Trinity 13 2020
September 6, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
This morning in the Gospel reading we hear the beloved story of the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable has been so endearing and enduring that hospitals, care facilities, social agencies, and the like have been named after this Good Samaritan. But have you ever noticed that Jesus doesn’t actually call the Samaritan “good.” We do that. Our Bibles insert the title, “Good Samaritan,” but it is not in the text. Jesus doesn’t use any adjectives at all. He only asks at the end, “Who became the man’s neighbor?” The lawyer calls him the merciful one.
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” “Who is my neighbor?” These are the questions that Jesus is answering, and in His answer, we learn of Jesus Himself. Jesus, of course, is the Merciful Samaritan, and maybe that is a better description of this parable. Jesus is speaking here of Himself, and He certainly is “good,” but the point in the parable is not on His goodness but on His mercy. He is a despised outsider without any reason to help the one who is hurt, who helps when no one else will or can. He doesn’t pass by. He has compassion. He takes care of and pays for everything and then He promises to return.
And remember, this parable, as all parables are, is about Jesus. Inheritance of eternal life is not about your doing, but about Jesus’ doing, about Jesus’ work for you. To illustrate Jesus’ point that fulfilling the law perfectly is impossible. Jesus is the merciful Samaritan, you are the man beaten and left for dead. The Merciful One who took up flesh and was despised by men, but came and found you half dead and had compassion on you since the Law could help you as it passed by on other side. His compassion put on the oil of Holy Baptism and the Wine of Holy Communion at His own expense. He put you on His beast of burden while He walked as your servant. He took us to an inn of the holy, Christian Church for recovery. He rescued you, brought you to health, paid for your ongoing care, and promises to come back.
Having heard the Gospel, the lawyer, indeed every Christian, is to realize that everyone is his neighbor and that he ought to love them because God loves them. There is an expectation in Christ that having heard of the frees mercy of God in the Messiah that comes for those half-dead and in need of forgiveness and bestows eternal life on them, that the lawyer will be changed. In fact, the word “Christian” means “little Christ”, for the one who believes is being conformed into the image of Christ. He will therefore go and do likewise, taking the Gospel with him, witnessing to the mercy of God and the compassion of God, with both his words and deeds.
“You, go and do likewise,” Jesus says. That is a certainly a Law statement spoken to the lawyer. But it isn’t an accusation. It is the 3rd use of the Law, a guide to the Christian, to instruct in the Christian faith. There is no Christian without faith in Christ, and there is no faith without love, without compassion of Christ lived out and shared in neighborly love. Charity is an outward act of the inner man of the Christian. Charity moves the heart to compassion, and it moves the hand to abundant giving. Compassion isn’t sufficient if it doesn’t give way to charity and help. Nor is charity sufficient if it doesn’t proceed from compassion. There is no truly good work that does not proceed from faith in Christ (Romans 14:23).
This is what we prayed for in the Collect of the Day, that the Lord grant us an increase of faith, hope, and love, to make us love what the Lord has commanded that we may obtain all that the Lord has promised. This is the renewing of baptismal grace, not only for the grace to do the commandments but to love them, that our lives are conformed to the will of God, that our hearts are ordered to love the right thing to the right degree in the right way with the right kind of love.
So you, little Christ, don’t hear God’s law and become self-righteous, as though the words of Jesus were poison to faith. Rather, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates days and night.” Psalm 1:1-2). The holy life of Christ is the most perfect example of virtue. Go, and do as Jesus does, even though your attempts are imperfect because you are still infected with sin and the good work begun in you is not yet complete. The command to go and do likewise will accuse you. You know that you have not lived up to it. But do not despair. For the Father still loves you, Jesus still died for you, and the Spirit still sanctifies you to be His beloved child of faith.
So, you little Christ, seek holy love. The holy love of God and the love of the neighbor. Foster the virtue of compassion and charity. Love the neighbor that is commended to you by God. If he is worthy of your love, then you should love him who is worthy. If he is not worthy, love him anyway, for the God whom you serve is worthy. By loving even your enemy, you show yourself to be a friend of God. Whoever your neighbor may be, Christ chose to die for him, to have compassion for him, and desires to rescue him (Romans 14:15). In all things, behind your neighbor, see the Cross, the final revelation of God’s love to the world.