Monday, August 26, 2013

The Merciful Samaritan

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii [3] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Desiring to justify himself, that is and while choking on the law, he begins to ask who his neighbor is. See this is what the Old Adam in us wants to do. This is what our sinful nature wants to do. It wants to justify itself. This man asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. It is an admission that he knows he doesn’t deserve it. He knows the law well, and for precisely that reason he is cut to the quick, beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road when after reciting the law, Jesus simply says to him: “Do this and you will live.” His own words tied the noose around his neck. Do this and you will live.
It is true of the law, it doesn’t lie. It is good and holy the law is. And if you do it, then you will live. Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your might and all your mind and your neighbor as yourself and you will live. But with that we start looking for wiggle room straightway. Your neighbor who is he? Who is she? The reason we want to know is because we haven’t loved them as ourselves and we know it.
My neighbor? I have a hard enough time with family, much less the stranger that lives next door, or down the street and across the way. Who is my neighbor? To this question Jesus answers in a parable. The good Samaritan, the merciful Samaritan. A man falls in among robbers, he’s beaten, robbed, and left for dead naked on the side of the road. It could be any one of us after the law has done its work with us. After we contemplate loving our neighbor as ourselves and then remember the fight we had with our brother this last week, the coworker we don’t get along with who slanders us behind our back. You don’t get out alive. Law kills the sinner and you are a sinner.
A priest, the old servant of the law, walks on by and does not a thing. He doesn’t lift a finger to help with the burden of the law. You are on your own. This is a bit like what you hear most often these days coming from the mouths of Christians. Law. They talk about it in terms of sanctification you are supposed to grow in day by day getting better at living the so-called Christian life. This becomes a matter of dressing more respectfully, especially if you are a girl, because if a boy has unclean thoughts and daydreams about you, it is obviously your fault. It has to do with not drinking, and not because drinking is a sin, but you might associate with sinners if you go to a bar, and that might give the wrong impression. From everything I can tell it has to do with putting on airs and cramming a can of Febreze up your hind cavity so as to convince people your farts don’t stink. But they don’t do anything for you lying on the side of the road, because they have no forgiveness to offer.
Then you have your Levite, a man so studied in the word of God, and he passes right on by too. He sees you lying there beaten and left for dead. You ask him for help and all he has is some vague talk about god, and a watering down and confusion of the law. After all, why should you love your neighbor as yourself just because the Bible says so? He starts talking about the Bible being written by men who know nothing more than you do. Well intentioned, but so dated now as to be meaningless. After all we know that the sun doesn’t actually come up, but the earth revolves around the sun. etc. Perhaps he even leaves with a little Buddhist wisdom. But in the end, you are still there on the side of the road, your soul hemorrhaging with a wound left by the two edged sword that is the word of God and no amount of nay saying is going to relieve you of your guilt, or heal you. He passes on by.
But then comes the Samaritan. He’s an ugly sort of dude, not respectable. See this is where Jesus comes into the story, under the guise of a Samaritan. And the rest of the Pharisees and Sadducees the priests and the elders wouldn’t see much difference between a Galilean and a Samaritan anyway, especially if the man was known to speak with Samaritan women at Jacob’s well, or to receives sinners and eat and drink with them, to let harlots provocatively dressed wash his feet with their tears, to enter the houses of tax collectors and the like. But everyone of these people had something in common, when the law had bloodied them enough to leave them with no delusion of self-justification, with self-righteousness. When finally they knew they could not justify themselves, and were left for dead on the side of the road naked, well then Jesus came along, he poured oil and wine into their wounds and bound them up. He had compassion and mercy on them and forgave their sins, fed them and clothed them, left them with the innkeeper of the church, left two denarii and promised to pay whatever more it might cost to get him well.
And this is what he has done and continues to do for each and every sinner here today. Picked you up and poured forgiveness over your soul in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit clothing your naked soul with his own righteousness. And with that he continues to care for you even today pouring wine into your wounds, the blood of Christ shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, and feeding you forgiveness with his very own body. Indeed whatever more it costs he will repay because he has paid for it all with his own life, now your life is his life, and he won’t let it go. This is the love the merciful Samaritan has shown for you. Go and do likewise? Yes, go because it is not our forgiveness we offer but his, clothe them with Christ’s righteousness, poor into them the righteousness of Christ and bring them to baptism, for it isn’t you that pours the wine into their wounds but Christ himself, the merciful Samaritan, working through you as keepers of the inn, his very own church.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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