Date: July 10 & 13, 2022
Festival: 5th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 10:25-37
Preaching Occasion: Grace Lutheran Church, Auburn, MI
Appointed Scriptures: Leviticus 18:1-5; 19:9-18; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
Sermon Hymn: LSB #683 Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me
Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of Jesus’ most popular parables. Perhaps we like it so much because Jesus puts the self-justifying lawyer in his place. Or maybe we like it so much because of the wonderful example of the Samaritan in this fictional story Jesus tells. I find it rather odd that we love this parable so much because it admonishes us to examine ourselves—to recognise where we have failed in being a good neighbour, and we don’t like being told that we’re not good. Like the lawyer, we too must ask ourselves, “Who is my neighbour?” And like the lawyer, we also must realise that we don’t measure up.
Law in the Text
The lawyer—an expert in the Law of God—asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life in order to trap Jesus, but he ended up trapping himself. It’s like what the psalm says, “They set a net for my steps… They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into themselves” [Psalm 57:6]. When Jesus asks him what the Law says, he answers, “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 neighbour as yourself.” Jesus tells him he has answered correctly, and if he does this, he will live. But being an expert in the Law, the man knew he didn’t measure up. So, he desired to justify himself by asking Jesus—perhaps in a sarcastic tone, “Who is my neighbour?” And Jesus doesn’t give him a straight answer this time; He tells him a parable to figure it out for himself. So, let’s ponder the parable.
In the parable, Jesus describes the priest as “going down,” which would mean he’d be coming from the Temple where you’d have to walk up to get to it because it’s on a hill, or a mount. If you’ve ever visited or seen photos of the Temple Mount, or the Dome of the Rock as it’s now called, you know what I mean. Coming down from the Temple, then, the priest would have just made himself clean in their washing rituals and touching a half-dead person would’ve made him unclean, so he just leaves him to die. And the Levite, being from the tribe of priests, refused to help the man likely for the same reason.
Then comes the Samaritan, which would offend this Jewish expert in the Law. The Samaritan in the story is likely a Jew, but he is one of those Jews who worships on Mt. Gerizim rather than Mt. Zion, that is, Jerusalem. They don’t just worship somewhere else, but they also intermarried with other peoples, so they’re Jewish inbreeds in the eyes of this member of the pure Jewish race. Yet as an ethnic Jew, this Samaritan would’ve known the Law just as well as the priest and Levite did. He would’ve known the laws against touching the dead, but he also knew God’s second greatest commandment from Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” [Lev. 19:18]. So, he did what he would want any person to do for him—indeed, what God expected of him: he had compassion on this man by dressing his wounds and taking him to an inn to recover, even paying the innkeeper to take care of him until he recovers.
When Jesus asked the lawyer which of these three proved to be a neighbour, the lawyer perhaps begrudgingly said, “The one who showed mercy.” He couldn’t even bring himself to say “the Samaritan”; it was “the one” who showed mercy. And Jesus tells him, “You go, and do likewise.” So, the answer to the lawyer’s questions is this, “Everyone. Everyone in your immediate vicinity is your neighbour. Therefore, go and have mercy on them, and you will live.”
Law in the World
Now, like the lawyer, you also know the Law. You know the Ten Commandments; your catechesis began with the Ten Commandments. Our reading from Leviticus tells you how to love your neighbour: take care of the poor and the immigrant among you; do not steal, deal falsely, or lie to one another; do not falsely swear an oath in God’s name and so profane His name; do not oppress or rob your neighbour, especially the blind and the deaf; do not do injustice in court but be impartial in your judging; do not slander your neighbour or demand his death; do not hate your neighbour in your heart; and do not take vengeance into your own hands or even bear a grudge against them.
And you know the Ten Commandments: do not have other gods before the One True God; do not misuse the name of the Lord your God; do not profane the Sabbath by despising preaching and the hearing of God’s Word; honour your father and mother; do not murder; do not commit adultery, which Jesus says one even commits when lust is in the heart [Matt. 5:27-28]; do not steal; do not damage your neigbour’s reputation, yet gossip is our favourite pastime; and do not covet what your neighbour has. Like the lawyer, you and I look at the Law and realise we do not measure up.
So, we try to justify ourselves. “It’s okay if I don’t keep the Sabbath just this once to see that sports game or because I’m on vacation. God will forgive me.” “It’s not really adultery since I don’t love my spouse anymore, or since I’m only looking at a screen and I’m not actually with another physical person.” “It’s not really murder; after all, it’s just a cluster of cells, they’re not really a person.” “I’m not really hurting his reputation; it can’t be a violation against the 8th Commandment if it’s true.” “I’m not really coveting; there’s no better deal than this Black Friday sale!” And on it goes. With all this self-justification going on, I wonder if Paul can write to the church in American as he wrote to the church in Colossae, that he is thankful to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in hearing about our faith in Christ and the love we have for one another [Col. 1:3-4]. Probably not.
Gospel in the Text
You don’t measure up, but Christ does measure up. Jesus kept the Law on your behalf. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” He said. “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” [Matt. 5:17]. Jesus tells the lawyer to go and be the Good Samaritan, but even then, we can’t be that good. But Jesus is that good; He is the Good Samaritan. Jesus fulfilled the Law in Leviticus, and so fulfilled the Ten Commandments. Jesus never stole, but He lived in poverty. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lift His head,” He said [Matt. 8:20]. He never dealt falsely with others, and He never lied. He did and taught everything His Father and Heaven told Him [John 5:19-20; 12:49]. He brought rest to the oppressed. He healed the deaf and the blind. He brought justice to the oppressed while allowing injustice to be done to Him in the court of Pontius Pilate.
He judged justly by taking care of the poor in healing their incurable diseases and exercising demons out of them, and He brought people in great positions down to low estates by humbling them, like this lawyer. He never hated anyone, but always loved them, to the point that He died on the cross for every human being who ever existed and would ever exist. Though injustice put Him on the cross, He did not seek vengeance or bear a grudge against them, or you. “Father, forgive them,” He said, “for they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34]. If there can be any great description of the extent to which Jesus loved His neighbours, it is as St. Peter wrote, “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” [1 Peter 2:23-24].
Gospel in the World
Jesus went to a half-dead people—to Israel, to you and me—and He had compassion on you. “By His wounds we are healed,” Isaiah prophesied [53:5]. By His own death, He bound up your wounds and made you alive. You measure up not by keeping the Law, but by Christ’s death and resurrection. In the Lord’s Supper, you receive the very body and blood of Christ that was shed for you to grant you this healing of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. You drink the blood and eat the body of the one who died for you, and He makes you clean. I don’t care what the sin is—whatever the thorn in your side. Jesus binds up this wound in His Word of forgiveness and in His very body and blood in the Supper—indeed, in your own Baptism as well where He has washed away all your sins. And you have an inn to which the Lord brings you to clean your wounds. We call it church. As Luther once commented on this parable:
…because remnants of sin remain in us, we do not keep the Law perfectly. But this is not imputed to us who believe in Christ—in Christ, who was promised to Abraham and has blessed us. For meanwhile we are cherished and fed, for the sake of Christ, in the lap of the forbearance of God. We are that wounded man who fell among the robbers; whose wounds the Samaritan bound up, pouring on oil and wine; whom he set on his own beast and brought to an inn and took care of; and whom he entrusted to the innkeeper upon departing, with the words: “Take care of him” (Luke 10:30-35). Thus we are cherished meanwhile as in an inn, until the Lord reaches out His hand a second time, as Isaiah says, to deliver us (Is. 10:10-11).LW 26:260
The church is your inn for rest and healing, and God the Father is the innkeeper. Here, Christ invites all who are weary and heavy laden to grant you rest from sin [Matt. 11:28-30]. He lays your weary heads on the pillow of the Holy Spirit to comfort you with the words of His Gospel. And God our Innkeeper prepares a meal before you—a Holy Supper—within this inn to bind your wounds with the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus His Son. Come, therefore, to the Table for the antidote to your sins, to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul unto life everlasting. Amen.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.