Trinity 13 – August 20/21, 2016 – Luke 10:23-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
One more Saturday/Sunday where everything revolves around justification. Two weeks ago, the tax collector went home justified; last week Jesus fixed the deaf man's ears – made them right, made them just. And today, we get told the tale of the Good Samaritan. “Come on, Pastor Brown! Even the Good Samaritan? How is the Good Samaritan supposed to be a text about justification? This is the Sunday where the Pastor is supposed to stand up there and wag his finger at me and tell me how I don't love my neighbor enough and that I need to do more and be like the Good Samaritan.” Again, you're partially right. You don't love your neighbor like you ought to. In fact, I'm sure that if I had a video instant replay of everyone's week, I could pause several times for each of us and say, “Yep, right here – see this. Jerk move. That was rotten.” I know some of my own, some things I probably didn't notice – I'm sure you know some of your own, and there's probably some you didn't see either. Of course you don't love your neighbor like you ought to – now, what to do about it?
Jesus starts the text by reminding the disciples that Prophets and Kings longed to see Him, that He is the fulfillment of the ages, the promised Messiah – but some folks just don't see it, aren't focused upon Jesus. Exhibit A, a lawyer, a master of Jewish Law. And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lawyer doesn't see Jesus. He doesn't see the Messiah. Doesn't even see a prophet. Teacher. But not even that – this lawyer is going to put Jesus to the test. His question isn't respectful, it's more along the lines of, “Alright, smarty-pants, I've got a question for you.” The only problem is, it shows just how far off this fellow's thinking is. Let me demonstrate: What must I do to inherit my parents' money – well, I guess I'd have to find some way to bump them off, make it look like an accident so it pays off triple. Do you see? You don't do anything to inherit, because you inherit when someone dies – and if you are doing something to cause that, that's bad.
And so Jesus just tosses it right back at him – what's the Law say, how do you read it lawyer man? And this is a basic, simple answer. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. The Lawyer knows it – it's basic, you all should know it as well. And then Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Did you hear what Jesus did? He didn't say, “Do this and you will inherit” - do this and you will live. Alright fella, since you want your life to be a result of what you do – just life perfectly, and you'll not die. Good luck with that, knock yourself out. Now, remember, the Lawyer was going to test Jesus, put Jesus in His place. And He fails miserably, and He's embarrassed. And what do we sinful human beings do when we've done something stupid and embarrassing? But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” He desires to justify himself. There's that justify word. Sinful man wants to justify himself – it was part of his initial question – what must I do. It's part of his embarassed response. Uh, no, I didn't just ask a question a 6 year old should be able to answer, it was setting up this follow-up – um, who is my neighbor. Who can I reasonably be expected to love! And then we get the tale of the Good Samaritan.
Therefore, my friends, understand what Jesus is doing when He's telling the tale of the Good Samaritan. It's not the finger wagging law bomb we expect saying “This is what you better be doing if you expect God to love you and bless you.” It's not even directly answering the lawyer's question. He had asked “who is my neighbor.” Jesus, after telling the story asks, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” So, lawyer, which one of those looked to be a neighbor – what's a neighbor look like? And the lawyer knows the answer is the one who shows mercy. And Jesus tells him to do mercy, to be focused there. Why? The lawyer hadn't been thinking of mercy – he'd been thinking of what he must do to prove himself, to demonstrate how good he himself is. He thinks neither of God nor his neighbor – but mercy deals directly with God and the neighbor. Listen.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. So, there's the set up. Mind you what is going on. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho switched back and forth between mountains. It was winding and you couldn't see far – it was the perfect place for an ambush. And an ambush happens. Robbers come and beat the fellow half to death. And a priest sees it and skirts right on by. Likewise the Levite, the fellow of good stock. Be fair to them. What they do is utterly reasonable. Don't believe me? Let's say you're driving through Kankakee and you hear gun shots. Are you stopping, are you searching for the wounded, or are you locking the doors and getting out of there ASAP? Don't belittle the priest and the Levite here. Show them some mercy; what they do is typical and reasonable. Now, what the Samaritan does - well, that's just nuts.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ So what's a Samaritan? They were people who were hated by the Jews. Ancient enemies. They were the conquerors in the OT lesson. 900 years of bad blood. So in the story this Samaritan is someone who is a stranger in a land where no one likes him. So, if there are robbers, they can rob him and even feel patriotic about it. If anyone should get out of there, it should be him. But no, he stops. Puts the guy on his own animal – so if the robbers come he can smack the donkey and off it will go, carrying the wounded to safety while he is left behind for the robbers to beat and kill. It's an incredibly brave act. And then, when they get to the inn – well, they didn't have hospitals in those days – the closest thing would be an inn, where they were notorious for cheating travelers, over charging them... perhaps a bit closer to today's hospitals than we like to admit. But the Samaritan says, “Alright, here's some cash – take care of him, and whatever else you need, I'll pay you later.” Generous – foolishly generous. So, which one acted like the neighbor – the one who showed foolishly generous mercy.
In reality, this is a story of Justification. While you should indeed strive to be like the Good Samaritan, while you should strive to show mercy – you aren't the Good Samaritan. You aren't. If you are anyone in this tale, you're guy beaten half to death. That's what life here in this fallen world does to us. We get kicked in the teeth by sin – by the sin of our neighbors and the stupid sins we ourselves do. And we get beaten and smacked down. So how does that get fixed, how does that get made right? Is it by the law? Is it by our own works? Is the solution in the tale someone sitting down next to the half-dead fellow and saying, “Well, see, you need to be nicer, and you need to be stronger, and probably smarter too, oh, and just stop bleeding because that's messy, and while you're at it stop moaning so much.” What good would that be? He's half dead, he's not doing anything to rescue himself. And likewise, you, you who were dead in your trespasses, you aren't capable of doing anything to rescue yourself. For that you need a rescuer, a Justifier who shows you foolishly generous mercy. And that is Christ Jesus.
Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Are you stuck dealing with sin and on your way to death? So be it, for into this fallen world comes Christ Jesus to be with you, and now you need fear nothing. For even though this Christ Jesus was despised and hated – He lifts you up, carries you to safety, binds your wounds, and all of this, free to you. Costly for Him. Remember the Catechism - He has purchased and won me, a lost and condemned creature, not with silver or gold, not with 2 denarii, but with His precious blood and innocent suffering and death. And it is free. What did the half-dead man do to “inherit” such kindness? Nothing. Well, other than to get robbed and be beaten near to death. Nope – everything flows from mercy – from God's mercy, His mercy which drives him to rescue and redeem you. It's all about justification.
Dangnabit Pastor Brown – more justification when the text even ends with a go and do likewise. Well, yeah. Because “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 to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” You've heard and seen Christ and His mercy. Indeed, you've been given life in Christ. You've been redeemed and forgiven – and where there is forgiveness there is life and salvation. So mercy is going to flow. And if you don't waste too much time thinking about it, don't spend too much time playing the angles and wondering how you can butter up either God or your reputation – you'll simply show love, show mercy. Because you are justified. You are made right – and having been mercied by God, God will use you to give His mercy to others. But that has nothing to do with causing your salvation, or changing what God thinks of you, or even some claptrap about how “good” you are. You're good because God says you are. You are valuable because God says, “You're worth the life and death of Christ Jesus.” You've received love and mercy from God, and love and mercy will just pop out. Your actions, your love, your good works are not the cause of your salvation, not the cause of God's relationship with you. They are the fruit, the result. The love you show is simply the love that Christ has poured on you and through you, overflowing to others. The mercy you show – it's the mercy He's covered you with with; it's just going to get onto the people you come across. You have inherited eternal life – for Christ Jesus has died for you, and even before you were born He earmarked you in His will, in the Testament in His blood – you are forgiven, and you have life in Christ. You are, in a word, Justified. Your life is being drenched in Christ's mercy, even from the font unto this moment. So yes, see and hear Christ; be focused on mercy - go and do likewise, this do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me – so that you would be refreshed, that you would receive even more mercy from God so as to be strengthened in faith and love. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.