Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
What must we do? This is a question humanity has asked from the dawn of time. It is even believed that the first sin of the world was that humanity began to ask this question, that we must do something to gain or achieve the love of God. The serpent in the garden convinced the first family that God did not create them perfect, that He did not give us knowledge. So the serpent suggested that maybe we should do something so that we could gain what was missing, eat something.
What must we do? It is a common question, each of us have probably asked it once or twice. We may have even asked that very when we woke up this morning. What must I do to gain the favor of God? We can come up with countless answers to this question.
Throughout history people have been trying to answer this question, yet the question remains. For millennia the greatest human minds have been working on this question, but it still remains. The answers vary throughout the cultures yet there is still one thing that remains, a fragment of the truth. Things like karma, is an answer that states what ever you do will come back to you, the good and the bad. Yes that is just some eastern spiritual gibberish but there is a fraction of truth.
For thousands of years the Jewish community, the community that had a finger on the pulse of the very breath of the universe, had come very close to the answer yet even they only had a fragment. We see this in the scripture.
The lawyer comes to test Jesus. He asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He asks the very question that echoes from the dawn of the ages. Jesus answers him saying, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
The children of Judah can trace their roots back to a man that listened to a whisper in the chaotic world, a voice that asked a man to do one thing only, to trust. This man lived his life on the very breath of God. He put all of his faith on a whisper, “Go and I will make you a nation.” There is an answer in that, if one nation has their finger raised into the wind of the whisper of God. This one man listened to the whisper, and left all he knew to find all he wanted. A nation was built and that nation was given the book of the law.
Jesus answers the question by asking this man to look through his own history, what does the book say? The answer, “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.”
This simple answer is the easiest and most difficult answer to understand. Jesus looks straight in the man’s eyes and says, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” I imagine he then turned away to begin walking. Leaving the man standing there just like each of us. We wonder as well. Just like that a simple answer leaves us wondering… what? What must we do? Just like that we again are thrown into a loop. Ever circling back over what must we do?
The man, a teacher, a lawyer who knows the law feels justified in his understanding. He has been living and teaching this law as long as he could remember, yet in a moment he questions Jesus and himself, “who is my neighbor?”
Throughout all of human history we have asked this one thing, what must we do? Jesus tells us a story that we have heard numerous times. A man gets beat up and robbed on the way to Jericho. He is left on the side of the road bleeding. Three people come across this man. The first is a righteous man, a priest, who has devoted his life to loving God. This man has dedicated his life, has stood between God and mankind for his entire life, the gatekeeper. The number one thing of the law is that it proves that we cannot make it on our own. The world leaves us broken and beaten; we need help to save us from ourselves. This man has stood in that place, the gatekeeper helping people to the promise. Providing the sacrifices that heal the wounds, yet there when a man is lying broken and in need he walks to the other side.
We wonder why this man did this, we wonder why a man that has dedicated his life to assist others in need would leave this broken man laying there on the ground, but we know the answer.
The second man was a Levite. Like the priest the Levite ahs dedicated his life to the service of God. While the priest stands before the alter, the Levite is the assistant. They are the ones that sing in the choir, they distribute the alms to the poor. The Levites are the ones that have given their lives to support the ministry of the priests. Yet even this man walks to the other side of the road, leaving the man still broken and bleeding on the ground. We wonder again why a person that volunteers their time to serve God would leave this man. We wonder but we know the answer.
We know the answer because we ask the question, “What must we do?” For the priest he must do much, the sins of the community are on his shoulders. He must listen to the prayers, hear the confessions, and offer the sacrifices. This man must stay above, separated from the world. It is easy for us to judge this priest but what would you think of a priest that would be found getting involved with such an unreligious and dirty situation? What would you think if a priest or man of God would be found in the news on the wrong side of a political situation? That is what this is; the bandits on the roads were often the freedom fighters trying to fund their war against the Romans.
But the Levite, this man is not a priest. The Levite is not held at the same level, but there are standards for religious people. Religious people should live a certain way, and not get involved in the things of the world. A beaten man, a man caught in the middle of the gang warfare, is one of those things that the religious people just do not get involved with. We would prefer to overlook these sorts of things, sweep them under the rug and forget about them. We wonder why they could just leave this man hurting on the side of the road but how often do we walk on the other side of the road?
How many times have we, in our righteousness, turned our faces from the ugliness of the world around us and simply walked away? In our quests to do the right things we too walk on the wrong side of the road. We overlook things and justify in our own minds that we are doing the right things. How can we judge the priest and Levite for leaving the man lying on the ground bleeding, when we ourselves drive on past the homeless man or woman sitting on the corner? How can we judge the priest and Levite when we too look away as children, women, and men are being exploited?
Jesus tells this story to a man that had dedicated his life to the law of God, a righteous and religious person. Yet it is not the religious person that is the hero of the story, but the enemy of God. The Samaritan is a man that comes from the people that turned their backs on the pure and true faith, seen through the eyes of the Jews. Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom, the kingdom that fled from the rule of Jerusalem after the death of Solomon. They left the kingdom and established their own nation, their own place of worship, their own priests and worshiped in their own way. Because of this they were seen as lesser humans to the pure and faithful.
This Samaritan, walks by the beaten man and has compassion for him. The righteous ones walk on the other side of the road, but the dog of the north has compassion. This man administers a healing balm to the cuts and bruises, pays for lodging and meals, and promises to come back to pay for more if it is needed. Jesus then asks the man was a neighbor to the man?
Which person loved God? Which loved their neighbor? Love is the first and only command of God. Love God and Love mankind. We cannot love God without showing mercy to those around us. We cannot love others without loving God. Love is the breath of God. What prompted Abraham to leave his family’s house to explore a life with God? It was the breath of God, giving a hope to a man that had no hope. His wife was barren when they left Ur, and Abraham was full of love to share. No other god gave him hope, but this God that whispers in the language of Love.
We miss the whispers when we are busy trying to do the things to make ourselves worthy of God’s graces. We cannot hear the whispers of God if we reject God’s language. When we reject the calls to give mercy to others because our minds are filled with the static of self-righteousness, we reject God. When we fail to give mercy to others because our minds are focused on personal gain we reject love and we reject the breath of God. When our lives are filled with the white noise of the countless things that clutter our minds and consume our time, we cannot detect the whisper. A while back I went in for a free screening to test my ears, it was a pretty thorough test. They did the traditional buzzing in my ears asking me to raise my hand when I heard the noise. Then they began to pump noise in one ear and asked me to detect the sound in the other; quickly I realized that I was unable to hear. I could not tell if the buzz was real or just my imagination. I then began to realize that that is what we do to God.
We turn the volume up on everything around us. We clutter our lives with distractions only to find that we can no longer detect the whispers of God. We think we are hearing Him, but is it our imagination? We over compensate by applying our knowledge of the scriptures or various doctrines of the faith, but are we listening to the whispers of God? We apply our worldly wisdoms and our personal philosophies of life to the things around us, but in doing so are we loving God and loving our neighbor? We judge, we draw lines, we close doors, and set standards but in doing so have we crossed the street leaving a broken hurting person laying in the ditch reaching out for help, all the while distracted by the doings of life to hear the whisper of God prompting us to reflect His mercy.
I stand up here and I speak these words knowing full well that I have crossed the road. Yet God still whispers. After all the times I have rejected Him, He still whispers and prompts change. Slowly one step at a time, one sin at a time, one distraction at a time His voice grows louder as I turn closer to Him. What initiates this change? Someone along the way did not cross the street when I was the one bruised and broken. Someone along the path saw my need and listened to the whisper of God. Which of the men was a neighbor to the broken man on the roadside, the one that gave mercy. Jesus looks the lawyer in the eyes and tells him, “Go and do likewise.”
What must I do to gain eternal life? Show mercy to the broken people in this world, help those in need, and sacrifice yourself for the good of other. 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 love your neighbor as yourself.” Love… That is what Christ did for all of us. We did not deserve His love, but He gave it to us anyway. Love so deep and powerful that He gave submitted to the pain and shame of the cross, taking our place. And He then says Go and do like wise.
As we enter into a time of open worship, let us just celebrate the great love that God has shown us. Love that he has shown us through the lives of those that have helped us when we were broken and bruised, and that great love of our savior who was born, lived and taught, died and raised from the dead to give us the greatest hope of all, life with God.