ďThe Good SamaritanĒ
The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
week we reviewed the biblical distinction between Godís law and
Godís gospel. In His
parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus presents to us these two main
teachings of the Christian faith. This
parable holds before us the promises of the law and shows us that we
have no right to claim them because we have not done what the law
requires. It then describes
the gospel in such a comforting way that we can rejoice in our Savior
and claim, by faith in the gospel, the promises that the law could not
law is the teaching of Godís word that tells us how we must live if we
are to gain eternal life. The
lawyer knew the right answers: ďYou
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 you shall love
your neighbor as yourself.Ē The
man asked Jesus a question and then provided his own answer.
He was right. If you
want to do something to inherit eternal life, you must obey Godís law.
And he was right in stating the requirements of that law.
Jesus said, ďYou have answered correctly, do this and you will
live.Ē But the man was
dead wrong about the most important thing.
He thought he had obeyed Godís law when he had not.
That was his fatal mistake.
Though he was an expert in the law, in fact he was completely
ignorant of its true requirements.
order to understand the parable of the Good Samaritan we need to pay
attention to St. Lukeís words about the lawyer to whom Jesus told it:
ďBut he wanted to justify himself.Ē
That was, of course impossible.
God alone justifies. No
man, woman or child can justify himself.
The man wanted to do something to inherit eternal life.
It is obvious that those who are justified, that is, those whom
God says are truly good and righteous, will indeed inherit eternal life.
From cover to cover the Bible teaches that sinners do not go to
heaven. Only the righteous
are saved. But it is just
as clear that no one is righteous by nature and no one can make himself
righteous. This is the
lesson of Godís law, the lesson the lawyer had to learn.
He assumed that he had already taken care of the first table of
the law, that he had already loved the Lord his God with all his heart,
soul, strength and mind. Then,
just to make sure that he had the second table of the law covered, he
asked Jesus, ďAnd who is my neighbor?Ē
lawyer was, in a word, self-righteous.
An expert in Godís law, and yet so profoundly ignorant of its
requirements! To think that
you have loved God as God requires of you!
What blind arrogance! What
utter sinful deceit! Jesus
didnít even waste his time arguing the point.
Instead, He told him a story.
chose His characters carefully. There
lies a man on the side of the road, beaten, robbed and half-dead.
He is helpless. He has been left to die.
Along comes a priest, a man known for his piety, his prayers, and
his deep devotion to God. He
sees the helpless man and walks by on the other side.
You can be sure that he wished the man no harm.
He didnít do anything to cause the manís predicament.
He undoubtedly shook his head in dismay at the terrible crime
that had been committed against that poor man.
And he prayed. He
prayed for the souls of the robbers, for the health of the victim, and
for himself, that God would keep him obedient to His law.
Likewise, the Levite saw the unfortunate man and passed by on the
other side. Neither man did anything to help the neighbor in need.
These were men who loved the law, applied the law to others, and
stood in judgment of those who did not meet their standards.
They reveled in their holiness as they walked past the dying man
on their way to serve God.
law of Christian love cannot be contained by rules.
It knows only that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We have rules in our homes and we have rules in our school.
Without them, chaos would ensue.
But there are no rules written, nor could there be, which would
have told the priest and the Levite what to do when they saw that man on
the side of the road. You
either love your neighbor or you donít.
Love is not a mere feeling.
It is not just obeying rules.
Love is doing what is needed to help the one in need.
you see yourself suffering the pain of another?
What would you want someone to do for you in such a case? Whatever it is, that is what God requires you to do for your
neighbor. And your neighbor
does not need to be a Christian. He
doesnít need to be your friend or someone you know.
Your neighbor is whoever needs your help when you are in a
position to help him in whatever need he has.
we hear unkind rumors about our neighbor, what do we do?
Do we keep quiet or do we say something kind about him?
When we keep quiet, we walk on by, just like the priest and the
Levite. Thatís not how to
love your neighbor as yourself. If
you were the one whose name was being slandered, wouldnít you want a
voice to defend you? It is
not sin only when we are actively doing what is wrong.
It is sin when we donít do what is right. When we have an opportunity to befriend someone in need and
we donít take it we do wrong. Being
a neighbor involves action.
priest was a member of the church!
The Levite was a member of the church!
Outstanding, respected, church going, God-serving religious
hypocrites! The Samaritan was not a member of the church.
And he put the so-called Christians to shame.
yet it is this Samaritan who takes away our shame.
For this parable not only teaches us the law, it teaches us the
gospel. You and I are the
man on the side of the road, beaten and robbed by the devil and his
lies; we are the helpless dying man.
Our sins overwhelm us, our guilt rises up to claim us, Godís
law, like a finger of judgment, accuses us and denies us any hope of
eternal life. We are lying
on the side of the road, waiting only to die.
And then Jesus comes. He
is the Good Samaritan. He
sees us in our need and does not walk on by, but he comes to us and
tends to our wounds. He pours the oil of his holy gospel into our cuts, soothing
the pain and bringing relief. He
pours in the wine of his grace to disinfect the wounds and speed us to
health. He lays us on his
donkey, that is, he, Jesus, bears us to the inn, which is His holy
church, and to the innkeeper, that is, to those who preach and teach his
gracious word. He provides
in that word, that pure and saving doctrine, all that we need to gain
our health. He pays for our health.
Not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His
innocent suffering and death. He
knows that the priests and the Levites of this world cannot and will not
help us. He can and does.
The one who removed our sins by His blood on Calvary, is also the
one who finds us in our spiritual misery and helplessness and saves us
by His gracious word.
law of God cannot save a single soul from hell.
Only Jesus can do that. The
law of God can only show us our helplessness to save ourselves. The law always accuses.
It can offer no help. The
law is like the priest and the Levite.
He looks at us, shakes his head, and offers us no help at all.
So we preach and we teach and we confess the gospel of the Good
Samaritan: Jesus Christ. He
knows our sins because He suffered for them.
He understands by His own experience the pain of being burdened
by guilt because he has borne our guilt and carried our sorrows.
He is the one who forgives us, restores us, strengthens us, and
brings to us eternal life.
Christians put themselves out for one another and take upon themselves
the burdens of others they imitate Jesus.
Children imitate their parents (often without even realizing it)
and we might try to emulate someone we admire.
When we imitate Jesus we are imitating Him who by His humble
service redeemed us from sin and death and destroyed all our spiritual
enemies. The devil cannot
lay claim to us because Jesus has destroyed his power.
The law cannot torment us with its accusations because Jesus has
fulfilled the law as our substitute.
When we imitate the humble service that Jesus offered, we are
making a confession of faith. We are confessing that Christ really is our Redeemer and
Savior. We are saying that
a life in which we put the needs of others before our own really is a
life worth living. It must
be. This is the life that
Jesus lived and by so living this life He won eternal life for us.
is why this story is particularly comforting and compelling.
Jesus does not moralize. He
doesnít simply give instructions on how to do this or that or the
other good work. Jesus
finds us in our spiritual helplessness and He rescues us.
It is always as our dear Savior that Jesus leads us through life.
He doesnít prod us with impossible demands, but He goes before
us to do everything we need to do. Then when we do what God has called us to do as mothers and
fathers, children, employers, employees, teachers, students, farmers,
nurses, policemen, husbands and wives, we do so as Christians.
We donít need to look any further for someone to serve than in
our own home, classroom, or office. And when we fail in our service, when we walk on by and find
ourselves guilty and by our guilt find ourselves spiritually wounded and
helpless to help ourselves, who comes to our aid? It is Jesus, our Good Samaritan.
To know Jesus is to know life.
Everyone else walks by on the other side. Only Jesus carries us to the Inn and cares for us.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus