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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 10:25–37

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 8, Proper 10, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jul 10, 2016 

I imagine that most of you recognized the parable that we heard in todays reading from the Gospel.  Most people call it the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Our culture even recognizes this parable by naming a wide variety of charitable organizations after it Good Samaritan Hospital Good Samaritan Nursing Home Samaritans Purse and so forth.  There are charitable organizations named after the Good Samaritan all over the country.  For the most part, these are good, caring organizations of mercy that provide valuable services to their communities.

The good, noble, caring work that these organizations do make it difficult for us to understand the shock value that Jesus packed into the parable that we just heard in todays Gospel.  The Jewish person in that day had a far different understanding of the Samaritan than we do today.

When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, he forced the Jews to leave the land.  Then he settled people from other cultures in the land.  They brought their religions with them and combined their religious practices with the religious practices of the locals.  This produced a hybrid religion and culture the Samaritans.  When the Persians defeated the Babylonians, they allowed the Jews to return.  The returning Jews condemned the false practices of the Samaritans and considered them traitors for polluting the true faith.  An immense hatred grew between these two cultures.

When I was a child, pastors struggled to explain the level of hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans.  Sadly, our world has changed so that it is very easy today.  If you want to understand the impact of this story on the original audience, make a simple substitution.  Every time you hear the word Samaritan, think radical Islamic terrorist.  The parable of the Good Samaritan becomes the parable of the Good Radical Islamic Terrorist. If that shocks you and makes your head hurt just a little bit, then you have an idea of the shock this narrative had on the people who heard it the first time Jesus told it.

The other thing we need to better understand this parable is the question that caused Jesus to tell the story in the first place.  A lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25) It is not apparent at first, but this question is absolute nonsense.  A lawyer should know better.  At the same time, this question demonstrates that false religion of this world.

You see there is nothing that anyone can do to inherit anything.  An inheritance is something a person receives because someone else did something.  A person receives an inheritance because someone else wrote that person into a will and then died.  An inheritance is a pure gift that is given as the result of the death and the Last Will and Testament of the original owner of that gift.

The lawyer is right in his assumption that eternal life is an inheritance.  Eternal life is a free gift from God that went into effect at the death of the Son of God on the cross.  It is an inheritance.

At the same time, the lawyer demonstrates the false religion of the world that there is something that I do that will have an effect on the inheritance of eternal life.  God wants to give eternal life as a gift.  The false religion wants to earn eternal life as a wage.

Every time that Jesus encountered someone with this delusion, He poured on the law so that the person would see how impossible it is to earn eternal life.  He said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it? (Luke 10:26) Jesus began by taking the lawyer back to the basics catechism class if you will.  The young man replied with the standard answer that every Jew learned in Sabbath School.  He answered, 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. (Luke 10:27) This is straight out of Moses from Deuteronomy and todays Old Testament reading from Leviticus.

Jesus acknowledged that the lawyer got the answer exactly right and then He told the lawyer that this was the key to earning eternal life.  [Jesus] said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live. (Luke 10:28) If you will love God and love your neighbor perfectly, then you will earn eternal life.

At this point, the honest person will see the problem.  He will understand that there is no way for him to love God and neighbor as he should.  Therefore, there is no way to earn eternal life.

On the other hand, the lawyer in todays Gospel still believes he has a chance.  He, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29) The lawyer thought that if the definition of neighbor was tight enough, then he could love his neighbor.  Its easy to love your neighbors when they are all lovable.  Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in order to widen this mans understanding of what it means to be a neighbor.  That is the reason that Jesus took the first century equivalent of a radical Islamic terrorist and made him the hero of the story.  The point that Jesus made with this story is that the most unlikely, the most unlovable, the most difficult person that you meet is still your neighbor.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)

If we recast the story that Jesus told in modern day terms, then the radical, Islamic terrorist gave aid to a man that his friends would call a Zionist pig.  He rendered first aid and got him transported to the emergency room.  Then He left a VISA card with the hospital and gave them an unlimited credit line to do what they could to help the poor victim.  At the end of the story Jesus said to [the lawyer], You go, and do likewise. (Luke 10:37) Do you begin to understand the incredible standard Jesus has set for this poor lawyer and for us?

The right response to this parable is surrender.  No ordinary human being can live up to the standard Jesus established in this parable.  No ordinary human being can do what needs to be done to inherit eternal life.

Of course there is one who lives up to the standard Jesus the one who told the story.  He is no ordinary man.  He is the Christ who is true man and true God.

Consider how Jesus kept the standard of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Listen to the inspired words of the Apostle Paul.  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous personthough perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:68)

As we laid along the side of the road, slaves to sin, disgusting, dead in trespasses and sin, Christ poured out His life for us.  Each and every one of us was unlikely, unlovable, and difficult.  Never the less, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:68) Christ, hanging on the cross, dealing with your sins, is Gods ultimate expression of His love for you.

But wait, theres more!  The Samaritan in the story transported the poor victim to an Inn where he could receive care while he healed.  Christ sends the Holy Spirit to gather His people into His church where they also receive care and healing the forgiveness of sins freely given by word as the pastor absolves the sin of the baptized the forgiveness of sins given individually, one mouth at a time, as the pastor brings the very body and blood of the Savior for us Christians to eat and to drink the forgiveness proclaimed by the preaching of the Word.  All these are the medicine of immortality that Jesus has given to His church to care for His saints.  All this is backed up by the unlimited credit line of Gods love as expressed in the Gospel.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus has taught us that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to inherit eternal life.  Instead, there is this impossible standard of love that none of us can meet.  Thankfully, Jesus is the Christ who kept this high standard of love in that He loved us even while we were the most unlovable.  We inherit eternal life because Christ has died and He put us in His will.  Now we shall live forever even as He has risen from the dead and lives into all eternity.  Amen

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