And turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them." And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?"
And he answered and said, "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." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS, AND YOU WILL LIVE." But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied and said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?"
And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
Knowing and Doing
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar to us. It seems as though we have known him all of our lives. I knew the story long before I had any idea what a Samaritan was. I used to think that the term merely referred to nice guys. We now have Good Samaritan laws protecting those who stop to help. Lost in the familiarity of the text is what it was all about, really, and what it means for us. Let us look at the Gospel this morning and learn the lesson of knowing and doing.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is deals with ancient hatreds. The Jews hated the Samaritans. They were the descendants of those whom Nebuchadnezzar had settled in the "Promised Land" after the northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by his armies, and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel (as they have come to be called) had been scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire.
The Samaritans of Jesus' day more or less worshiped the God of Israel, but not entirely, and not to the letter of the Old Testament Law. So they were hated as foreigners, and hated as intruders, and hated as unorthodox. The Samaritans hated the Jews, too. It was a mutual hatred thing. So, when the Samaritan helped the Jew, as in the parable, it was an enormous step of true compassion. Even when he was forced to identify the Samaritan as the one who "proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers hands," the Jewish Lawyer could not bring himself to name the Samaritan - he simply referred to him as the one who showed mercy toward him. This is a tale of hatreds transcended.
The parable is also about true compassion. Nothing stopped the man from helping his fellow-man when he was in need. Ethnic hatreds, which are still boiling over in violence in the middle east, did not stop his compassion. Potential personal danger did not stop him. Cost to himself in terms of real money did not stop him. His compassion for the wounded man would not let him pass by, as had others who might be reasonably expected to help. This is a tale of true compassion. Our compassion for others, particularly for those lost in sin and death and condemnation ought to push us to go the extra mile, and invest our riches and our own safety in others. They ought to, but they often do not.
This parable redefines the term neighbor. In the light of this parable, a neighbor is not merely someone who lives close by. A neighbor is clearly not simply someone who is "just like us." A neighbor is no longer just someone we like. Jesus, by the question He posed, forced the term "neighbor" to be redefined as those to whom who we reach out. It is our action, and not theirs - or any other relationship - that makes us neighbors. That means that a neighbor is anyone you reach out to, anyone in need of your help. You make neighbors by making yourself a neighbor to them. That means that your neighbor potentially is anyone outside of your own skin. They may be a friend, or an enemy or a stranger. The Samaritan didn't go out looking for the man, he simply stumbled across the man in need, and had compassion on him in his need.
You may have realized, by this point, that the parable sets an impossible level of love and compassion for us. Even if we were so minded as to try to go out and love with this sort of love and spend ourselves in this great compassion, we would likely fail. If we consider our lives to this point, most of us should begin to squirm uncomfortably. We haven't been like this. If you are not made to feel guilty by this parable, either you haven't considered the standard Jesus held before us, or you are not able to honestly look at your own life and actions. None of us is this good, and yet, Jesus said, Go and do thou likewise.
Jesus not only set the standard, He lived up to it. He is the Good Samaritan who came along and found us critically injured by sin. We were left for dead by our own corruption and self-centeredness in sin. He has bandaged us, and brought us to the inn of the church and paid for our care. He did not do so without risk, but at tremendous cost. Unlike the Samaritan in the parable, Jesus did not escape unscathed, but was mugged, beaten, and crucified for our sins. He has redeemed us and rescued us and given us new and everlasting life in the forgiveness of sins and with the promise of the resurrection and eternal life in glory.
He did this all out of His great compassion. We were less than the Jew was to the Samaritan in the parable. We were enemies, true, but we had rejected Him and hated Him until His love and His Word and His power converted us and made us His own. What does the Bible say? Listen to the power of these words! For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. While we were enemies, Christ died for us!
The parable condemns us all as being just like the priest or the scribe in the parable. These were holy men, men of God, at least as far as anyone could see. Still, they did not care - nor did they take the time to take care of a brother in need. It was left to this alien and enemy to have compassion. The priest and the scribe were consumed with "me first!" Just like we are. We eat what we like. We dress as we like. We drive nice cars, as nice as we can afford. We live near the lake of the Ozarks, the garden spot of Missouri.
But our compassion is held at arm's length. It doesn't claim our money. It doesn't place us at risk. It doesn't demand our getting in and getting dirty, really. We have been purchased and won by Christ at great cost to Him, and yet even as those who know that they have been purchased from sin at such cost, we cannot resist sin, and we do not live up to or deserve the rich blessings of the Gospel. We remain sinners!
So, then, what is our hope? Where is our comfort?
Our comfort is in Jesus. He has seen our hearts and known our wretched state, and yet He went to the cross to die in our place so that we might be forgiven, and born again of the Word, and transformed in heart and mind by the Holy Spirit. Our guilt and shame has been taken away, and nailed to the cross of Jesus. Because of Him, our sins have been forgiven, and God has accepted us as His children and declared us holy and pure, beloved and precious to Him.
Jesus remains, for us, the Good Samaritan. The Gospel remains true. The death of Jesus on our behalf is still our hope, our comfort, and our joy! We have a Savior from sin and death and hell - all of which we have brought upon ourselves.
So, Where do we go from here? That is where the theme of our sermon comes in: knowing and doing. We need to go out, into life, trusting in Jesus who has redeemed us and whose grace still covers us sinners. We daily confess and daily repent, and daily, that new man comes forth and arises out of the waters of our Baptism, and we take Jesus seriously and do our best, however inadequate it may be, to good and be like the Good Samaritan of the parable, and, more to the point, like the Good Samaritan of the Gospel. We walk in faith, leaning on the grace of God and doing what we can to imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In part, that means we are overwhelmed with thanksgiving. What can you say for your life, given back to you with no penalty, no fees, no charges? Thank you! What can you say to the one who died for your that you might live? Thank-you! What other response can we have to the unmerited goodness and love of God? Our only response can be thanksgiving, abundant and on-going thanksgiving. Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for his is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus!
We finally must come to living out and living in our confidence in God. You live, knowing that God is with you, particularly in the light of having given His Son into death for you. You live confident that God is not going to throw away His work on your behalf by letting anything stand in the way of the life and salvation of one for whom He was ready to die, and for whom He actually suffered and bled and died!
We are to become His love in action - not loving simply in words or thoughts. We are to set ourselves aside for our neighbors - family, members of the body of Christ around us, and those others for whom we can be neighbors, and live on their behalf. We can give of our time. We can give of our energy. We need to start by living out the truth that Jesus taught us by example: our lives are not about us. Jesus' life was about us. Our lives are about each other, and about those who need what we have to share - the saving health of the Gospel.
To sum it up, we hear the parable - and indeed, the whole of the Gospel. We know the truth - about ourselves - and about the grace of God - and about the will of God for us. And we step out and do what God lays before us to do - walking in faith, knowing and doing.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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