Whatever The Cost
St. Luke 10:23-37
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 10:35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… Where do you see yourself in today’s parable? This parable is perhaps one of the most famous parables of our Lord in all the New Testament. Most people, though, miss the point of the parable. For most people, the point of the parable is that we are to make sure to take care of our neighbor, whoever that may be. Even though that is good advice, that is not the main reason Jesus tells this parable.
Our text begins with a lawyer coming up to Jesus to test Him, or to tempt Him like the devil did in the wilderness. He asked Jesus a seemingly contradictory question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Of course, that is a ridiculous question. You do not work to inherit something. You inherit something because of who you are, not what you do. So asking this would be like saying, “What must I do to become my next-door-neighbor’s son?” There’s nothing you can do to make that happen.
Rather than get dragged into the impossible question, Jesus asked the man another question: “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” Jesus asked the man what he recites every day as a faithful Jew. And so this man, in good fashion, responded with the summary of the Law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, the pious Jew to this very day says those same words twice daily as proscribed in Deuteronomy. This man knows the Law very well…but he does not know or believe the Gospel.
For His part, Jesus responds not with the Gospel but with the Law; He says, “Do this and you shall live.” But the lawyer is not satisfied with Jesus’ answer. And because the man wanted to justify himself – he wanted to make himself right with God – he asked Jesus another question: “And who is my neighbor?” This man is thinking in the way of the Law. The way of the Law asks, “What is the least amount that I can do and still get to heaven?”
And that is how we work too: “How many times must I go to church in order to fulfill my duty? Once a week? Once a month? Once a year?” But that question betrays the fact that not only do we not understand the Gospel, we also do not understand the value and importance of our own coming together each Lord’s Day. We tend to think like this young lawyer; we are not interested in what God has done for us. We only want to know what we have to do.
So to demonstrate how helpless we all are under sin, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A certain man went from Jerusalem down to Jericho and fell among thieves. He is stripped, beaten, and left for dead. A priest sees him and goes on by on the other side, and so does a Levite, another keeper of the Law.
The impression you get from the text is that these so-called pious men had more important things to do. The priest had his temple duty to tend to; the Levite had to keep up with his duties to God as well. Neither of them had time for this man who was lying beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.
But another man came along the road; he was a Samaritan, an outsider. He saw this man left for dead and had compassion on him. The Greek word for “compassion” is a great one, for it means literally that the man’s guts were moved to help him; his guts ached to help the man. This Samaritan – this outcast – helped the man, bound up his wounds, poured oil and wine on them, set him on his own animal, and took him to an inn to care for him. Then the Samaritan told the innkeeper, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
In other words, whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to make this man well. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, it does not matter. I’ll pay the cost. I have bound up this man’s wounds, I have given him healing oil and wine, I have put him on my own beast of burden – my own flesh, if you will – and there is no cost too great that I will not pay.
Let me say it for you. You are the man left for dead on the road. The lawyer thought that he would take the place of the Good Samaritan, but that is not the point of the story. The point is that you are the helpless, the naked, the wounded, the penniless, the one left for dead. You can do nothing to save yourself. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, no Law you can keep that will make any difference. You are dead without Christ.
But Christ is the one who has reached down to you. He has taken on your flesh and blood. He became one of us so that we might become like Him. He reaches out His hand; He pours the baptismal oil on your wounds and gives you the wine which is His very own blood. And He brings you to a safe place, the Inn which is His Church. And He says to the innkeeper, “Whatever it takes, I will pay it.”
There is no cost too great for Jesus to save you. There is nothing He would not do. There is nothing He has not already done. There is no pain He has not taken to Himself. There is no hurt He has not taken. He has taken it all on Himself on the cross, and He has died for you to free you of your sins.
St. Paul said it this way: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). You have done nothing to earn God’s favor and love. Like the man along the road, you are just lying there, dead in trespasses and sins. But God reaches down and holds onto you and gives you His very life. He died so that you might live.
That, dear friends, is why the Christian Church can never be ashamed of the cross of Christ. To the world the cross may seem morbid and strange. But we lift high the cross of Christ because what happened there is the single most important event in history. We do not confess an empty cross and a full tomb, rather we confess the full cross and the empty tomb both of which are indispensable to the Christian. Do not be offended when you see a cross with a corpus on it – the body of Christ – for it is the strong reminder of Christ’s payment for your sins. This cross, this symbol of death is a symbol of your life, and not just life today, but eternal life with Him forever.
That cross tells you that Jesus said, “Whatever it takes, I will pay it.” Jesus does not measure how much it will take to save you. He does not say, “OK, you can sin only so much but after that you are on your own.” No. He has paid the price in full with His death and with His resurrection, for those two go together. As He said in the parable, …when I come again…” Jesus is coming back. He has paid the price and He is returning to take you home.
So, dear friends in Christ, no matter how great your sin, no matter how bad you are or think you are, it is not too great for the God who saves you by His blood. As God declares through the prophet Hosea: “Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up.” (Hosea 6:1)
We may not always understand God’s ways, but one thing is certain: you can always look at His cross and know that He loves you with an everlasting love. He will never leave you, He will never forsake you. This is the God who does wonders, the God who binds you up and gives you His very flesh and blood – even today in the Sacrament of the Altar – so that you might live.
God’s love for you goes deeper than death itself. Christ is the Good Samaritan. He is the one who seeks you out when you are in the depths. He is the one who heals you. When nothing else makes sense, when no one else seems to care, when you are all alone, Christ is the one who takes you to Himself and has paid the price, whatever the cost.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.