Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
“Real Life Story”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Luke 10.23-37
06 September 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Is the story of the Good Samaritan a parable, or history being retold? There is not the usual introduction which describes Jesus as telling a parable, for He does not say, “The kingdom of God is like a man going down the road…” to begin this story. That’s the usual way Jesus indicates a “parable” is being told – a story Jesus uses to illustrate the reality of God’s Kingdom.
In this story, the geographical setting is specified by using the proper names of Jerusalem and Jericho. That road was known for banditry back in the day. To this day, Palestinian Christians revere a site midway between Jerusalem and Jericho as the inn to which the Good Samaritan took the man left half dead by robbers. Byzantine monks built a shrine there in the 6th Century anno Domini. Some churches in the world even treat the Good Samaritan as a specific saint with his own date on the liturgical calendar. It’s as if this is a real story in many people’s minds.
It is real. For all sinners have gone down out of Jerusalem, that is, out of the holy city of God, gone away from the Godly company of the prophets and apostles, from Christian life and conduct, and set out for Jericho, the cursed city of robbers, which is to take on the dangers of this world, and thus to fall among the robbers, which is to fall into the devil’s power and attack.
That has been our human story since the fall of our first parents, when they forsook God’s Word and fell for the temptations of that ancient serpent, the devil. You sinners, sons and daughters of Adam, are the ones left lying half-dead by the side of the road. And the world is only too glad to not get involved and not seek to help you – only too glad to practice so-called “social distancing” (or is it really “physical distancing”?) all the time – not just because of concerns over a virus. Beholden by one’s sinful nature to this world, one tends to look out for “number one” – whether the robbers, the priest, or the Levite, or you, or me.
The sinful heart of man will think itself to be a family of one – me, myself, and I – and the plight of the neighbor next to me either does not matter, or I use it as a pretext to gain something for myself. This is seen in the rioting and looting going on in our big cities – genuine desires by some for equal treatment of all people under the Law are hijacked by others into violent efforts to score loot by open theft, destroy the property of others, and even to bring chaos and disorder to society in order to damage perceived political enemies and to gain an upper hand politically for one’s causes – and all with no care whatsoever for the damage done to innocent people.
Even in your own daily life, however, you know the story of this world, of that dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho, you know those robbers, those indifferent priests and Levites. You are in both roles, the hurtful and those who are hurting. You know the pain and abuse and suffering you inflict on others, and you all too well know that pain, abuse, and suffering that others inflict on you.
Who stands up for the hurting neighbor, the one beaten up? Does anyone care for the person close to them? That’s hard to see today when one watches the news, or if you simply observe people as they interact with each other. Who truly loves the neighbor as they love themselves?
In His story, Jesus holds up the unexpected Samaritan before the eyes of God’s people as a humbling example of the unselfish love of the neighbor which overcomes hatred. The Samaritan ignores all the hate, pride, ambition, and selfishness that tempts the heart of man. The Samaritan goes out of his way to make the person who is unknown to him, or even repulsive to him – the bloodied, left for dead man by the side of the road – to be his neighbor, simply because he is there, because he has come upon the poor man, the Samaritan is compelled to help and be of service, to show love and compassion freely.
An ancient Christian Lenten liturgical text gives the plea of the suffering man in this way:
I fell among thieves by my reasonings,
I was robbed by my wretched mind.
Greatly stricken and wounded in soul,
Naked of grace, I lie upon the road of life.
The priest saw my hopeless wounds and passed me by,
the Levite knew my disease and turned away.
But in Thy love for man Thou wast pleased
To stoop down to me, O Christ, Son of God,
Not by the Road of Samaria,
But from the flesh of Mary.
Grant me healing by pouring out on me Thy great mercy.
This prayer confesses who stands up for those who hurt on life’s road. No ordinary Samaritan, this.
The Hebrew root word for “Samaritan” is the verb samar, which translated means “I keep, guard, observe, give heed to something or someone.” A defender or preserver, says Psalm 116:6, “The Lord is the samer [defender, preserver] of little ones.” Jesus is the real Samaritan. He keeps, guards, gives heed, defends, preserves. He binds up your wounds with healing ointment, by the flood of blood and water which streamed salvation from His side. He sees you half dead, and gives His life to make you alive and well again. For He is your kin, your blood brother, He is the one who came not by any ordinary earthly road, but by the mysterious and wonderful way: incarnate of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit – who assumed our humanity into His divinity. He came down to be your sole defender where no one else comes to aid, your healer where no one else can heal, your keeper and guardian and preserver who sees to it you are looked after.
Remember the Palestinian Christians and the monks who so long ago built a chapel at the site of the inn on the road to Jericho? Seems they were onto something. They honor the truly Good Samaritan, the real life story of your God and your brother, who shows mercy, filled with compassion for you, even though you had been His enemy.
As He wishes us to do unto others, He has first done it unto us and for us: He stepped forward and gave true love to you, dying in your place, truly loving His Father and you with nothing held back, allowing His holy body to be beaten and nailed to a cross, His precious blood to be shed, hung as the sinner of all between two robbers, two Jericho road bandits.
The story did not end at Calvary. The Good Samaritan rose victorious from the dead, conquering the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh, and now, ascended in glory, He has promised to come again for you. While you wait for His return, He sends His Holy Spirit with the strong wine and soothing oil of His saving Word of forgiveness and life in preaching, baptizing, and feeding you His resurrection meal.
The same Holy Spirit teaches us through the saving Word that “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4.20) “For no man ever hates his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it” (Eph. 5.29) We are members of one human family, we share one human story, begun and sustained by our Father in heaven.
Christians, look out for each other, seek to be Samer-itan – to guard and defend the widowed, the orphaned, the lonely, the forgotten, any brother or sister who hurts. Pray for each other daily, think of each other’s needs, seek the best for your neighbor who has needs, reflecting the love God in Christ has first shown you. So we pray for the world around us and those in authority, and we look to reflect God’s love to those He brings into our lives directly, within our God-given daily vocations. When we fail, and as the sinful flesh hangs upon us all in this life, we will fail our neighbor: flee back to Christ in repentance, relying on His righteousness and his mercy to avail, His Spirit to help and guide us.
This is the real story of the people who are in the inn of the holy Christian Church, the living shrine of the Good Samaritan, where He has entrusted you, until He returns again to deliver you at the last from every hardship, anguish, distress, from all sin and every kind of evil, and carry you along with all His elect children on His shoulders back up into the heavenly inn of eternal life, the new Jerusalem, Mount Zion on high, that shining city on the hill where God’s love and praises know no bounds.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +