My last two living grandparents have died this past year. With a death comes the reading of the will. You learn what you might get from your deceased relative. Whether you actually get it is sometimes up to the lawyers. Your parent, your grandparent, wanted to give you something as a gift. You didn’t earn it. You didn’t work for it. You just received it, all because you’re related, all because they loved you, as a final gift.
You don’t work to get an inheritance. If you do, your family will be offended. You might be showing you don’t think yourself worthy of gifts, or you might be showing yourself to be greedy. It doesn’t look good or do you any good to try to get more of an inheritance. It’s only all too easy to get into fights over them.
So now you know how horrible it is for this Jewish lawyer to ask: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit life eternal?” He admits eternal life is something we inherit, but he thinks he has to do something to inherit it! But you inherit something because somebody loves you! That means he thinks he has to do something to get God to love him. He has to do the work. He has to appease God. He has to get God’s attention and draw Him down to himself.
But the Scripture says something entirely different. “We love because He first loved us,” St. John writes. You didn’t draw Him to you. He drew you to Him. He loved us before He laid the foundations of the world. He has made you His friend. He did it all. You did nothing. He loves you. That’s why you can inherit eternal life.
There’s no other way for you to get it. God loves you. You don’t deserve it. You can’t do a thing to make Him think you deserve it. If you think you can, just compare yourself with the summary of The Law Jesus said was a good answer. We are called to love the true God. Do we love Him? Yes, you say, I love Him right now. But do you love Him all the time? Consider how sin is hatred of God. It’s telling Him you know better what’s good for you than He does. That’s called rebellion. After all if you know better, you’re not going to do what He desires.
Do you love Him out of all your heart? No, because you have let other things in life get to be more important than He is to you. Do you love Him with all your soul? No, because that would require a perfect trust in Him that you just didn’t have when you were born. Do you love Him with all your strength? No, if only because sin has weakened us and made us unable to serve Him the way He wants us to. Do you love Him with all your mind? No, because your thoughts have been polluted with the sinful desires of the world and our flesh, with greed and lust, hatred and anger. Therefore you have not loved your neighbor as yourself. You have loved yourself far more, been self-centered in your dealings with others, and sought your own good without even wondering what other people need, for everybody is your neighbor.
You have not loved God, and since you haven’t done that, you can’t love your neighbor. There’s no way you could ever attempt to inherit eternal life by what you do. Your works of evil weigh down all your works of good and make them worthless in God’s sight. You cannot inherit eternal life by what you do, but you can indeed earn eternal death. Faith, hope, and love are not written in your DNA. God’s Law says you must be punished. No lawyer can ever get you out of that sentence. You are judged robbed of innocence by Adam’s sin, unable to change your bad condition.
Therefore The Law passed by the nearly dead man. It was not that they didn’t care about him. They just couldn’t do anything for him. They couldn’t give him life. He was never going to be able to keep it. They could only tell him what he deserved for his sins. But since he was already tormented by robbers and about to leave this life, there was nothing for them to do. They kept on going and left him alone to let the inevitable happen. They pronounced him dead.
The Samaritan did not pass by. Samaritans and Jews were enemies, but he helped him. He gave him life. The Samaritan should have gotten a laugh out of his enemy’s dire state, but instead he had compassion on him, for he had mercy with him. He poured olive oil and wine unto his wounds and bandaged him. He put him on his donkey and took him to an inn. He cared for him that night and then paid the innkeeper to keep it up. He promised he could pay even more when he returned.
How much like our Lord Jesus Christ! The Law has pronounced you dead because of your sins. He has come to bring you back to life. He has not merely poured oil and wine onto you. He has poured His Blood onto you. He has even poured it into you. For He poured it onto you when you were baptized, and He pours it into your throat from His cup of salvation. He has brought you to not just any inn, but to His Church, to be cared for with His holy Word by the men He has sent to preach His Word to you until He comes again.
The saving message is this: Christ became your beast of burden. Israel’s high priest confessed the people’s sins onto the head of a goat and sent it out to die in the wilderness. Christ Jesus bore your sins and death in His Body on the tree outside the camp of Jerusalem. He was thoroughly, completely punished for them. He suffered all death has to offer: His soul separated from His Body, and while He suffered on that Cross, His Father forced Him to suffer hell by forsaking Him. He did all this to rescue you from them. Now you need not suffer hell. Instead death is your portal into paradise of the blessed. You will wait with all the faithful the resurrection of the body on the last day. And you shall live eternally with Him.
This is how you inherit eternal life. For on the night He was betrayed He declared to you His last will and testament. Eat His Body and drink His Blood and you receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. He wills that His Death be your salvation. He wills that His Blood cleanse you of sin. He wills that His Resurrection be your guarantee that you too shall live in this flesh again after you die. All this because He loves you and has mercy with Him.
Therefore we love. You cannot go and do likewise. You cannot imitate the true Good Samaritan. You cannot win salvation for others. But He does call us to show His mercy to others just like the Samaritan in the parable did. That’s why we’ve joined St. Luke Cabot’s project of filling a semi with supplies for Houston. That’s why our church will in a couple weeks have an opportunity to provide, along with the children of our school, for the work of rebuilding Houston’s Lutheran high school. That’s why today we have an opportunity to support the work of our church in Philadelphia.
We don’t do it just because it’s the right thing to do. We do it because we want the Gospel to bring people killed by sin to eternal life. We do it to stop the great robber Satan dead in his tracks. And God uses us to bring His salvation to others. What a miracle divine! And you are blessed. Blessed because God uses you to help others, even to bring His Salvation to them. Blessed because Christ Jesus has rescued you from eternal death by His Death so you inherit eternal life.