Are You Good Enough?

Text: Luke 10:23-37

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

What do you need to do, to get to heaven?  

Let me repeat that one more time. 

What do you need to do, to get to heaven?  

When asked this question, the average person may respond that they need to do religious and good things, like praying and volunteering time and trying to be an overall positive person – definitely doing more good than bad.  And so, by praying, volunteering time, and being a positive person, they qualify themselves for the pearly gates.  

While this definitely sounds like a reasonable response, what typically is not clarified in peoples’ answers is this: to what degree should a person pray, volunteer, and strive to be a positive person.  In other words, what typically is not specified is how much a person should pray, volunteer, and be positive.  

You see, we humans have it figured out that for a person to obtain eternal life – the person has to be good.  And if a person is bad, they do not get to heaven but are disqualified to hell.  But here is the catch; we typically are hesitant to define just how much good and for how long the good needs to be done to qualify oneself for eternal life.  That is right; we are a little gun shy to define how much and how long the goodness must be done for obtaining eternal life.  But rather, we typically like to keep this part vague or we grade everyone on a curve because we like to grade ourselves on a curve.  

And so, as long as we can come up with enough good things in our lives and the lives of those around us, we can conclude that eternal life is within our grasp.  

A problem arises, though, when we read our Gospel reading from the Gospel of Luke and our epistle from Galatians.  That is to say; we hear especially from the Gospel of Luke that for a person to inherit eternal life that they must love the Lord God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.  Indeed, eternal life is possible when you set God above everything else and let go of all your thoughts, words, works, knowledge, and insights.  Yes, if you commit to God’s will in all that you have in body and soul and flesh and spirit, in all that you are, with all of your strength and all of your health and all of your senses, you will obtain eternal life.  

Keep in mind that this is easier said, than done.  This is not a partial calling to love God and neighbor with a half-hearted attitude.  Obtaining eternal life is something that one does with everything – everything that a person has!  

What this looks like is this: to obtain eternal life, love should spread throughout your whole body and your whole being, into every part of you.  From head to foot, inside and outside, all that you do should be captivated by love.  No hate, no resentment, no grumbling, no apathy, and no frowning are allowed. If you are to inherit eternal life by what you do, you are to love and have delight in God completely, never annoyed to go to church and never annoyed read your Bible and never rushed to study the catechism.  And with your neighbor; you should not see anything indecent in your neighbor.  You should always put the best construction on your neighbor, never giving into gossip.  Your mouths should not speak any evil, and your hands and feet need to be innocent too, only going the way of goodness.  In short, all of your thoughts must be clean.  All of your deeds must be kind.  All of your words must be pure and uplifting.  Even your ears must filter out the negative and only hear the best construction about your neighbor.  And get this, you should desire to die a thousand times over than anger God with just one sin.[1]   

So, how are you doing?  Have you done enough?  Have you loved enough?  Have you given enough?  Has love permeated your whole being completely?  

You see, if you think that you have done enough to inherit eternal life you are actually living a lie.  If you think you have done enough that you have somehow racked up enough brownie points before God then you are severely deceived.  You see, when we look at the 10 Commandments we not only see what we should do, but we quickly learn of our weakness – we learn that we do not do what we ought to do before God and our neighbor.  We learn what love looks like and we learn that we fail to love God and our neighbor properly.  

And so, we are very much in the same boat as the Priest and the Levite who we read about in today’s parable from the Gospel of Luke.  The Priest and Levite saw a poor half-dead fellow on the side of the road and did nothing for him because they had neither love for God nor for their neighbor. Tragically, they understood the man on the edge of the road was in trouble, but walked by without love.  

Truth be told, though, we are probably much closer to that poor man on the side of the road than the Priest and Levite.  You see, when God’s 10 Commandments do their work on us, they reveal to us that we do not love the way that we ought to, like the Priest and Levite.  However, the Law does something more.  It shows us just how dark and depraved our sinful nature runs through us.  The Law helps us see that we have been beaten up by our sin and left half-dead in the ditch of life.  Indeed, the Law shows us that we are not where we ought to be.  The Law shows us our sins, reveals our sickness, and makes us aware of our misery.  And so, the Law helps us understand that we cannot do anything to inherit eternal life.  In fact, the Law helps us realize that the only thing we have earned is damnation.  

Dear friends, God’s good and true Law has no power to help us out of the ditch of our sin.  God’s Law cannot restore us or heal us.  The Law only diagnoses our problem.  And that is why we need something more; that is why we need a Good Samaritan.  That is why we need a good neighbor to come to our rescue.

Consider the parable again.  The Good Samaritan came and had compassion on half-dead man.  He came to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  He then set him on his animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he paid the innkeeper to look after the wounded man.  

My friends, this is our Jesus, and this is our Gospel!  

Like the Samaritan, Jesus came down to you your lost and dying condition so that He might pour the oil and wine of the Sacraments upon you!  Indeed, Jesus placed you not on an animal to carry you to an Inn, but He set your sins upon Himself to give you forgiveness, life, and salvation.  And like the Samaritan who brought the man to an inn, Jesus has brought you to the Church and given His Word to be that medicine of forgiveness that is continuously delivered to you, restoring you unto salvation. 

Jesus is that perfect neighbor; He did not pass you by on His road to the cross.  But being full of love, He scooped you up unto Himself 

And so, we see that the Law shows you and me our lack of love.  It shows us that we are unable to do anything to inherit eternal life.  However, the Gospel shows you and me our Good Samaritan – Jesus Christ – who did everything for you so that you might inherit eternal life.  Yes, daily the Law shall remind you of your inability to properly love and your failure to acquire eternal life by your reason and strength.  But the Gospel… Yes, the Gospel continually declares to you that you have a Good Samaritan that loved you and out of joy gives you the kingdom!  

That is your hope this day.  You are not left for dead in the ditch of your sin, but rather you have a Good Samaritan.  His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, the only one who has fulfilled the Law and does not pass by sinners.  But rather, He is the one who binds your wounds and grants you life, by loving you from the manger to the cross, and from the cross to the empty tomb.   

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Partial quote and paraphrase from: Johann Spangenberg, The Christian Year of Grace: The Chief Parts of Scripture Explained in Question and Answer, tr. Matthew Carver (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2014), 298-299.

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