Who We Long to Be

Luke 10:25-37

Since I’ve been here, I’ve shared with you two scriptures that exemplify the simplicity of our faith. From Psalm 102 in The Message paraphrase we heard, “God heard the groans of the doomed and opened their death cells.” Today, we heard from Luke 10 to be merciful to the ones who need mercy. We can all go home.

During an impassioned sermon on death and final judgment, the pastor said forcefully, “Each member of this church is going to die and face judgment.” Glancing down at the front pew, he noticed a man with a big smile on his face. The minister repeated his point louder. “Each member of this church is going to die and face judgment!” The man nodded and smiled even more. This really got the preacher wound up. He pounded the pulpit emphatically and declared again, “Each member of this church is going to die and face judgment!” Everyone else was looking somber, but the man up front continued to smile. Finally, the preacher stepped down from the pulpit and stood in front of the man and shouted, “I said each member of this church is going to die!” The man grinned from ear to ear. After the service was over, the preacher made a beeline for the man. “I don’t get it,” the preacher said in frustration. “Whenever I said, “Each member of this church is going to die, your smile got bigger. Why?” The man answered, “I’m not a member of this church.”

This teacher of the law with whom Jesus engages is not a disciple. If you approach Jesus as if you were a teacher of the law and not a disciple and were looking to justify yourself these words were for you: Go and do like the Samaritan (Go and do likewise).

In the tenth chapter of Luke Jesus appointed seventy to go ahead of him in pairs. He told them, “Go on your way. I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals. Bid the house you enter peace. Cure the sick who are there and say, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.'” When they returned to him in joy in verse 17, they said, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Jesus told them in verse 20, “Do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus then thanked the Lord that these things were revealed not to the wise and intelligent but to infants. He then turned to the disciples in verse 23 and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

We then hear and read what I read earlier starting at verse 25: “Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.” I find this significant. It is to the lawyer, the teacher of the law, that he shares the parable of the Good Samaritan. I find it significant because his disciples are already being the merciful by bringing the good news of the kingdom in word and deed. Disciples are already getting it done. Back in chapter eight in Luke, Jesus and his disciples had already crossed the lake into Gentile territory. It was there Jesus brought deliverance to the crazy Gentile man of the Gerasenes. His disciples had already seen what Jesus would freely do for a sick and disturbed Gentile man. For Jesus there was little distinction. For the disciples, it would always be a challenge, but they knew it was always possible to set Gentiles as well as Jews free.

Our friend, the lawyer who taught and respected the law of Moses and all of the additional traditions of the day which kept the Gentiles and the Jews in their place, after hearing Jesus bless his followers that their names were written in heaven, he wanted to be justified by Jesus by the good he’d done.

So much of Luke 10 comes down to who we are and who we long to be.

Two learned professors were discussing the great thoughts on wisdom and the meaning of life. The first professor asked the second, “Henry tells me he is one of your students.” The second professor replied, “Well, Henry does attend most of my classes, but he is not one of my students.” Luke 10 shows Jesus’ followers sent ahead of him to display the kingdom of God in word and deed. They displayed mercy to the sick. They displayed mercy to those ravaged by evil. They displayed mercy to those longing for a new day of God’s kingdom manifested. Who are we and who do we long to be?

A conversation between a six-year-old and a five-year-old went as follows: “Are you in Linda’s room at school?” “No,” said the five-year-old, “I’m not. But she’s in my room.” The five-year-old ought to remind us of the learned teacher of the law when we hear the teacher ask, “And who is my neighbor?” Jewish tradition and social practice in Jesus’ day insisted outreach of care and attention was to go from Jew to Jew only. We can assume the teacher of the law was anticipating Jesus patting him on the head by answering his question with an affirmative – Your neighbor is your fellow Jew. Jesus’ answer, however, was the parable of the Good Samaritan which led to Jesus’ question back to the teacher, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? (vs. 36)” For Jesus, the neighbor was not to be the one expecting favor, but, rather the one who exemplified the law of Moses by showing mercy to the one suffering. The teacher expected affirmation. Rather, he received a lesson.

Who are we and who do we long to be? First of all, who are you? We might say we’re faithful church members of St. Mark, growing in Christ and reaching others. Excellent. Sounds like disciples to me, sounds like those desirous to follow our Savior and learn from him, sounds like those passionate to be merciful to any in need of mercy, to be merciful to any in need regardless of their gender, regardless of their race, regardless of their practice, regardless of their political affiliation, regardless of their creed or religion. Jesus has shown us. Jesus has taught us. Jesus has saved us. Jesus has empowered and gifted us. But again, I ask, “Who are we and who do we long to be?” In Christ, we are a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come. In Christ, we are forgiven and cleansed by his blood. In Christ, believing in his work for the sake of the world and in the Holy Spirit, we are born again. Is this who you are? Is this who you long to be?

(Preached online, July 9, 2022)

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