Reflections: September 6, 2020
The 13th Sunday after Trinity
By Mark Buetow
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The man wanted to justify himself. Don't we all? We want God and everyone else to know why we do what we do, why we behave the way we do, why we should be excused for anything we do wrong and rewarded for anything we do right. We want God to think we are good people and therefore deserve to go to heaven.
This young man wanted to justify himself, too. Easy! Just do what the Law says. Love God and love your neighbor. No problem, as long as my neighbor is someone easy to love, right? I mean, I don't have to love people I don't like, right?
The story of the Good Samaritan is the way that Jesus turns the tables on the guy who wants to justify himself. Priest? Didn't help the guy. Levite? Didn't help the guy. Samaritan? He helped. There you go, right? Be like the Samaritan and help others. Except the guy who wants to justify himself isn't the Samaritan. He's the guy in the ditch! The guy who got beat up and can't save himself and is going to die if someone doesn't help him!
That's the young man talking. That's you and me. The devil comes along and trips us up into sin. The Law passes by and says, "Help yourself and keep the commandments." We can't. We're bleeding out. We're doomed. Jesus shows up. He saves us. He gives His life for us and rises again. He brings us to His Church and pours in the oil and wine of our Baptism and His Supper. He puts us in the care of His pastors until He comes again. That's how you're saved, not because you're a good person, and not because you can somehow justify yourself.
We can't justify ourselves. Jesus justifies us. He saves us. Where the Law would pass us by and leave us to die, Jesus tends to us and cares for us, at His own expense, the expense of His very life! That is what saves us. Who is your neighbor? Jesus, who rescues you from the ditch of sin and death! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, and as we do obtain that which You promise, make us to love that which You command; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 13th Sunday after Trinity)
-Rev. Mark Buetow is the pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois.
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