Sunday, July 10, 2022

“Jesus, the Good Samaritan” The Sermon for for SUNDAY, July 10, 2022 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus, the Good Samaritan

Our Gospel message comes to us today from the 10th chapter of Luke, beginning with the 25th verse.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 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.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NRSV)

All mighty God, we thank you for your word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you've done for us in Christ. Now as we open that word we pray that your spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your spirit through the reading and proclamation of your word this day. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

“Jesus, the Good Samaritan”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” So asked a Pharisee, a lawyer, to Jesus. The Pharisee was a man who had spent his life studying the Old Testament. And to him, Jesus was cheapening the Law, the Torah, making it into nothing.

Now, all the wrong people were thronging to the gates of heaven: tax collectors, prostitutes, poor people who stunk to high heaven, and other no-good low-lifes. This Jesus was welcoming them with arms open wide! He forgave their sins and sat down to dine with them. And Jesus was doing all this because they saw their sins, were anguishing over them, and sought His mercy!

So to see if Jesus was a ‘real’ rabbi, whether He really understood the Torah, the lawyer asks him a question. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

But Jesus’ response surprises the man: “You’re the expert. You tell me.” The lawyer knew the Law and so he stated the bottom-line: “Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer answered properly. For that is what the Law says you must do if you are going to receive eternal life.

Jesus says, “Yes, do that and you will live. Do that and you will have eternal life.” Such is the Law. It can only demand. Do this; if you do, you will live; if you don’t, you will die, even in eternity. There’s no borderland or gray area—it’s all or nothing. It’s unflinching, stark, and demanding. One mess up—anytime and anywhere—and you’ve fully failed: no excuses, no rationalizations, no hope.

But lawyers being lawyers, he look for a loophole to give him hope where none exists. For the lawyer is squirming. You know why. He hasn’t done what the Law demands any more than you have. He’s not soaring toward light and life, but plummeting downward toward death and damnation.

But in the lawyer’s own eyes, he sees himself as a good person. And I suppose he is—in the eyes of people. But God’s eyes and our eyes see differently. Our eyes say, “Good enough.” God’s eyes see things as they really are when compared to true holiness. God sees our full corruption and complete failure!

The lawyer, for all his ransacking of the Scriptures, didn’t understand them. He saw the Word of God as life’s instruction manual, a book of living tips. He saw the Bible, in his case the Old Testament, as an owner’s manual for living a good life. It’s true: the Scriptures do teach the Christian what a godly life is. But that’s not why God unmasked His written Word to us. God made known the written Word to bring us Christ—in the Old Testament and the New (John 5:39).

For the Old Testament and Jesus teach the same truth: justification by faith, that salvation is all God’s doing. It’s woven into the words of the Old Testament. Abraham shows as much. Moses wrote that Abraham “believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Such salvation also sings its song in the New Testament. God is the God who forgives. He is the One who covers His people’s sin and gives them eternal life.

The lawyer—as most of the Jews in Jesus’ day, as many Christians today—had twisted and mutilated God’s written Word into a book that told them what to do to get a reward. Yes, God may get you into heaven. But that’s not good enough! Now here’s what you’ve got to do to make Him smile on you, to get rewarded.

And so the lawyer begins to loophole because the lawyer’s own answer had condemned him. If you want to do something to inherit eternal life, you must live a perfect life of love—for God and neighbor. No slip ups, no failures, just pure, unadulterated burning love for God and neighbor. Ouch! God’s Law cuts no deals.

And so Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. You know the story. A man fell victim to robbers. They left him stripped, bleeding, in pain, and dying. A Priest walks by. A Levite walks by. Then a Samaritan—someone considered second-class at best—a Samaritan, who doesn’t walk by.

He stops. The Samaritan pours oil and wine, that’s the medicine of his day, on the man’s wounds. He cleans his bruises, cuts, and sores. He picks him up and puts him on his own animal. He takes him to an inn and hands him over to the innkeeper.

The Good Samaritan takes care of all the man’s needs. He nurses him to health and clothes his fallen nakedness. He brings him food to eat and wine to drink. And as the Good Samaritan leaves, he gives to the innkeeper some money to pay for the man's expenses. He then tells him to spend it—and more if needed—on the man.

Jesus then asks the lawyer: “So, who was a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” “The one who showed mercy” the lawyer answered quietly; the lawyer could not even say, “The Samaritan.” Jesus had driven him to confess the true purpose of God’s Law: to unmask the need for mercy. It was as the Prophet Hosea who summarized: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).

Our Gospel reading for today is a double-bladed text. If you want anything that you do to contribute to your standing with God, Jesus’ words send you away sliced, bleeding, and condemned to die. But if you see yourself as someone who can contribute nothing—because the Law has already sliced, condemned, and left you for dead—only then do you have hope. For the Law is the killing Word of God—but the Gospel, that’s the healing, merciful Word of God!

There is no doubt: We are the one whom thieves have beaten and robbed. Satan and his demons have left us bleeding and bruised, robbing us of the beautiful Image of God. Satan left us for dead in the dust from which we had been taken. And the Law of God, shown by the Priest and the Levite, is no help.

The Priest and the Levite stride right past without giving—without even offering to give—any help. That’s because they can’t. The Law can’t help those whom Satan has robbed, beaten, and left for dead. It’s as the Apostle Paul says, “For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

So don’t expect help from the Priest and Levite. The Law goes striding by. The helpless Priest and Levite walk past—because they can’t help! The Law can only kill. Don’t expect God’s Law—that can only make you aware of your sins—to help rescue you out of your sinfulness.

So to answer the lawyer’s question, there’s nothing he can do, nothing any of us can do, to inherit eternal life. You are lying in the ditch. Without rescue, you will be eternally dead. Your wounds, already mortal, will have their way. Yet God saw you and me in our misery, and He wasn’t content to walk on by. For at the core of God is mercy, compassion, and love. Our Good Samaritan didn’t randomly come down the road. The love of God the Father sent Him to us.

Yes, Jesus, God in the flesh, is our Good Samaritan. For He comes to rescue us, we who are not only helpless, but an enemy of God! Here is the purest form of holy living—the sanctified, sinless life that only Christ could live. Yes, the Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ.

In mercy, Jesus came to heal us. Oh, He had every right to walk right past us. But instead of walking past us, mercy led Him to take on our flesh, to go to the cross of death, forgiving our sin, forgiving your sin—all to give you eternal life!

Yes, Jesus, the Good Samaritan, has had compassion on you. He has stepped into our cesspool of sin. He stooped down, soiling His hands to pick you up. But there’s even more, that’s because eternal life isn’t for only after you die. It’s here for you, even now. For life everlasting is the life of mercy that flows from Mercy-Enfleshed—Jesus Christ. It is the life of Christ, given to you through the Holy Spirit, which you live out in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another! For Jesus invites us all to taste and live such life with Him.

You don’t have to wait for heaven to begin tasting eternal life! It’s yours today—although experienced right now only through the eyes of faith. And when Jesus shows you mercy and you hear Him say, “Go and do the same,” He is saying, “Come and live my love!” For our rules cannot contain the boundaries of Christian love.

And so you live a life of love, “proclaiming the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). And all this takes place in the vocations where God has placed you, where you “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

As Jesus, through His Spirit, pours out more Life for you and into you than you can contain, you pour out yourself for others. For from God’s sea of overflowing love, you pour out such love toward your neighbor. It’s what Christians do; it’s who we are. How can we live any other way?

Yes, it’s as the Scriptures say, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Let us pray: God in heaven, we offer our deepest appreciation for the many blessings you shower upon us every day. We are truly humbled by the bounty of your graces. Through this prayer, we ask for the compassion to follow the inspiring example of your Son Jesus, the Good Samaritan. We know that You have made us for Yourself, to love You and to love our neighbors. Yet still we cannot help but live for ourselves, and every day we justify ourselves by our own standards, not Yours. But Lord, you have found us in the ditch, and You have rescued us. Now soften our hearts to Your will, and make us to love others as You have loved us; especially those who are most in need, whom we pass by every day. Help us to embrace and bring comfort to those suffering. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Scripture taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)® Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Rev. Richard Futrell.
Our Gospel reading for today is a double-bladed text. If you want anything that you do to contribute to your standing with God, Jesus’ words send you away sliced, bleeding, and condemned to die. But if you see yourself as someone who can contribute nothing--because the Law has already sliced, condemned, and left you for dead--only then do you have hope.

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