Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In our text for today, we find one of the best known parables of Jesus, that of the Good Samaritan. Many people understand this parable as a fable against xenophobia, even racism. The Samaritans were a foreign ethnic group in the land of the Jews, descendants of those who abandoned Judaism to marry Canaanites. When the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon, the Samaritans attacked them. At that time of Jesus, open hostility was in the past, but there was not friendship between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans had their own traditions and religion. Well, then, it is true that we must show God's love and mercy to all people, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
However, this understanding does not capture the depth of the parable. Focus on the context: “And turning to his disciples, he said to them privately: Blessed are the eyes that see what you see: For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and hear what you hear, and did not hear it. "
The disciples had the privilege of seeing Jesus, the Savior of the world, in the flesh. All this had befallen the disciples without their seeking it. New Testament Christians do not share the disadvantages of the believers of old. Because although we cannot see Jesus in the flesh, He is with us in His Word and sacraments, and the Holy Spirit illuminates our understanding of the Word. This is important, because some quotes from the Old Testament follow.
And behold, a doctor of the law arose and said, to test him: Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And He said to him: What is written in the law? How do you read? And he answering, 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 well; do this, and you will live. "
How strange this man did not ask Jesus, What should I do to gain eternal life?, but what should I do to inherit eternal life? Perhaps his test was to tempt Jesus to say he needed something more than the inheritance of the patriarchs and prophets to be a member of God's people. Jesus responded with the words of Scripture, first, Deuteronomy 6: 5 and second, Leviticus 19:18.
Remember our catechism class. The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God and their summary is like this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. The other seven commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbors and the summary is like this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus praised the teacher's answer for being correct. But he added something important: Do this and you will live. Herein lies the real difficulty, because knowing and doing are two very different things. If it were indeed possible to keep God's Law perfectly, then the person who could perform this wonderful feat would obtain eternal life. The perfect fulfillment of the Law has, as a reward of merit, the bliss of heaven. But by the works of the law no one is justified before God, because there is no man on earth who does good and does not sin.
The moral law that God gave through Moses is good and holy; so Jesus did not deny it. But the law does not save us, because no one can fulfill it perfectly. That is why Saint Paul says in our epistle (Galatians 3: 16-22), “For if a law had been given that could give life, justice would truly have been by law. But the Scripture shut up everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. "
However, the Jews interpreted the second part of the law in a very restricted way, including only those of their own nation as their neighbors and excluding everyone else. They considered only those they love as their neighbor, that is, one who is a friend and deserves it, who is worthy of the benefit of love, from whom they had been served and hope to benefit even more, believing that they were not obliged to serve or help strangers or enemies. It was easier to think that wat they could comply with the law. Sadly, many of the so-called Christians think this way today and this is the source of many conflicts. The good news of salvation in Christ is for all nations, and the interpreter of the law knew it in his heart.
But, notice how Jesus reverses the question, And who is my neighbor? "Who, then, of these three do you think was the neighbor of the one who fell into the hands of thieves?" In the mind of the doctor of the law, he was able to decide who deserves mercy and who does not. The Samaritans were not worthy of receiving mercy and love from him. But, Jesus asked him, What if he were half dead and his savior was a Samaritan? Would he refuse the Samaritan's help, if it were his only hope? Of course not.
Therefore, we can understand the parable in this way. Each one of us is the man almost dead on the road, beaten by the devil and his servants. We have no strength to help ourselves. The priest and the Levite represent the law of Moses and the prophets. But they don't save us. The Old Testament is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is the Word of God, but it is not the Word in its fullness. The revelation of the gospels is missing, which is Jesus Christ paid the debt for our sins on the cross and gives us the promise of eternal life through his blood.
Now, I ask you, who denounced Jesus Christ as a Samaritan? The Pharisees. Also, they denounced him because they spoke with Samaritans. None of this would matter to them if they had recognized Jesus as their only hope.
We too must recognize Jesus as our only hope. The Scriptures reveal Jesus Christ to us, but many people do not like this Jesus. His words are too critical of his lifestyle. He lived in a different time and place. Prefer a Jesus Christ of your imagination.
However, if we recognized our spiritual condition as not nearly dead, but completely dead, with no hope of life, we would recognize Jesus as our Savior and nothing else would matter. Thanks to the Holy Spirit to change our heart and mind in this regard and gives us the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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