaritan did." For Lutherans as naturally as a healed, healthy tree bears fruit, so do people (Scaer, Law and Gospel, 80-1). So true Lutherans preach, "Stay and have the Samaritan do unto you." Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (20160710); Luke 10: 25-37