Beloved. Today’s Gospel, which contains Jesus’ well-known and loved parable of the Good Samaritan, is so rich in teaching and doctrine. In it Jesus gives the summary of the Law of God—love, as He agrees with the answer the expert in the Law gives: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself. If we could love God perfectly and our neighbor perfectly, we would perfectly obey the Law of God and by that gain heaven. But what does Jesus reiterate? Do this, and you will live. That’s exactly what the Law of God says and demands: if we want to be saved, if we want to gain eternal life by it, [we] must … do [it] to inherit eternal life. And by doing it, it must be done fully and completely. That’s what Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan shows. Not only did the merciful Samaritan help the man, dress and bandage his wounds, place him on his animal, bring him to an inn and take care of him, but he also saw to the man’s further care by giving the innkeeper money to take care of him. We would probably say that that good/ merciful Samaritan did more than enough, that he went above and beyond the call of duty. But according to the perfection expected and demanded in God’s holy Law, he was really only doing what he was supposed to do— love your neighbor as yourself.
By this going above and beyond, Jesus shows that the law of love is never and can never be filled. There is never a flat/ set amount of love that we fulfill and beyond that we are free. Since we can never keep the law of God perfectly— Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself—we can never be saved by the Law: Do this, and you will live.
When it comes down to it, Jesus and only Jesus is the Good/ Merciful Samaritan. Only He loves God and us perfectly; only He ever obeyed God’s holy law perfectly; only He was without sin. And a most wonderful thing we see in this parable is that Jesus is giving a description of Himself in the Good Samaritan. Jesus finds us stripped, beaten and left for dead and bound for hell by sin, death and devil. Jesus does everything to save us; we are merely the recipients/ beneficiaries of His saving work—we do not and cannot add anything to it. Our salvation is Jesus’ work alone. He rescued and saved us.
Because we can only be saved/ rescued from our disobedience to the holy Law of God by Jesus, the very God Himself, the Law of God must be a very serious thing. An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “What do you read there?” He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” When we hear the Law of God, let us remember that it is the Law of God. There is an absolute standard of right and wrong. Right and wrong is not determined by the ever changing thoughts and opinions of people/ society. Because it is the Law of God, it dare not be ignored or glanced over. The thing is, the world around us is becoming a place where God is less and less thought of and He and His will are being increasingly ignored. A different standard is being set up, a human standard. And that leads to no good!
But the fact remains, although people may ignore God and His will, He is still God; His holy Law stands. He is still reigning supreme over heaven and earth and all things. His glory and majesty are a constant—whether people recognize it or not; whether people worship Him or not. St. Isaiah writes in our text: For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place... That’s who God is; it doesn’t matter what people think of Him or not. God isn’t holy because people say He’s holy or even because they recognize His holiness. It is His holy will and law that stands: “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “What do you read there?” He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.”
As the High and Lofty One, God tolerates none above Himself. As there is and can be no one or nothing above the holy Triune God, the High and Lofty One, that means that society/ people and our ways, what we in our corrupt sinful thinking make as standards of right and wrong—or even that “anything goes”—does not stand. God does not adopt our standards. His standards/ will/ Law remain!
The thing to remember is that God, as the High and Lofty One, is the almighty Creator of all things. It means that we are His creatures and the creature cannot exalt themselves to the Creator. No matter what we do or who we are, we are never and can never be the Creator; we can never be God. We can only be His humble creation. And that means whatever we make as a God, whatever we put our trust and confidence in other than the holy Triune God is senseless and worthless. It is not the almighty God, the High and Lofty One.
Even though so many have lost the sense of fear and awe of God, the fact remains: He is the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity. The fact that He is eternal means that His existence is not bound by time. He was there when time began and will be there after time ends. That means that His will and Law endure. God’s word and law do not change with the times but remain constant. His will and law do not conform to ever changing human thoughts and whims but are eternal; we are to conform our will to His. Here is a call to repentance. How often do we find ourselves adopting the ways and thinking of the world around us instead of holding up all that we hear to the holy will and law of God and rejecting what conflicts with it? How often in our own lives do we see ourselves pushing God into the background while making other things more important? May we examine our heart and life and repent where we see ourselves doing just that.
Because the holy Triune God is the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, that means that no one can ever remove Him from power. To be sure, He is attacked, ignored, ridiculed, rejected but He still is the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity. At the Last, He remains and all those things that people looked to as gods or put their trust in will be destroyed. As Christians, we must hold to and see God always as that the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity; we dare never lose a sense of the grandeur and majesty of God. And we dare never lose a sense of the holiness of God! For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place... The thing is, as the Lord, the holy Triune God, is exalted above all things, He is also exalted above all sin. He is completely separated from sin; He is sinless.
So does this mean that God is in His holy heaven and we sinners are in our sin here on earth, and never shall the two meet? Is the holy God so absolutely holy that He has absolutely nothing to do with us sinners? If that were the case we’d have no hope! We cannot go to God in His holiness, but He can come to us. That’s exactly what He did! The holy God Himself came to this sin contaminated earth full of us sinners. He did this as He, the Son, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, took on human flesh and blood in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and became also true man. He, the sinless and holy God-man, lived here on this earth, suffering the worst that sin and devil could throw at Him. He endured temptation; He endured rejection, betrayal, arrest, unimaginable suffering and death. All this He endured for us and our salvation. The High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: [who dwells] in the high and holy place... came to this earth, to us in the misery of sin and death, to save and rescue us. He shared in our misery and death all to be our Savior. He came—our good/ merciful Samaritan came to us.
And not only that, but in our text we read: For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Did you catch that? The High, Lofty, Holy One dwelling in the high, holy place of heaven at the same time dwells among us, His saints; He dwells in us. Jesus tells us [Jn 14.23]: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. But notice precisely here who the ones are whom the holy God comes to dwell with—the ones who love Jesus; and in our text, him who has a contrite and humble spirit. Precisely those who love Jesus are the ones who have that contrite and humble spirit. That’s because they are crushed by the knowledge of their sin; they recognize their sin and that they are sinners who by their sin earn nothing but death and damnation; they long for a Savior from sin. It is with these the High, Lofty and Holy God dwells!
In fact, only with these can He dwell. Their hearts are empty. They are not filled with all sorts of works and boasting trying to earn heaven. Their hearts are empty, longing for a Savior from sin. And it is in here that the holy God dwells! What a glorious comfort to us, dear Christian, as we feel our sin in our conscience and as our sin weighs us down: we need not lose hope; we need not despair: the Lord is near to all crushed in heart/ with him who has a contrite and humble spirit. When we feel our sin and fight against that sin, we can be strengthened in that fight in the certainty that the Lord is with us in that battle. Even when we lose that battle and sin, even grievously, as we are humble the Lord is with us in mercy.
I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. What a glorious blessing we have as the Lord is with us. He isn’t with us, dwelling in the heart of the contrite sinner, for no reason. Instead, He is with us for a purpose: to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. When God dwells with us, the heart of the sinner crushed by sin is renewed as though it comes to life. The Lord calls into being a new spiritual life and nourishes it with life, joy, peace, and the confidence and certainty of salvation. And as we feel our sin and are contrite and humbled, we know that the Lord is not far away when we call on Him but He is with us. The Lord with us, dwelling in us, revives us. That’s why He lives with us—to resuscitate our spirit and heart. What a great blessing, the almighty and holy and exalted God, not only came to this earth to be our Savior but He also is with us who [have] a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Doesn’t this sound rather strange that the holy, sinless God who dwells in the high and holy place of heaven is with sinners, dwelling in them? Absolutely not! Not only do we see it in Jesus, the holy God come to this world of sin, but it is precisely God’s holiness that moves Him to live with the lowly. The Lord hates sin and His hatred of sin is shown as He does away with sin. He does that as He lives in the heart of His dear Christian giving new spiritual life, leading and guiding and empowering by His Holy Spirit so that sin’s power is taken away and it is not committed; He does away with sin as He grants forgiveness of that sin and gives us Jesus’ holy and perfect keeping of the Law.
What a most glorious and comforting mystery: the High, Lofty, Holy One who lives in the glorious eternity of heaven also lives in the hearts of us poor, contrite sinners. INJ Amen