TO Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (Galatians 3:16-22)
23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:23-37)
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
When I read today’s account of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it becomes my very favorite parable – until I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Foolish Virgins, or the Rich Man and Lazarus, etc. Whatever parable I happen o be studying at the moment becomes my favorite.
The Gospel and Epistle text today deals with not only the acts of kindness and charity expected of the Godly man or woman, but the terms of the law and of grace as well. The Prayer of Collect makes reference to the ‘heavenly promises.’ These are promises of grace that stand in contrast to the condemnation under which we would all have fallen under the strict application of the law. The law has exempted no one; however, we were justified by the blood of Jesus Christ whose death on the cross paid our sin debt (if we have claimed that justification and salvation). There was nothing worthy in us that Christ should have paid our penalty, but He did so out of an uncompromising love for those who would accept the promise of grace made available to us through His act of sacrifice. Paul makes sound reference to the inability of the law to save us, for we are incapable of perfect obedience. If we were compelled to be the bloodline descendents of Abraham (as the law would require) we could not come to God. But being children who have come to God through the promises made possible in Christ, we are indeed the Children of Abraham. Now let us look at the Gospel text and the opening question of the lawyer which followed on a mysterious moment of Christ’s teaching to His disciples:
In order to fully understand the situation confronting Christ, we must observe that which the Lectionary failed to include – the preceding two verses that reveal the setting. “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” (Luke 10:21-22) Those whose high-minded thoughts are infatuated with the Self of the Ivory Tower will not understand the Words given by Christ here. Those men are much too good to get a handle on such simplicity as the Gospel represents. They must add to it their own complicated and sophisticated interpretations and render those in words which they can barely understand themselves and, certainly, not understood of those who are so simple as to know only Christ. “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:2-4) I am not so proud of my title as to be very happy to become a simple, little child for Christ. All of the lawyers, Scribes, and Pharisees gathered about not only would not believe, but refused to believe, the simple Gospel that had been given to the simple disciples of Christ. Note the grace of God evidenced in the last verse of the quote: “…and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” Has Jesus revealed His Father to you, Friend?
“And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” What standing and privilege we have to have come into the knowledge of the Gospel. We have been given greater privilege than many prophets and kings. Have we treasured the privilege above all others?
Jesus is speaking in a public place and gathered around were those who would have enjoyed presenting a question that would have undermined His wisdom and knowledge. I am amazed that they continued so to do for they were constantly made fools by the attempt. There is a “certain lawyer” present who felt able to place Christ on the spot with a question which it was the Lord’s very specialty to answer: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Is this a very good question? No, it is not. The premise of the question is wrong for there is nothing that we can DO to inherit eternal life – it is a gift of God. Jesus, being the most able of all teachers, gives the inquirer another question in response to fathom the depths of the inquirer’s knowledge as well as cause for deeper thought on the matter: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” Should not all of us determine our answers to questions of eternity on God’s Law? Should we not all have read it and meditated thereon? How does the lawyer, very apt at deciphering law, read the question? This is an excellent technique to determine – not the depth of the lawyer’s knowledge, but the want of knowledge.
The lawyer answered very ably for he knew the ‘words’ of the law, but perhaps not the spirit of it: “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” The lawyer may recognize the technical qualities of a diamond, but he cannot know the source of its beauty.
Note how respectfully Christ treats the question and answer of the lawyer who seeks to ‘tempt’ him. “And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” If credit is due, you may always expect it from Christ.
The lawyer realizes that he has failed to reveal any indiscretion in the answer of Christ and seeks to justify his inquiry and standing by pressing further. By asking this next question, he hopes to weaken the credibility of Christ in whatever He claims as a neighbor.“But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? We can clearly see by the motive and attitude that the lawyer is less in earnest to understand truth, than to place his witness off balance. His interest is not truth, but justification of himself which he is incapable of doing.
These next beautiful lines of a Parable of Christ are among the most beloved and noteworthy of the Gospels and repeated almost daily in general conversation: “Come on, be a good Samaritan and loan me some money!” or “The life of a victim of an automobile accident this morning was saved by a good Samaritan who just happen on the scene of the accident shortly after it happened.” Do we not hear such accounts daily?
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”
Here we see unsurpassing grace and a full figure of our Lord Himself described. In what way, you ask? Because we were that man who went DOWN the road of life and were beaten by the devil and his friends. We were left to die until a good Samaritan (Christ) came along – going UP to the Holy City – and treated our hurts and sores with His own riches and Being. He did so after even those who were considered ‘holy’ passed us by. He cared for our wounds, and placed us on His own beast, and took us to a place of security, and continued to treat our hurts, and purchased our continued treatment and security until He returns for us. This is part of the spiritual meaning, but there is also a general application that presents in our own lives and those of other Christians.
This ‘certain man’ that went down (the wrong direction) the road from Jerusalem, the Holy City, to Jericho, a worldly city, was a Jew. He it was who, it was suspected, would have a bag of money hidden on his person for commerce. Being a Jew, he had every right to expect help from his religious leaders of the same race. He would have found the gentile Samaritans (half-blooded Jews) to have been unworthy of his friendship and beneath his class. He would never have lifted a finger to help the ‘unclean’ Samaritans.
Alas, he falls among thieves who are waiting along the path in ambush. The devil sets many ambushes for us to destroy both our faith and our persons. The thieves took all that the man had, even including his raiment (clothes) and left him half-dead. Do you know that all who know not Christ have been left half-dead along life’s road? Satan would prefer to leave us half-dead than fully dead so that we may cause others to follow our folly. This is true of combat. The enemy would prefer to seriously wound our soldier than to kill him. Why? Because many support personnel are required to treat a wounded warrior, but far less to bury one such soldier.
Note that a priest and a Levite comes along, going DOWN (the wrong direction) as well, to Jericho. It may be presumed that they had just completed Temple duties and were cleansed. But these two had yet to learn the meaning of the Lord’s words: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Temple worship, or indeed any worship, will not suffice apart from a love of God and our fellow men. The priest clearly sees the man, we are told, but decides not to help the man or to touch blood which would have made him ‘unclean.’ The Levite sees the man and, at least comes to where he is and looks on him. But then goes the way of the priest. Both are guilty of lack of mercy and compassion – ingredients of character that cannot coexist in evil hearts.
Now comes a Samaritan UP the Road to Jerusalem. Unlike the priest, the Jew, and the Levite, this man is traveling in the RIGHT direction. (Psalms 1) Note the actions of the Good Samaritan:
1) “came where he was” As Christians, we must GO to where the need is greatest, not relax in opulence in our parlors.
2) “he saw him” How many needs go unseen every day though our eyes cannot avoid the observance of that need?
3) “he had compassion on him” Just as our Savior, Christ, this Samaritan, though hated by this Jew, felt the man’s hurt so keenly that he took measures to help the man of his hurt (just as Christ has done for those of us who have come to Him).
4) “And went to him” His first coming to where the man was at the time was, to us, happenstance, but surely to God, our steps were ordered. After coming to a person in need we do not simply stand and watch. We GO to the victim so that we may render assistance.
5) “and bound up his wounds” Just as Jesus practice the triage of treating the most critical need first, so does this Samaritan by binding up the man’s wounds to stop the bleeding. Has Christ not found us with our own blood flowing from our souls and given us life? “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.’ (Ezek 16:6) When we see our neighbor strangers perishing for grave want, have we forgotten the great mercies granted to us?
6) “pouring in oil and wine.” The only resources the Samaritan had to treat the man was the expensive oil and wine which he not only ‘applied’ but ‘poured’ into the man’s wounds. He spared no personal treasures in helping his charge. Do you not love this Good Samaritan?”
7) “set him on his own beast” The Samaritan would rather walk in order that the wounded man might ride. This is ‘mercy’ combined with ‘sacrifice’ – the kind of combination that the Lord loves.
8) “and brought him to an inn” The Samaritan is not concerned about his tight schedule. He takes time to take the best care of the wounded man. This is an expense as well, but he does not even consider it an expense. It is an obligation before God.
9) “and took care of him” I wish I had many friends as kind as this Samaritan Stranger. Actually, I do have ONE, and perhaps others of my friends who love that ONE. He continued, even at the end, to take time and trouble to treat the man.
10) “And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him” Apparently being convinced that the man would be well after rest and gentle treatment, the Samaritan departs to care for his pressing business in Jerusalem. But he does not forget the responsibility he has shouldered for the Jew. He PAYs even the innkeeper to continue caring for the Jew. “He doeth all things well!”
11) “and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” Had you ever considered ALL that the Good Samaritan did for this wounded Jew, or for that wounded soul that resides in your own heart? “Even if it costs me more, I will pay. I will pay to the uttermost.” Says the Good Samaritan.
Jesus has told the story which will fully answer the question of the lawyer, but the lawyer remains stiff-necked in his pride. Jesus asks: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” Three men were involved. Two were not only religious leaders from whom one might expect greater degrees of compassion, but also men of the same blood. They, of all people, should have considered a fellow Jew a neighbor. They passed by without lifting a finger to help the poor wounded fellow. The third, a lowly Samaritan, spent his own wealth, took his own time, and delayed his own business to help a man whose race hated him. Which one of these three would any sane person believe was neighbor to the wounded man? You, or I, would answer the Samaritan; but the lawyer, being a Jew who loathed even the name of a Samaritan, answered only: “He that shewed mercy on him.” The lawyer would prefer a pronoun to a real name. Even so, he answered correctly even if in the wrong spirit.
Jesus responded to the lawyer in the same way He responds to you and me: “Go, and do thou likewise.” What have you been this week: a priest, a Levite, or a Good Samaritan?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.