Trinity XIII - St. Luke 10:23-37 - August 30, 2015
Order of Service - Pg. 15Hymn #344 Come, Let Us Join Our Cheerful Songs
Almighty and Everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, and that we may obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
1) Jesus is the Good Samaritan. Without that understanding this Gospel lesson makes no sense. We might think it makes perfect sense because Jesus ends with the words, Go and do likewise. Many have imagined that those final words of Jesus show us the entire point of the parable. Go from this place and be the Good Samaritan. Do good works for your neighbor. Be thoughtful, selfless people ready to sacrifice of your own time and money for your neighbor in need. And that’s all well and good. Christians are to be doing good works. In fact, if anyone claims to be a Christian and has no good works, St. James tells us that that one’s faith is a dead faith which is no faith at all. But Go and do likewise isn’t the point of the parable. Jesus exhortation at the end does not fully answer the young lawyer’s question. The young expert in the Law of Moses seeks to test Jesus with the question, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus responds in the way in the same vein as He spoke to the sons of Israel in Leviticus 18:4-5, You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. The young expert in the Law is pointed back to his own studies. Love God with all you’ve got. Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus backs the young expert into a corner. He feels he must justify himself because really, who loves their neighbor as themselves all the time, let alone God? He seeks self-justification and that is where the Go and do likewise comes into play. It is as if Jesus tells the young man, “You want to live by the Law, go for it. Here’s how you do it. You don’t go looking for individual neighbors to love. You simply BE a neighbor to everyone around you in need.
2) And of course the young expert in the Law can’t do it. It’s just too difficult. People say they love their neighbors as they love themselves but it’s a lie. Otherwise the golden rule wouldn’t have to be drilled into children and recollected by adults in troublesome situations. The instinct of the sinful flesh, which we all carry around with us, is the defensive position of self-preservation. The other instinct is the offense position of self-gratification. The sinful nature in us wants to protect ourselves from our neighbor’s words and actions, their demands and needs because it sees those things as impositions upon our time and money. Sinful nature simultaneously wants to extract as much gratification out of our neighbor as possible for nothing in return. The sinful flesh sees itself as the primary consumer, while our neighbor is viewed as the item to be consumed for our own benefit. By nature we don’t love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The Good Samaritan shows this young expert in the Law that he really didn’t understand the Law at all. You don’t get to pick the neighbors you want to love. You don’t even get to pick your neighbors. You are to simply BE a neighbor, selflessly loving and ever-giving to those around you in need, as you have ability and opportunity. Go and do likewise is an exhortation to go do good works. But to this young lawyer it is a word of condemnation. That sort of love for neighbor, being neighborly, is impossible.
3) Except for one, the real Good Samaritan, Jesus. Hear the parable again and see the young lawyer and your Lord in it. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. This poor man isn’t just anyone. It’s the young lawyer who first stepped onto the path of self-justification. He falls among thieves, that is, temptations and devils who strip him of his clothing. Any righteousness the young man assumed he possessed, temptation to sin and selfishness have stripped from him. Sin not only tempts, but wounds the young lawyer because you cannot sin, even once, and get back up from the ground. Sin wounds because it destroys holiness and any righteousness that he thought he had. It is a wound that is incurable by his own working and medicines because the thief of temptation and sin leaves him half dead. Sin does not leave the sinner with bumps and bruises, small lacerations and abrasions. It leaves you half dead, which is as good as dead. Left to his own devices, in time, without outside aid, this man would have gone from half dead to fully dead. This is the spiritual state of the young expert in the Law. Sin, both actual sins of the heart and hands, as well as original sin, have left him dead on the side of the road to eternity. What must he do to inherit eternal life? It doesn’t matter. A half dead man cannot do anything.
4) But he still things he is capable of doing something to inherit everlasting life, though he is half dead because of his sinful nature and his own sin. So Jesus then shows the young lawyer that the Law won’t do him any good for inheriting eternal life. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Priests were the ones who made atonement for sins through sacrifices in the Temple. Priests were the ones who helped the defiled on their way back to purity through the Levitical rituals. But the priest is of no help. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. A Temple worker, a scribe and student of the Mosaic Law comes upon the half dead man and gazes upon his infirmity and does nothing. The Levite, the teacher of the Law, is unable to give aid or comfort to the man. This is always true of the Law. It only accuses. Perhaps he passed by on the other side, thinking this man must have deserved this fate because of some sin. In that case he ought not interfere with God’s judgment. Perhaps the Priest and Levite simply didn’t care. The half dead man could not meet their demands anyway. He was powerless to do the Law, being half dead on his way to being fully dead, so they assume he is a lost cause and abandon the man to his death. Such is the case for all sinners. The Law cannot get you out of your sin. It can only make you try harder so that you eventually are wounded by the invisible wound of self-righteousness, or it drives you to despair when you realize just how bad off your condition really is. The Law is of no help whatsoever to heal sinners and revitalize them.
5) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 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. The Law has no compassion. It only condemns transgression. The Samaritan is Christ because He comes not to condemn sinners but save them because God so loved the world. The Good Samaritan goes to the man because the man cannot go to his healer. In like manner Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity, comes to mankind by assuming human flesh and becoming man, one of us. He bandages the half dead man’s wounds by pouring in the oil and then wine. The oil is repentance and contrition over sin, which sting the human heart, but are necessary to remove the sin. Jesus brings the sinner to repentance so that he sorrows over his sinfulness and his sins. It stings, fizzing and bubbling in the wounded heart, but it is a necessary sting. After the purging oil comes the sweet wine of the Holy Gospel, the absolution, Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. (Matthew 9:2)
6) Jesus sets the sinner upon His own donkey, giving the sinner His place of honor and righteousness so that all that belongs to Jesus belongs to the sinner who repents and believes the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. The Good Samaritan does not leave the man to heal on his own either. The Good Samaritan brings him to an inn, cares for him there, and sets an innkeeper over the healing man. This is a picture of what Christ does for sinners. He does not leave them on their own on the side of the road so that sin and temptation might easily attack them again. Rather Christ brings them into the inn of His holy Church and works to heal him through the instruments of His Word and Sacraments. Before Christ ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, He set innkeepers over the sinner to continue to heal him. These were His apostles and their heirs, Bishops, pastors and teachers within the church. Pastors and Bishops have the command to care for the souls of all who the Lord brings in who are damaged and wounded by sin. The church is nothing but an infirmary for those attacked by Satan, wounded by sin and bludgeoned by the Law’s strict demands. Though Christ is ascended into heaven, He is everywhere because He is fully God, and so He is present in His Church, through the Word, the Sacraments, and the Ministry, to continue to work for the healing and preservation of sinners.
7) Jesus is the Good Samaritan. What must you do to inherit eternal life? You can try the way of the Law, self-improvement, self-protection, and self-righteousness but it will leave you half dead leading to fully dead on the side of the road to eternity. Besides, you cannot do anything to inherit an inheritance. An inheritance is freely given to those who have not built it with their work. Jesus comes to you again today, putting the stinging oil of repentance onto your words and then applying the sweet wine of forgiveness. He puts you on His own animal again, giving you His righteousness, His innocence, His blessedness. Realizing that Jesus is the Good Samaritan, then you can, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, Go and do likewise. You will never be the perfect neighbor to those around you. You can never fear, love, and trust God perfectly in this life of sin and death. And although all going and all doing likewise will be imperfect and incomplete in this life, your heavenly Father loves it because it is Christ in you, by faith, doing those good works of being a loving neighbor to your neighbors. You cannot be THE good Samaritan because that is what Jesus is for you, but you can, with His heavenly aid, be like the Good Samaritan, your Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.