Trinity 13, 2016
The Epistle. Galatians 3:16-22
The Gospel. St. Luke 10:23-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The prayer this morning seems to revolve around the idea of service. Doing God true and laudable service to be precise. We prayed that we would serve God so well in this life, that we do not fail to attain His heavenly promises.
Now to break this down theologically, we see here a petition to God that we might run well in this life. To serve God well in this life. To live uprightly and godly in this life. But then it says that we may do so, in order to not fail to attain God’s heavenly promises.
Are we hearing here a call to work in such a way as to merit eternal life? On the surface the reading seems to sound that way.
Yet it finishes with the words, “through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. So the attaining of eternal life is through the merits of Jesus Christ….who is the only one who has ever lived in such a way as to merit eternal life.
Yet we cannot just then sit back and say that we do nothing. The first part of the prayer comes back to us again and tells us that we are to do God true and laudable or praiseworthy service, serving Him in this life.
Moreover, the first sentence says that God’s faithful people (that's us) doing Him true and laudable service…. is in fact a gift of grace given to us.
Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift is comes that His faithful people do these things.
So we are gifted the merits of Christ and the grace of God to serve God.
To show how this is done in a most tangible way, we have the Parable of the Good Samaritan in today’s Gospel Lesson. The Good Samaritan is a well-loved and well-known Parable. Many who even rarely attend Church know this Parable…. roughly.
Most likely many, however, don't know why Jesus told it.
Nor do they know neither the meaning nor the message behind it.
This Parable was told for a certain reason, to a certain person (obviously with others gathered around listening) and to answer a certain and specific question.
Nowadays it is viewed as either a message about how to treat others who are not of your race or color, or how to be nice to strangers.
Even though both of these are true and contributing elements to the Parable, there is much more to it and our Collect is a clue to a proper reading of it.
Jesus is with His Disciples. We are not told where they are. Could be the Synagogue. Could be a home or someone.
Either way, we hear that a certain man (a lawyer. A man schooled in the Law of Moses and the Old Testament Scriptures more generally) says to Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke tells us briefly here that this man was asking this to test Jesus. Was it a vicious test? Most likely. Did he truly want the answer? Probably not. He was a man who knew the Law of Moses well, and might have known Jesus’s reputation of interpreting the Law in such a way that caused a stir amongst the Jews.
However we don't know who he is or whatever came of him later. Hopefully the Parable planted seeds of eternal life in him that sprung up later on.
But at the moment here this man is testing Jesus.
Jesus replies, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Perfect question for a man who should know the answers to this two-part question.
You are a man of the Law. The Law was given by God to the people of Israel to guide them. If they obeyed they would be pleasing to the Lord and would find favor. Obedience to the Law was vital.
It is thought that this was a topic of discussion and debate among the Jewish leaders. The Old Testament does also teach that salvation is of the Lord. It also says, “Do this and you shall live.”
So perhaps the debate was how much trusting in God do we do and how much do we rely on our righteousness to attain everlasting life.
The lawyer answers, “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.”
He knew this from his own Bible. Deuteronomy 6…
Moses says to the people of Israel.
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-9 ESV)
This is where the Lawyer drew his answer. He asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life.
Jesus asks him to tell Him “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” So he quotes this from Moses. This does not talk about eternal life. It talks about a salvation, a life in the promised land…of Canaan. But it speaks only of attaining the promised land of Canaan.
So perhaps Jesus’ question about the Law was leading this man (though the Lawyer most likely did not know it at the time) to answer in such a way so as to read his own Scriptures….which spoke of a temporal salvation….a temporal promised land….which would in turn lead him to understand those words as figures of the true eternal promised land of eternal life which is found not in the Law or Moses per se, but in Christ.
Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” “Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and you neighbor as yourself and you will live.” Sounds easy.
But the Lawyer, desiring to justify himself, says to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The Lawyer wanted to justify himself, not in some deep theological sense like we talk about “Justification by Faith.” He is a bit defensive…or confrontational still.
Ahh yes, Jesus. But who is my neighbor? In the Jewish tradition (but not explicitly in the Scriptures) was the idea of “loving neighbor.”…..but saying nothing else about it. The silence was interpreted by some to mean love your neighbor but hate your enemies.
Couple this with the history of God commanding the Israelites to destroy nations and peoples we can see why Jesus had to correct this elsewhere. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies.’”
This is the man trying to justify himself.
So Jesus replies this time by telling a Parable. A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He falls into the hands of robbers. They strip him of his clothes. They beat him and leave him half dead.
While he is lying there a priest passes by. …but on the other side of the road. No love of neighbor from him.
Then a Levite, who might have been a priest but not necessarily. He could have been one of those who assisted the priest in the Temple work. Either way, he was leader in the religion of Judaism. One who should have known the Law. One who also should have known to show compassion.
But the Lawyer listening to this might not have thought too much about these two men… since you don't touch dead bodies.
The Law specifically states, “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for 7 days.” (Numbers 19:11) Who knows….he might have been dead. You don't want to be ritually unclean. No wonder he passed by on the other side of the road.
Jesus goes on. So a third man passes by. This man is a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews hate one another. A Jew probably would not even believe a Samaritan was capable of such charity.
But the Parable goes on. “…as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him 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. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”
“Now,” asks Jesus, “which of these three men do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?”
You can almost hear the silence.
The Lawyer answers, “The one who showed him mercy.”
And Jesus says, “You go, and do likewise.”
This man was proved to be a neighbor to the man who was injured. He was, in that act of selflessness, doing God true and laudable service.
He was faithfully serving God.
Going beyond the simple facts of what this Parable means to convey….Who is my neighbor?...we only get caught up trying to figure out who every person represents in the Parable.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is the Parable of who truly acted as a neighbor to his fellow man.
How was he a neighbor?
He stopped and helped.
He went out of his way.
He gave up his own means of transportation to a stranger.
He diverted his plans and itinerary for another.
He offered his own money and supplies to bind up the wounds.
He spends the night in the inn.
He promises to pay for any extra expenses incurred by the injured man’s stay…and maybe care.
These are the ways in which we too are to be neighbor to one another….especially those who are of the household of faith. Especially amongst one another. But greater than that, ….to strangers.
We are to treat all men as made in the image of God (as we are) and that they are of just as great a value in the eyes of God as we are.
Christian or non-Christian. All mankind are our neighbors. These two men were enemies. This makes the act even greater to hear about. We must be neighbor to even our enemies.
Now of course there is caution to be taken and wisdom to be used how and in what ways we do so, but in the end, we are to look for all possible ways to be neighbor to all men.
If we work to fulfill this command of Jesus, we truly do God true and laudable service.
We faithfully serve Him in this life, and we have the promise that through the merits of Jesus Christ alone, (the only One who perfectly fulfilled the role of neighbor) we will attain not only heavenly promises here, but heaven itself on the last day.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.