The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you All. Amen.
Luke 10:25 “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ 27 And he answered and said, ‘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.’ 28 And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; DO THIS, AND YOU WILL LIVE.’ 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30 Jesus replied and said, ‘A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. 31 ‘And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.” 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands? 37 And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’” (NASB)
If you have attended adult class, you have heard me reference a biblical principle of translation called the “analogy of faith.” The analogy of faith says that the primary and overarching teaching of the Bible is that a person is justified viewed as righteous before God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone. As such all Bible passages, stories, sayings, and parables must be interpreted in light of this supreme mandate. The Bible cannot and does not contradict itself. It cannot and does not teach the salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone for Christ’s sake alone and that a person is made righteous in God’s sight by good works, good intentions, and one’s own efforts to fulfill the Law. Both of these things cannot be true.
Once we understanding that the Bible teaches everywhere that the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are secured by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, then we no longer see the teachings, sayings, and parables of Jesus as self-help instructions given for the purpose of eventually becoming a person of righteousness. Once we understand and employ the analogy of faith as the chief principle of interpretation of all other Bible passages, that we also come to see that Jesus as one on only “Keeper of the Law” and the “Giver of Righteousness.”
There is a famous quote of Dr. Martin Luther about when he came to know that the righteousness of God is not something he could earn, but something that was given to him in Christ Jesus freely. Once he came to understand that Luther began to see all of Scriptures differently. He said, “I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. . . The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before, the ‘justice of God,’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage (Romans 1:17, where Paul says, “the righteous shall live by faith”) became to me a gate to heaven.”
This morning we have before one of the most well known and misused parables of the entire Bible. It is the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” When most people, both church goers and people who have never crossed the threshold of a proper church on Sunday morning hear the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” they hear a morality tale. They hear Jesus telling us to me nice to people in need. The part they don’t seem to take note of is the initial question and Jesus’s answer.
This whole thing got started with one simple question. A lawyer asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable in service and response to that simple question.
Now through out His earthly ministry Jesus kept running into the same problem over and over again. He kept running into people who thought they were good. They thought they were good for two reasons. First, they didn’t understand the law and why it had been given in the first place. Second, they thought they were good because they thought good was a matter of comparing oneself with people who were a lot less “good.” They were “good” in comparison to murders, prostitutes, adulterers, thieves, or people who didn’t even try to keep Jewish laws and traditions.
“Good teachers, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Remember this man was a lawyer. That meant he was an expert in the Jewish law. He practiced and taught the law, Old Testament and oral tradition.
Jesus asked him a question, the answer to which he should have and did in fact know. “‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ He answered and said, ‘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.’”
That was a no brainer for a teacher of the law. 28 “[Jesus] said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; DO THIS, AND YOU WILL LIVE.’” So if a person, be he a lawyer or layman wants to inherit, earn eternal life all he/she has to do is to love the Lord your God with all your hear, soul, mind, and strength and love one’s neighbor as one’s self.
In this case, it appears that the lawyer thought he was loving God with his whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. He loved the Lord God in theory and he thought he did a very good job at that. It was love in real life, flesh and blood that he had trouble with. As any good lawyer will tell you, the devil is in the details. In legalese the definition and use of a word can make or break a deal.
In the case, the lawyer wants a clarification on the word “neighbor.” 29 “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Jesus answers with a parable. It is one of the most beloved parables in New Gospels. The lawyer is a good Jew. A good Jew doesn’t care much for half breed and religiously confused Samaritans. As for Samaritans, good ones by the day’s standard, they don’t feel any differently about the Hebrew Jews.
So Jesus constructs a parable with the main character is a “good Samaritan.” The good Samaritan becomes the hero and model for everyone who thinks he/she can justify themselves before God. Without the analogy of faith, the Samaritan in the parable becomes for the hearer and reader of the parable a model of holy and righteous living and of love and compassion toward another human being.
After all love, compassion, righteous, and holy living are suppose to be the qualities of priests, Levites, and other religious leaders. In the parable the Priest and Levite fail to love their neighbor as themselves, while the Samaritan, the one despised and rejected by the Jews did what any decent person would do toward another person. He bound up the man’s wounds and he treated him with compassion.
The lawyer was looking for a loophole. Jesus closes the loophole. A person’s neighbor is the one who is despised the most. Jesus tells a parable that teaches that there is no room for any self-righteousness.
The Good Samaritan had compassion on his enemy. You go and do likewise is the message that most people hear when they hear the parable of the Good Samaritan.
But…as true as it is that we all out to love and help a person in need, that is not how a person inherits eternal life. Jesus does teach here that if we are to inherit eternal life we are to fulfill both tables of the Law. Commandments 1-3 deal with our relationship with God. You want to inherit eternal life? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But there is more. There is the second table of the Law. Commandments 4-10, our relationship to other people, which the lawyer and Jesus summarize by saying that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, even if the neighbor is the among most despised kind of person you can think of. The problem is that we can’t and don’t fulfill the first or the second table of the Law.
So why would Jesus tell a parable that only indites us, everyone of us. Parables are not about what we are to do in order to inherit eternal life. Manhy Parables are told to show us that we don’t and can’t inherit eternal life by keeping the first and second table of the Law.
In fact Jesus tells parables as a way to show us that the parables are actually about Him. That is the Analogy of Faith. Jesus Christ is our Good Samaritan. He is the enemy of sinful Old Adam. Yet, He came to save us from our sin, from ourselves. The righteousness of the Law, represented in this parable by the priest and Levite, cannot and does not save a person. The Law shows us our sins.
The law, even when embedded in the form of a parable cannot save us. Galatians 3:21-22 “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has imprisoned everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
This is how we are to understand the parables. On the one hand, they show us what we were suppose to be, but fail to be. On the other hand, they are stories about the One who in fact keeps the law and who loves God with all His heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Just as the Good Samaritan poured out oil and wine to cleanse and disinfect the wounds of the man who had been beaten, Jesus cleanses us with Baptism and disinfects us from sin. He pronounces your sins forgiven in the absolution. He places you in the inn, which is the Church and has the inn keeper, the pastor minister to you with His words and sacraments.
As the Church, the body of Christ, we are to be “God with skin on” in the world. We are to be loving, compassionate, and holy toward our neighbor. But God doesn’t wait for us to work ourselves up into a holy state. We can’t so He declares us to be holy and what He declares is so.
Jesus’s last words to the lawyer were, “Go and do the same.” This was not a suggestion. It is to be the life of the Christian. Showing love and compassion toward one another and toward those who do not know Christ is a fundamental part of what the Holy Spirit works in us and through us.
John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The lawyer asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life. The Bible clearly teaches that “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Did you notice the order in which St. Paul described and commissioned the christians in his epistle to the Colossians. He said first, “we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, then he told them the Epaphras had informed them of their love in the Spirit; and finally urged them to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”
You are God’s chosen people, forgiven and healed by Christ’s great compassion. Unlike the lawyer in the Gospel lesson you have no need to justify yourselves. Christ has done that for you. Your sins are forgiven.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.