Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 10)
July 14, 2013
Text: Luke 10:25-37

            According to the righteous and holy Law of God, you and I should be like the Good Samaritan in the parable our Lord here tells us.  That is to say, we should give our very selves and all that we have for the sake of our neighbor in need.  And understand, that is precisely what the Samaritan does.  Remember the utter hatred between Jews and Samaritans at the time of Jesus.  This is a good Jew lying there, having been beaten by robbers almost to the point of death.  The priest and the Levite, fellow Jews, religious authorities no less, consider him so far gone that it isn’t worth stopping and becoming unclean to help him.  He’s as good as dead anyway.  But along comes this hated Samaritan, and what does he do?  He has mercy.  He has compassion.  He stops to help.  This is where we get our custom of calling someone who stops on the road to help a fellow traveler a “Good Samaritan.”  Now, the Samaritan doesn’t know if the robbers are still in the area.  He risks life and limb for his mortal enemy, this Jew lying on the road.  Other Samaritans would probably say, “Good, let him die.”  And the Jews would say the same thing about a Samaritan under similar circumstances.  But not this Samaritan.  He goes to the man, stripped, beaten, and half-dead, and he binds up his wounds.  He pours on oil and wine to sterilize and medicate.  He puts him on his own animal and takes him into town, to an inn, and nurses him for the night.  This, too, is a great risk for the Samaritan.  That’s like an Indian in the Old West bringing a half-scalped cowboy into town on the back of his horse.[1]  Dangerous business.  In the morning, the Samaritan goes to great expense in giving the innkeeper two denarii (two days’ wages for the average laborer) to take care of the injured man, promising that he will repay any additional expenses when he returns.  Can you imagine this?  All this effort, all this expense, all this sacrifice?  Yet this is what you are supposed to do as a Christian, as a child of God.  You are to risk life and limb for your neighbor.  You are to provide personal care for your neighbor in his time of need, sparing no expense for his good.  You are to give all your possessions, your very self for his sake.  You are to die for him, if that is what is required.  And not just for the neighbor you like.  Not even for the neighbor for whom your feelings are neutral.  You are to do this for the neighbor who hates you, for your mortal enemy.  Can you do it?  Have you done it?  That’s what God’s Law demands of you.  That is what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.  You love God by loving your neighbor.  To do as the Good Samaritan does in our text is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Have you?  Because this is what you must do if you are to inherit eternal life by doing. You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). 
            But you aren’t.  You have not loved your neighbor as yourself.  You have not given all that you are and have for your mortal enemy.  You’ve driven past flat tires and accidents and looked the other way, hoping someone else will be the Good Samaritan.  Or even if you have stopped, you’ve passed by others in need.  You’ve known people who are hungry, and you’ve failed to feed them.  You’ve known people who are sick, and you’ve failed to visit them.  If inheriting eternal life depends on you doing as the Good Samaritan does, you’re doomed.
            But here’s the good news: Jesus is your Good Samaritan.  He does what you cannot and will not do, and He does it for you.  Too often this text is preached in sermons and taught in Sunday School as if you, the hearer, the reader, are the Good Samaritan.  That makes this text all Law, and you know where that gets you?  It damns you.  Yes, you should do these things, but you don’t, so you’re sunk.  But thank God, you’re not the Good Samaritan.  In fact, if you only had eyes to see, you would realize that you are the man, stripped and beaten and half dead, lying in the ditch.  And you’re a mortal enemy of the Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ.  That’s what you confess when you say that you’re born spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God.  You don’t want His help.  But He helps you anyway.  He helps you where even the model citizens, even the religious elite, cannot and will not.  He goes to you where you are, lying in a pool of blood, the dust of the earth clinging to your wounds.  He binds you up with His Absolution, forgiving all your sins.  He pours out upon you the oil of His Spirit and the wine of His blood.  It is the medicine of eternal life.  He takes you to the inn of the Holy Christian Church and tends to you at great expense, His very life.  And He commends you to an innkeeper, your pastor, and in this way He Himself continues to care for you, with the promise of His immanent return.
            And by the way, He does fall into the hands of robbers.  He is stripped and beaten and crucified all the way dead for your salvation, for the forgiveness of your sins, for your eternal healing.  He’s killed because He stops to help you, because the Son of God took on flesh of the Virgin Mary and became one with you, taking your sin and death into Himself and nailing it in His flesh to the cross.  He was and is utterly hated by Jew and Gentile alike, by the whole world that does not know Him.  And He dies for them.  He dies for you.  It does happen among men, even among unbelievers, that someone risks his life for another, even dies for another, because he considers that person somehow worth the ultimate sacrifice.  We think here of our military or our police officers, those who protect us because they love their country and their people.  But here is the divine mystery of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; ESV; emphasis added).  Christ dies for worthless, ungrateful, hateful sinners.  Christ dies for you.  And in this way, He redeems you for Himself.  You are baptized into Him.  All of His righteousness, His good works, His being the Good Samaritan for you and for others, all of that is given to you as a gift in Baptism, credited to your account.  God looks at you as if you had done all that.  Christ fulfilled the Law for you.  And then He died on the cross for your failure to keep God’s Law, your failure to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.  He died in your place, taking your punishment upon Himself, to pay your debt, to suffer God’s justice, that you might be justified.  And He is risen from the dead, God’s Absolution of the whole world, the forgiveness of your sins, that you might have eternal life.  And, indeed, you have new life now, already, in your Baptism into Christ, a life that is hidden with Christ in God, ready to be revealed on the Last Day, but fully yours now, so that you do love God, and you do love your neighbor, and you can give yourself in service to your neighbor in his time of need.
            Thus Jesus says to the lawyer and to you at the conclusion of His parable: “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).  Go and show mercy.  Go and tend your neighbor’s wounds.  Visit the sick.  Feed the hungry.  Give money to your neighbor in need.  Take him on as your own beloved burden, as St. Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).  Confess Christ to your neighbor.  Bring him into the inn of the Holy Christian Church.  And die for your neighbor.  Sacrifice yourself.  Not because your neighbor is good, but because Christ is good, and has sacrificed Himself for you.  You see, you do this now not in order to merit the inheritance of eternal life.  Christ has taken care of all of that by His death and resurrection.  You do this because you already have eternal life in Christ.  Free of the demands and threats of the Law, you are free to love and sacrifice and be a little Christ to your neighbor.  Do so joyfully, knowing that with the gift of Christ, no sacrifice will deplete you.  You will never be spent.  You will never run out.  The more you give, the more you will receive, because Christ is a never failing fountain of good, who continually fills you anew. 
            Christ is your Good Samaritan, and He’s rescued you from sin and death, from the devil and from hell.  God “has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light,” as St. Paul writes in our Epistle (Col. 1:12).  This is all by grace, all through Christ our Savior.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vv. 13-14).  And so, now, we are called to be full members of God’s Kingdom, heirs of His life, which means we are called to love God by loving our neighbor.  Such is the joyous and free privilege of those Baptized into Christ.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

[1] One of the brothers at our local exegetical study shared this illustration, but I can’t remember who, or where he got the illustration.


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