The Good Samaritan + Luke 10:25-37
A lawyer, a man who knows the law well, came to Jesus and asked Him, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He wants to know how he can get into heaven, what must he do? Jesus asked the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? What do the Ten Commandments say?” The lawyer 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.” One word sums up what the lawyer just said, love. Love is the summary of the Ten Commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will inherit eternal life.”
This is easier said than done and the lawyer knows it. The lawyer does not fear, love and trust in God above all things and he surely does not love his neighbor as he loves himself. He has fallen short of God’s glory. He deserves temporal death and eternal damnation and punishment. The lawyer knows he cannot inherit eternal life. The lawyer know he cannot do anything to earn heaven. He deserves to be locked up in the prison of hell.
But the lawyer does what he can to not be found guilty. The lawyer tries to work his way around the law, he tries to avoid what it demands, he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Lawyers are very good at twisting and avoiding the truth, trying to create a diversion, trying to create a doubt in the minds of his hearers. The lawyer wanted to do something to justify himself before God. To justify, means to be found not guilty, innocent, in the eyes of Almighty God, who is the ultimate judge and jury. To be justified, is to be found righteous because of Christ Jesus our Lord. As a lawyer, he wants to get around the law, he wants to be found innocent in the eyes of the law. He wants to find favor with the judge. He wants to be acquitted and declared not guilty of his failure to love God and his failure to love his neighbor. The lawyer wants the judge to overlook his failures and shortcomings. And in trying to do that, the lawyer finds himself digging a deeper hole, and becoming more guilty in the eyes of Him who will come to judge the quick and the dead.
The reality is this, there is only one way to be righteous before God, to be innocent in God’s eyes. Our justification by God’s grace works like this: place yourself in a courtroom with the honorable God the Father Almighty presiding. We are the defendant, we have been charged with a crime, and our defense attorney is Jesus Christ. The prosecuting attorney is the devil himself. The judge slams his gavel down, court is in session. The devil begins by stating the facts, we do not love God. We do not fear, love and trust in God above all things. We do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The prosecuting attorney presents a convincing case and argument, calling many witnesses. The devil says to God the Father, let me have them, they are no good, they don’t deserve heaven. The prosecution rests. It is now our turn to persuade the judge of our innocence. The defense attorney, Jesus Christ, stands up, comes around the table where we are sitting, as if to approach the bench. He stops, stretches out His hands, as if on the cross and dies. With the blood of Jesus, with His innocent, bitter suffering and death on the cross, God the Father, the Judge, does not see our guilt and shame and sin, rather all He can see is His Son, who has paid the price for our sin. The judge slams the gavel down and speaks, “Not guilty!” Jesus has purchased and won us from sin, death and the power of hell, we leave the courtroom in peace and freedom. That is what it means to be justified before God.
Jesus then tells a parable, “A man fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. A priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. A priest, a man of God, commanded to offer sacrifices in the temple, neither truly loved God nor neighbor. So likewise a Levite, who was chosen by God to work day and night in the temple, when he came to the place and saw the man left for dead, passed by on the other side. He also did not love God or neighbor. Two men, whom the lawyer considered good and righteous and holy, were not found to be that way by God. They were judged guilty.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where the man left for dead was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. The Samaritan, who was considered by the lawyer to be bad and unworthy and unholy, was found to be just the opposite by God. He was justified in the eyes of God. The Samaritan went to the man 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. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”
Jesus asked, “Which of these three men, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” This is what Jesus has done for us guilty sinners, He has showed us mercy. We are not punished even though we deserve it.
People often think that when we gather for worship, that the church service is about what we do for God because of what He does for us. That kind of thinking is like the lawyer, who wants to justify himself before the judge. But the reality is quite different. In our Lutheran understanding of worship, it is not we who are doing anything for God, nor are we doing anything for ourselves, that we would find favor with God. Rather, it is God who provides for us, it is God who serves us, it is God who makes things things right with us in our relationship with Him. Our Sunday morning worship service, is just like the scene of the courtroom, where Jesus does it all. Jesus suffers and dies and speaks the words, “It is finished.” That is why we refer to our worship service as the Divine Service, or “God’s Service” for us. It is because of His work and words that we are justified, innocent, not guilty, and forgiven before God.
If the parable of the Good Samaritan was the Divine Service, we would be the man left for dead and Jesus is the Good Samaritan. No one will help us in our time of need, until Jesus comes along. We have been attacked by the devil, and when Jesus comes along He sees us in our sin and He shows us mercy, He takes compassion upon us. In the divine service, Jesus does the speaking, He does the serving. It is Jesus doing the speaking when our sins are declared forgiven, depart in peace. It is Jesus who is speaking during the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings. It is Jesus who is speaking during the sermon being preached; these are His words for us to hear. It is at these times that we are lifted up and placed upon a donkey, that we would walk in the way we should go, the straight way prepared for us. It is Jesus who annoints us with oil in the waters of Holy Baptism. It is in this Sacrament, that our sins are forgiven, that we are chosen to be brothers and sisters of Christ, members of the family of God. It is Jesus who pours wine upon us, to heal us of our wounds. It is in the Sacrament of Holy Communion that we are strengthened to fight the good fight of faith, we are not afraid. In our eating and drinking the body of Jesus in the bread and drink the blood of Jesus in the wine, we are strengthened in love toward God and in love toward our neighbor. That is why Jesus, the Good Samaritan, brings us to the inn, to this place of rest, to this sanctuary, to this house of God, to where He promises to be among us, that we would be strengthened and never again left for dead. And He will return and take us to be where He is, in heaven, at the right hand of the God the Father. For all this mercy, that Jesus, the Good Samaritan, shows us, we respond with thanks and praise. Amen.