Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
The word for today is justification – that is, how do I become righteous – on this question all of the religion in the world hangs, and there are only 2 choices – there are only 2 religions – the first way is salvation by works, which asks the question – what must I do to be saved? The second is the Christian religion which teaches salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Salvation by grace though faith in Christ means that I do nothing to merit or earn salvation – God gives me an undeserved gift – God has mercy on me and gives me what I cannot achieve for myself – God declares me righteous, not because I am perfect – I am a sinner – but the blood of Jesus Christ washes away all my sin, guilt and shame, gives me peace with God, and eternal life.
Our text begins with the question – what shall I do to inherit eternal life? In other words, here is someone trying to save himself by his works. Jesus refers him to the law, for if you want to save yourself by works, you must keep the law perfectly. What does the law say? I can be summarized in this way, you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. The problem is that the law is absolute, there are no exceptions, and there are no excuses – if you fail in one part, if you fail on any occasion, you perish. If you will be saved by the law you must keep it perfectly, at all times.
Trying to justify himself, the lawyer then asks – and who is my neighbor? And in answering this question Jesus does several things, he shows what a neighbor looks like, but he doesn’t do it by showing us something we can do to be saved, rather he shows us what God is doing to save us. You see the point of the text is not, that we should all be good Samaritans, the point is that that God is the Good Samaritan – he has compassion on the weak, half dead, traveler who had fallen among thieves. God doesn’t heal us because we deserve it, God in mercy gives us what we need, and what we are unable to provide for ourselves.
So, do we try to justify ourselves? Every day – with every excuse we offer, we fall into the trap of trying to save ourselves. We might say, I, a poor miserable sinner – but then we are quick to add some excuse, some reason, something that says we couldn’t help ourselves, and shouldn’t be held responsible. I tried hard. I’m not as bad as others. I meant well. (I’m not as bad as the priest or that levite) And when we sin, we hope that some good work, some sacrifice can set things right again – but there is only one sacrifice that can do that, and it is not our sacrifice, but Jesus sacrifice, his body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.
You see, God is the Good Samaritan, he finds us dead in trespasses and sin, he binds our wounds, he heals us, he makes us a new creation, he takes away our sins – God pays all the cost to give us eternal life. That is why we keep on saying that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, and not of works. If we are saved, God gets all the credit, because he did everything necessary.
Once we are saved, there is a second thing we learn from this text, for this text shows all believers how to express our gratitude for the free salvation that is ours in Christ. Since we have experienced God’s grace and mercy, since we have been saved by his love – God calls on us to share this with others, that they too may be saved.
We reach out, not to save ourselves, not to justify ourselves, not to earn God’s love or favor, not to deserve forgiveness – for it is clear that we are not saved by our works, but by grace though faith in Jesus Christ. We reach out to bring people to the one who does save, and we do it with thanks and appreciation – because what we have in Christ is exactly what we need, everything necessary, and it is all a gift, given by God in love.
What moves us? Compassion. Where does compassion come from? I comes from experiencing someone who loves us enough to provide for us in need, to forgive us, while we were still sinners – and this is what we have found in Christ.