9-11-22 Trinity 13

September 11, 2022
Series:
Passage: Luke 10:23-37
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God’s law is simply beautiful. The psalmists says he meditates on it day and night, that he gets up before the sun dawns because he’s so excited about the law that he can’t sleep. God’s law sets before you this amazing happiness that you could strive and strive for all your life and yet never even get close to. It sets unreachable standards and yet they are standards so obviously good and perfect that to replace them with anything else would be monstrous and disastrous. It shows us a way of life, which if we could have it, we would pity the richest, most beautiful, most famous people on earth, because they would have no riches or beauty or glory compared to what the law can give. We should be admirers of this law. To admire the Law is to admire God Himself, to peer into His righteousness and the wisdom and order and beauty of His creation.

So it should be no surprise to us that Jesus speaks so highly of the law today. He says to the lawyer, Do it and you will live. That’s how beautiful and amazing this law is – if you could keep it you would never die, you would live forever with God in perfect peace. When the Bible says that the law cannot save you, that you can’t be saved by the works of the law, it is not in any way speaking against the law, lowering it, diminishing it. It is exalting it. You can’t be saved by it because it is that good, too good for you, unreachable, perfect love that never fails and never falters, a love that is the expression of God’s own will and character, a love beyond the reach of your sinful heart and mind to do. It requires all, the best, the perfect. Hear it again: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength. All means all. Perfect means perfect. It is unreachably good.

So we always exalt the law. Jesus always exalts the law. Not one jot, not one tittle will drop from it until all is fulfilled, he says. And the more He exalts the law the more we see three things, three things that we’ll spend our time thinking on this morning and I hope throughout our week. First, that the law is good, it’s good for us and for everyone to keep with all we can muster in this life and with still sinful flesh. Second, that Jesus uses the law for an even more beautiful purpose, as a tutor to lead us to Him. And third, that Jesus is the great keeper of the Law and so the only way to true happiness.

First, the law is good for us and for everyone to keep. It is unreachably good, but it wasn’t unreachable in the beginning. It is what we were made to do. To love God perfectly and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is what we will do in heaven. It is the description of paradise. It is still what you are made to do, and to the extent that you keep it, even imperfectly, on this earth, it will still give you amazing rewards. It won’t save you and bring you to heaven but it will very often save you from hurting yourself and others in this life.

When Jesus says, “Do this and you will live,” it should remind you of the countless times in the Old Testament the Lord tells his people that if they keep His law they will live, live well, live long in the land. The most familiar is the promise attached to the fourth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth.” But this same promise is attached to all the law, every commandment, do it and you will live well. Very often, when I give advice as your pastor, whether in a sermon or in Bible study or in private, I speak God’s law to you, and I do it for no other reason than because I love you and want you to be happy. Wives who submit to their husbands are happy people. Husbands who treat their wives with dignity and care for them are happy. Parents who discipline their children are happy parents. Children who obey their parents are happy children and then usually become happy adults. Married or unmarried who fight against ungodly lust and don’t act on it are happy for doing it. People who don’t drink or drink moderately are happier than drunks. People who say good things about their neighbors and defend their reputations are so much happier than gossipers. This is simply built into your nature as a human being. This is how God made you, made reality. Obey the law and the law will reward you. Disobey it, and O will it pain you.

This goes not just for us as Christians but for literally everyone, for our government and our society, everyone. You are not a happy person when you scream my body my choice and encourage people to murder their unborn children. That is, according to definition, according to the very nature of humanity, an unhappy thing. When we Christians insist that God’s law should govern our country’s laws and our behavior, this is an act of love. Especially in our day with the outrageous sexual sins that grip our society, when we insist on decency, marriage between one man and one woman, that a man is a man and a woman a woman and you can no more switch from male to female than you can switch from an ostrich to a walrus, we are advocating for people’s happiness. And every secular study agrees with this. Common sense agrees with this. The leading cause of poverty, of drug use, of crime and jail time, and every other metric of misery, is fatherlessness. Not respecting marriage between one man and one woman for life. That’s what brings misery. A society that wantonly defies God’s law, marriage, fatherhood and motherhood, hurts everyone, including us and our children. The existence of an abortion clinic in our town is our business. Guys in dresses selling our children books or coffee or a burger, that’s our business. If we or our children are surrounded by this and begin to think it normal and accept it, it will do what it always does, bring ruin and misery and unhappiness also on us and our families. So it went with Sodom, so it went with Judah, so it went with Rome. So it always goes. The cry of the faithful goes out, “It is time for you to act, O Lord, for they have regarded your Law as nothing.” (Ps. 119:126). And the Lord will act. He always does.

But when we keep the law of God, revere it, love it, see it as that high and mighty law that our nature was created to obey, it will bring with it its good things. The children will have daddies and mommies, they will learn to respect authority and to work hard, husbands and wives will live in contentment, the poor will be cared for, and peace will reign in the land. This is the outward good the law still gives, even to those who only obey it imperfectly and outwardly.

But we will never keep the law perfectly in this life. This isn’t a discouragement, a “well you can’t, so don’t even try,” no, it is a sobering fact that should humble you and drive you to Jesus. This is how Jesus uses the law with the lawyer. Do it and you will live, not just happy on earth, but forever. Do it. Perfectly. Go ahead and try. It’s like a doctor with a stubborn patient. My doctor told me I couldn’t run anymore. I said that’s ridiculous and I ran anyway. And my knee started clicking and swelling up and hurting constantly and keeping me up at night. Go ahead and try it, the doctor said, and you’ll see. And I did. And I saw. And it hurt. So Jesus gives the law as the tutor to lead us back to Him. Go ahead and try to do it perfectly. Go ahead and think you can do it and please God in every single thing you do and say and think, devote all your heart to him, and then love your neighbor as yourself. Do it.

And this is the reason for Jesus’ giving the parable of the good Samaritan. Who is your neighbor? Your enemy, if he’s in need and you’re the only one there to help him, he’s your neighbor. Love him. There was no greater or nastier rivalry than that between the Jew and the Samaritan. They absolutely hated each other. The Samaritan woman is surprised and offended when Jesus, a Jew, even acknowledges her existence, even speaks to her. They’re supposed to hate one another, be the worst of enemies. So when that Samaritan stoops down to that halfdead Jew, bandages his enemy, pours oil and wine on his wounds, puts him on his own animal, brings him to the inn, pays his own money and promises more to care for him, that is far and above the love this poor lawyer thought the law required of him. Jesus meant to crush him. He meant to show him that no matter how hard he tried, he would never get to the height of the law’s perfection, to love even your worst enemy as yourself.

And Jesus does this to us. It’s the most beautiful use of the law. St. Paul calls it our tutor to bring us to Christ. Jesus shows us what our sin has done to us. We know what is good, but we can’t do it. We want what is good and then we see ourselves doing and thinking what we know is evil. We sincerely try to not worry about money, to not grow bitter against the one who has sinned against us, to forgive and forget, to be content with what God has given us, and then we find ourselves complaining or worrying or hating or clinging to the grudge. And then we see again the law, as good as it is, as much happiness as it can give, as high and beautiful as it is, it cannot be, it never will be, our way to God, to heaven, to perfect righteousness. It will every day show us we need a Savior. Its beauty will show our ugliness. Its light our darkness. Its height our depth.

But then the Savior comes, God in human flesh. Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and hear what you hear. Many kings and prophets longed to see it and to hear it, but never did. Finally, the One who fulfills the law, who reaches even beyond its height, who transcends its beauty, who surpasses its perfection. He has come. He loves even His enemies, lays down His life for them, suffers what they deserve, loves them beyond what the Law could ever demand. The good Samaritan shows how far we are from the fulfilling the law – we don’t even love our loved ones completely, but this Samaritan loves his enemy to the extreme. But here also is the most comforting picture of our Lord Jesus. He is the good Samaritan. He is the One who sees you who should be His enemy beaten and halfdead, helpless to save yourself. He is the One who brings you back to life, bandages your wounds, brings you into His Church where He pays to have you nursed to life. And He pays with things far more precious than silver or gold. He pays with His life and His blood and His suffering and His death. A price He is happy to pay for you to hear the words of forgiveness, to inherit everlasting life with Him.

And so this height of the law, so beautiful, so unreachable, Jesus not only reaches it in your place but He pours it into your lap, rich measure, shaken up, pressed down, and running over. It’s yours. As if you loved God through all your life with all your heart and soul and strength and mind, as if you had done no wrong to your neighbor but loved him constantly as yourself. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what is poured into your lap. The Father looks at you who trust in the Lord Jesus and sees perfect righteousness, absolute innocence, the law fulfilled in all its beauty and height and glory, not because you did it, but because your Lord did it and gave it to you.

And this makes you love the law. If it condemns you it drives you to Jesus who makes you righteous. If it instructs you, it does so for your happiness and for your neighbor’s good. And when you see that your Lord fulfilled it, and did it for you, went where you could not go and paid what you could not pay, then you see the most beautiful and wonderful thing the world has ever seen, what kings and prophets desired to see, what angels desire still to look into. And when you see things so beautiful, you want to do it yourself, it’s inspiring, it’s compelling. You get to begin to keep the law. Without fear of condemnation because Jesus has already done it for you. You get to begin to know the rapture of loving the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. You get to practice it every day. And the imperfection and the failure will daily be forgiven until finally you will find in heaven that there is no more failure, nothing but perfect love, and that you have reached that great goal for which the Father created you, the Son redeemed you, and the Holy Spirit brought you to faith. Amen.

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