Fifth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 10, c] July 14, 2019
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 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.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
In the Name of Jesus.
What should a Savior look like?
Our world does have an understanding of saviors. To the man fighting with his wife, a savior may look like Dr. Phil, looming over the man and telling him “If you won’t acknowledge what you’ve done, then how can you change?” To the young lady in depression, or the young man in anxiety, the savior may look like a school counselor. To the one in trouble in the career, a savior may look like a speaker at the motivational seminar.
Our world has an understanding of saviors; she has expectations of what they should look like.
We have expectations of how should look. If a general is to walk into the war-room on D-Day, does anyone expect that general will look like Jimmy Buffett wearing a Hawaiian shirt?
We have an idea what people should look like. They should fill the bill.
So, what should a Savior look like? A victorious warrior? A million-dollar athlete? A Hollywood personality? A Savior should exude strength. A Savior should be able to influence people. To change lives. To help people improve. Even to save cities and make nations strong.
When Jesus, though, gives us a picture of a Savior, he gives us the Samaritan.
Samaritans weren’t even Israelites. Maybe part Israelite, maybe some Israelite blood mixed in there somewhere. But what Samaritans were was unclean. They were the dirty ones you’re supposed to separate yourself from. They lived out away from Jerusalem, in the area where they did not worship the God of Israel. They did not keep the religious laws. They raised pigs and ate pork, which no one listening to the Law given through Moses would ever do. They were known as cheats and liars. Don’t date them, don’t eat with them, don’t make friends with them. Samaritans are unclean.
But when Jesus, who is, indeed, an Israelite, even born of the lineage of David, when he gives a picture of a Savior, he gives us the Samaritan.
First, Jesus doesn’t describe the Savior, though. First, he describes the sinner, so that we will know who it is who is to be saved.
The sinner is the one who works to make himself right by the Law. The sinner is the one clinging to the Law like the Priest and the Levite. But when the sinner, who is like a priest or Levite, hears the Law that you must love your neighbor as yourself, the sinner is then thrown by the Law into the ditch.
Now the sinner is the man in the ditch who cannot help himself, heal himself, or even try to pretend that he can improve himself by the Law. The sinner under the accusation of the Law is just that—a man left to die in the ditch.
In this parable, Jesus starts us out as the priest or the Levite, as those trying to justify ourselves by the Law. But, then, when that Law accuses us, we find ourselves thrown by Jesus into the ditch.
Who will save this sinner in the ditch?
The Law won’t help. So, we see the priest and the Levite walk on by. The Law provides no Savior.
But then, coming down the road, it’s the Samaritan, the unclean one—no one would look for salvation from this one. You might as well expect Jimmy Buffet to be a five-star general on D-Day. But that’s who Jesus leaves us with. Not the priest. Not the Levite. Not salvation by the Law. But the most unexpected Savior of all—a man looked down on, even despised, a Samaritan showing mercy.
The Law shows no compassion.
Jesus is our Samaritan.
Unexpected. Who would expect salvation from sin, death, and the devil to come the child of a humble virgin giving birth in little Bethlehem?
Unexpected. Who would look for salvation from a man who eats with tax-collectors and sinners, who drinks wine with thieves and drunkards, who talks with the unclean woman at the well as if she were more deserving of God’s time than the Queen of England?
Even despised. Who can be more despised than a man standing in front of Caiaphas the priest and being named as one not fit to even enter the Temple? Or more despised than one standing in front of the Roman Governor, and being publicly humiliated as a man betraying his own country. Or, more despised than a convicted man being publicly shamed as he hangs on a cross between two thieves?
Jesus is our Samaritan. Unexpected. We would’ve never designed it this way. We would’ve designed a Savior who was our Savior because he could teach us to save ourselves by following the Law. But that would’ve just been a new Moses; it would’ve been our own version of the priest or the Levite.
Jesus is our Samaritan. Unexpected. Even despised. For no one honors a man hanging on a cross. Yet, he is the Savior for every sinner.
He is our Samaritan, and we are the ones in the Law’s ditch. But there is no better place to be than in the ditch when Jesus, the Good Samaritan, walks by. He speaks mercy. He binds up the body broken by guilt. He bandages wounds of shame. He brings into the Inn, which is his Church.
He comes to us now. Unexpectedly, even unimpressively to eyes of our world, but he comes to us now. Lowly and humbly in the gentle Word of Gospel. Lowly and humbly in the Sacraments, which look so commonplace to the eyes of flesh, but which are the true power of God to save the sinner.
He is our Samaritan, our Savior, sent by the Father to deliver us out of the domain of darkness and transfer us into the kingdom of light. He is God the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of all our sin. [Col. 1:14]
In the Name of Jesus.