Trinity 13| Luke 10:23-37| Pastor James Preus| September 3, 2023
Immediately before Jesus declares His disciples blessed for seeing and hearing what many prophets and kings desired to see and hear and before He told the story of the Good Samaritan to the self-righteous lawyer, He prayed this to His Father, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” And with these words, Jesus shows that saving faith is a gift from God. You cannot know Christ as your Savior by your own understanding, but it is God who reveals Christ to you.
This explains why Jesus tells his disciples, a crew of poorly educated men of low class, that they are blessed, while he demonstrates that the expert in the Law is not. Jesus’ disciples, like little children, received the Gospel as a gift. They weren’t smarter than this lawyer. They didn’t even know the Bible better. But they, like children, received the Gospel as a gift.
Christians, like little children, receive all good things from God by grace, as a gift. Yet, if we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God, then certainly the kingdom of God must be for little children! And indeed, Jesus says just that, “Let the little children come to me, and by no means hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16) The kingdom of God is for little children. The greatest candidates to hear and believe the Gospel are little children. We need to stop despising little children and thinking they cannot understand the message of Jesus and instead speak to our children often about Christ and bring them to church to hear Jesus’ word. It is to such children that the Father reveals the kingdom of God.
In great contrast to little children, we get a wise lawyer. The word lawyer here doesn’t mean an attorney at law, but rather, an expert in the Torah, that is, the Old Testament Scriptures. This lawyer knew the Bible. He knew every regulation and rule. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” With this question, the lawyer has already shown that though he may know the Scriptures front and back, he does not understand them. What must I do to inherit eternal life? But an inheritance is a gift! And God promised it to Abraham as a gift. Why does this lawyer think you can earn eternal life? But the lawyer asks this question to see if Jesus will make a mistake. Jesus doesn’t fall for the trap and asks the lawyer what the Law says.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all you mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer answers correctly. Yet, Jesus crushes him with his response, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” Well, how is that a crushing response? Because Jesus says, “Do this.” That’s what the lawyer wasn’t expecting. The lawyer is an expert. He treats Scripture as a theoretical science. But to do it? Yes, do it. It is not the hearers of the Law who will be justified, not even the reciters of the Law who will be justified, but the doers of the Law (Romans 2:13).
Well, what does it mean to do this? What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? It means that your entire life, being, activity, thoughts are devoted to putting God’s will before your own, to obeying Him. It means that you trust in God more than money and possessions; that you gladly listen to and learn His Holy Word; that you do not neglect to worship Him. To love your neighbor as yourself means that you consider your neighbor’s needs as you consider your own needs, that you do unto him as you would have him do unto you. This isn’t a theory. This is an activity to live by.
The lawyer shows he is trapped by his response, “And who is my neighbor?” Apparently, the lawyer thinks he has loved God sufficiently, but he wants to know who his neighbor is, so that he may know whom he must love and whom he may still hate. The Jewish teachers in those days taught that Jews must show love to other Jews, even if they were angry at them, yet this did not apply toward Gentiles, and certainly not to Samaritans. The lawyer asks this question, because he doesn’t want to love his neighbor.
Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. A man goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho, where along the way he gets jumped by bandits, beaten, robbed, and left halfdead along the side of the road. Jericho has an interesting history in the Bible. It was destroyed by God when Joshua led Israel to the promised land. Joshua said that anyone who rebuilt Jericho would be cursed before the Lord, and it would cost him his oldest and youngest sons (Joshua 6:26). And hundreds of years later, a man did rebuild Jericho at the cost of two sons (1 Kings 16:34). In 2 Chronicles 28, God punished Judah, because king Ahaz had led them into idolatry. So, he let Israel defeat Judah in battle and take 200,000 captives to Samaria. Yet, godly men in Samaria reminded them that they had their own sins before God, so the Samarians, foreshadowing the Good Samaritan, clothed the people of Judah and brought them back to Jericho. So, the Bible connects Jericho with sinners, who forsake God’s right path. So, one could argue that this man going down to Jericho was acting wickedly. This man lying half dead on the side of the road to Jericho is the proverbial man who got what he deserved. Do you help a man who got what was coming to him?
The priest and the Levite didn’t. Priests are descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, the first High Priest. Their job is to perform all religious rites in the temple, to sacrifice, pray for the people, and teach them the Scriptures. God designated the Levites as assistants to the priests. Aaron was a descendant of Levi. So, all Levites who weren’t descendants of Aaron were in charge of guarding and maintaining the temple. At times, they were even called to do the functions of the priests. The priest and the Levite were experts in the Law of God. They knew the Holy Scriptures better than anyone. Yet, they didn’t do what the Law required of them. They didn’t help the poor beaten-up man on the side of the road.
Why didn’t they help? Did they think the man deserved to be beaten up? How could they have known that? Were they afraid that the bandits were lying in wait? It doesn’t matter what excuse they made to justify themselves. They were required to help that man and they didn’t.
Yet, here comes the Good Samaritan. Samaritans are hated by Jews. Samaria became synonymous with the northern kingdom of Israel, because one of the kings of Israel made Samaria its capital city. When God punished Israel by letting Assyria take them captive, the king of Assyria sent foreigners to Samaria to replace the Israelites. So, Samaritans were half-breeds, who mingled their pagan customs with the religion of Israel. So, Samaritans were enemies of orthodox Jews.
Yet, this Samaritan sees his enemy lying on the road in need and he helps him. He pours on wine to disinfect the wounds and oil to protect them from infection. He binds up his wounds and puts him on his own animal, and takes him to an inn to care for him. Then, he pays the innkeeper two day’s wages to care for him while he is gone, but promises to pay him back whatever more he spends when he returns. He basically handed over his credit card for a stranger in need. The Samaritan did for that beaten-up man what he could only pray someone would do for him, yet could not expect it.
Now, Jesus turns the question on the lawyer. “Who among the three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the bandits?” “The one who showed him mercy,” responds the lawyer. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus concludes. So, don’t figure out who your neighbor is. Rather, you be a neighbor to whomever you encounter. Neighbor literally means one who is close to you. Whomever you encounter is your neighbor. And you should be a good neighbor to him by doing to him as you would have him do to you.
Go and do likewise, Jesus says. Do you think the lawyer went and did likewise? Do you think he ever did anything remotely close to what the Good Samaritan did? Do you think anyone in the crowd showed such self-sacrificial love toward a stranger? Have you ever done like the Good Samaritan did?
It’s easy to recite the words of the Law as the lawyer did. It’s easy to know that you ought to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and your neighbor as yourself. It is quite another thing to do it. And do it you are certainly required to do if you are to be righteous before God. Yet, you haven’t done it. The lawyer isn’t the only one who tries to justify himself. Have you not made your own excuses for why you didn’t need to help in this or that situation? And your excuses were reasonable and understanding and had the approval of those around you. But your excuses kept you from loving your neighbor as the Law requires.
This is why Scripture says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) The story of the Good Samaritan is an indictment on us all. Jesus is not exaggerating. This is how we should treat our neighbor! But we don’t. And so, Jesus shows that we have not done what we must do to earn eternal life.
Yet, here is what our Father in Heaven reveals to little children. Jesus is your Good Samaritan. You’ve gone down that rebellious road to Jericho, where you have been beaten and robbed by Satan. You lie dying at the side of the road by your own fault. The priest and Levite come down the road, but they can only tell you what God’s Law says, “You deserve this. The wages of sin is death. Stop being a sinner. Stop dying in your sin. Be good!” But this is no help at all. You continue to die in your sin.
But then comes your Good Samaritan, Jesus. You hated Him before you knew Him, because you hated His Father and despised His Word. Yet, even while you hated Him, He loved you and came to help you. He preached the Law to you, pouring on wine, which stung your wounds. But this was necessary to expose your sin. He then poured on soothing oil and bandaged your wounds, that is, He preached the Gospel that He forgives all your sins. He then put you on His own animal and brought you to the inn, that is, He baptized you into His own name and brought you into the Christian Church, where you will be cared for. He paid the full price for your care from His own pocket, that is, He suffered and died for your sins, washing them away in His own blood. And then He promised the innkeeper to pay whatever else would be needed for your recovery, that is, He provided His Church on earth with an inexhaustible source of forgiveness and grace, so that as often as you sin, as often as you fall, you can come to His Church and receive full forgiveness from His minister through the Word and the Sacrament of His body and blood. And He promises that He will come back. And He will come back to make sure that you have made a full recovery, to take you to your eternal home.
Jesus is the Good Samaritan to poor sinners beat-up by their own sins. Jesus is the Good Samaritan to helpless children. And it is only when Jesus becomes your Good Samaritan through faith that you can be a good Samaritan to others. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) It is when our Good Samaritan has shown such mercy to us that we are enabled to go and do likewise. Amen.