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.
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:
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.” I am continually amazed at the understanding of Scriptural truth that can occupy the heart of one with little seeming formal education and, by contrast, the abject lack of understanding that can exist in a mind of one that has received every benefit of extensive studies in theology. Why is this so? I believe it may be attributable to the fertile heart of the humble believer that accepts all that God says without question or equivocation. There were many kings, prophets, and even angels who sought to look into those things to which the disciples were privy through a heart open to Christ.
Simply having a technical knowledge of the Law (Word of God) is not a benefit to salvation. Even the devils know God’s Word: and believe – but not unto salvation: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19) A mental ascent to the Word of God is never sufficient – it must be supported by a complete heartfelt commitment to that Word. There happens to be a lawyer in the midst (a man learned in the Scriptures) who desires to demonstrate his superior intellect to Christ and before many witnesses.
25 “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” First of all, this was a man who should not have had such a question, but should have known better than his question suggests. Secondly, he had a motive – his motive was to trip Jesus up with a seemingly simple question with complex ramifications. Was his question a good one? No, it was devoid of understanding of the terms of salvation and grace. “… what shall I do to inherit eternal life.” It is the same question asked by the rich young ruler, by Mohammad, by Buddha, and by every other false religion. The basis of the question is that salvation must be based on good works, or personal merit, and not the blood of Jesus Christ. “But Christ has not yet suffered” you may suggest. Yes, He was sacrificed from before the foundations of the world were laid, and is the same Seed of Promise to which Abraham looked forward for salvation. So, in reality, there is NOTHING we can physically DO to be saved – we must believe (in our hearts) on the Lord Jesus Christ only! Not a verbal ascent, but a heart conviction!
Perhaps this fellow was an excellent lawyer, but not one as accomplished as the One whose Finger wrote the Law. Jesus now asks a profoundly simple and meaningful question of the lawyer, and of you and me: “ What is written in the law? how readest thou?” First of all, in order to know God’s Word, we must have read it first – study and digest it; and, secondly, if we have read God’s Word, do we understand it aright? Do we allow scripture to explain scripture, or do we trust in our own understanding? Jesus will play the lawyer’s game – and win that endeavor by telling a very famous parable. In fact, this parable is so famous that is major character – the Good Samaritan – has become a part of our daily conversation in describing a kind and generous person. The parable, among other things, relates the fact that the DIRECTION we are going often depicts the condition of our hearts as expressed in Psalm 1:1-3.
Before we begin the parable itself, I wish to remind you of what our Lord has told us to do if we would be like Him.”If anyman will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Where is Jesus headed when this parable was related? He was going UP to Jerusalem (as was the Good Samaritan) to give Himself a ransom for you and me. In the previous chapter, we read: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,” (Luke 9:51) Jerusalem was the Holy City, the City of Salem (Peace) and of God. The direction Jesus was going was the same as the Samaritan, while that of the priest and Levite were the opposite direction and they were going DOWN to Jericho – a city on the southern frontier of Samaria. It is likely that the Good Samaritan was from Jericho.
Due to their intermarriage with other races, the Samaritans were regarded with hate and disdain by the Jews as a less-than-Holy people. Now the Lawyer has not gained any advantage in his first question, so he presses his point with what he hoped would present an over-sophisticated inquiry for Christ to answer. “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.” This was a correct reading as to the ‘wording’ of the scriptures, but the deeper meaning was lost to the lawyer as we shall see. Jesus always gives credit where credit is due. “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” Yes, sounds simple, but impossible to obey without that love which the commandments demand! As is the habit of most lawyers to defend and justify their position, this lawyer responded: “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” So Jesus will provide an answer that I pray the lawyer understood with his heart. Has the question ever arisen in your mind as well? It has in mine, but the answer I give myself has never been as expressive as the one Christ gives.
“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.” This Jew was going DOWN from Jerusalem (the City of Peace) to Jericho. When we go out from the place of God, we are always going DOWN. Just as Naomi, her husband, Elimelech, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left the House of Bread and Praise (meaning Bethlehemjudah) to go down into the cursed land of Moab and lost all but her daughter-in-law Ruth. They left the place that God would bless and went into the place that God would curse. It didn’t turn out very well for them, did it? We always meet with hidden dangers when we go out from the will of God. This Jew from Jerusalem fell among thieves which were so common to this hilly, desert stretch of road. They not only took all that he had, but fairly beat him to within a inch of his life. Satan will do that to us when we forsake our Lord. And Satan, too, will leave us either dead, or half dead. The man may be semi-conscious, but he is certainly unable to arise and help himself. So he lies there waiting fore mercy. There is nothing he can do to deserve mercy, but he has no choice to await what mercy might come.
If he was able to see, he may have had a rise in his spirit when he spotted a priest coming down the road. Surely, there would be no better possibility of help than from a man in the service of God. 31 “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” But wait! The priest does not even slow down, or inquire of the man’s condition. He has been cleansed in the Temple and does not wish to defile his hands with blood. So his most important thing (to himself) is his petty personal concerns. No time to save the life of a dying fellow Jew. Next, the injured Jew sees another coming DOWN from Jerusalem – a Levite whose duty is in the service of the Temple and also ritually cleansed at the laver. See, if one man will not help, God will send another….. “32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.” Oh, well, at least the Levite “came and looked on him.” Perhaps he was touched by the breeze of pity, but not a breeze of such strength as to open his sails and move him to compassion. He continued going DOWN to Jericho. I wonder if the hurt Jew learned something that day about feigned religion and unmoving faith? He might see even more of the same in the modern churches of our day.
But God often supplies our needs from the most unexpected of sources. When we are stripped of our raiment, robbed of our possessions, and lying on the side of the road bleeding and bruised, what could be worse than having one we might consider our enemy of such low estate as a Samaritan coming by to find us there? That might seem the final straw, right? Wrong! 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” The Samaritan came to where the wounded man lay in his own blood. Did not Christ leave the Ivory Palaces of Heaven and come down to where we lay by the road, wounded and dying in our sins? He SAW the wounded man just as Christ saw us as we wandered about as a toddler. The Samaritan did not ask, “Are you Jew, or Samaritan? Instead, he met the requirements of the Commandment quoted earlier by the lawyer – he had compassion and love for the wounded Jew. Though His race is an heavenly race, Christ does not ask, “Are you Jew, Gentile, African, Asian, or Caucasian – he looks at the inward heart and not the outward appearance.
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.” What did the Good Samaritan do? 1) He went to the man where he lay just as you and I are to go to the place of need to help others. 2) He bound up the man’s wounds just as the Lord has bound up our wounds from sin and healed us. 3) He poured expensive oil and wine into the man’s wounds. Jesus gave us the last drop of the wine of His blood for our healing, and the oil of the Holy Spirit to be a continual balm of health to us. 4) The Samaritan provided the wounded Jew with his own conveyance and walked himself. Jesus gave us His own righteousness as our conveyance while He died on the cross for us. 5) The Samaritan brought the man to an inn and cared for him even more. Jesus continues to heal and sanctify our sinful natures.
Well, it seems that the Samaritan has gone beyond the common expectations in helping the man, but, wait, he does even more. Jesus has gone all of the way for us. He never stopped short once he “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He went ALL the way, and still does. 6) “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.” Jesus paid for our temporary upkeep on earth as we await the glory of His Coming again, and He SHALL come again for us. The True Church is His Innkeeper for us until He returns as promised.
Jesus has presented a beautiful picture of the Gospel in action to the lawyer, but I fear he failed the test. 36 “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” Jesus has proven Himself more than a neighbor – more than a brother – He is “One who sticketh closer than a brother.” The lawyer MUST admit that the Samaritan was neighbor to the Jew, but he cannot bring himself to so much as say the hated term, Samaritan – so he answers -“ He that shewed mercy on him.” This is an insincere, but correct, answer. If the lawyer can bring himself to love as the Samaritan has loved, he will stand brightly in the kingdom of Heave – but CAN he? Can you? Take the counsel of Christ and live: “ Go, and do thou likewise.“
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.
Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide & Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary