SERMON FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 9-15-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Collect of the Day:
Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!
This morning a lawyer stands up and throws out a question to test Jesus: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus directs the man back to God’s own Word, “What is written in the Law and how do you read it?”
Well, apparently this lawyer was paying attention in catechism class because he actually nails the right answer! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, all your strength, all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” You’ve got it, replied Jesus, do this and you will live.
This lawyer is no slouch. He gets the point. He immediately recognizes that he has in no way fulfilled the Law. He knows he hasn’t loved God with everything he’s got. He knows he hasn’t loved his neighbor as himself.
So he does what any good lawyer would do to help his client, in this case himself, to get off the hook. He’s looking for a loophole, any way to limit or circumvent God’s uncompromising demands. Ok, Jesus, but who is my neighbor? You know of course where he’s going with this. Who must I love and who can I walk over? Well, ask any Lutheran Sunday School student, Who is my neighbor? They’ve got the answer! It’s everyone! It’s everyone and whoever is nearby or close at hand. It’s whoever God puts along our path.
So you’ve heard the account of the Good Samaritan. Even non-Christians know something of it. It’s an exhortation to compassion, to love whomever God has placed in our path, whether our friend, or our worst enemy. We learn to love our neighbor as our self. To treat others the way we want to be treated. And all that’s true. But the Parable of the Good Samaritan is also much more.
At the Chartres Cathedral, outside of Paris, there is a magnificent stained-glass window. It depicts two stories interwoven together. One being the entire account of the Good Samaritan from beginning to end, intertwined also with Adam in Paradise, God breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. The story of creation, and the fall, and the redemption interwoven with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Well, what can we make of that? The Fathers of the Church saw something much deeper going on here. And it has to do with the story to which each and every one of us belongs. So consider briefly the first words of Jesus’ parable this morning. It starts this way: A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now pause here. What’s Jerusalem? We Lutherans sing that beautiful hymn “Jerusalem, My Happy Home.” We also sing “Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest.” Why do we sing those hymns? Well, we’re singing about paradise. The new and heavenly city of Jerusalem – the city of God. We’re singing about our home – the place to which we all belong.
Again, a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. What’s Jericho? Well, it’s that city of sin. And dysfunction. A city whose walls had to come crashing down for destruction. Jericho. It’s the place where Jesus healed those blind beggars, blind Bartimaeus, and saved lost Zacchaeus, that corrupt tax collector. Jericho is a rock-bottom sort of place.
So look again, at that man, fallen from Jerusalem and down to Jericho, beaten, stripped naked, and left for dead. What a picture of sin we have here. To be beaten up, pummeled by those robbers of sin, death, and the devil. Look at fallen man, helpless, and in need of a rescue mission. The priests, who offer all those sacrifices, they can’t save. The Levites, the keepers of the temple, they can’t save either. So they pass on by.
But look who does stop and have compassion. It’s a Samaritan. His heart is moved with the deepest pity and sympathy. He will not pass by. Instead, he gets down and pours oil and wine into those wounds.
He carries the battered man to an inn, a place of refuge and comfort. And he doesn’t just take off. He stays with the man. He takes care of him and nurses him to health. He pays the bill and promises to come back.
Ok now, think back to that stained-glass window at the Chartres cathedral. That story of creation, and the fall, and salvation. Consider that window – of God breathing breath into Adam and the Good Samaritan breathing life and healing back into that fallen man – with panels side by side. The book of Genesis and the Good Samaritan overlapping. You’ve got it. That parable is also the story of our salvation. Of the fall and our redemption in Christ. Of man going down to Jericho and yet restored to the heavenly Jerusalem.
Look at your life. How do things overlap for you? Aren’t you the one that’s been ravaged, robbed by sins, mistreated by demons, haunted by addictions, guilt, and shame of the past, dogged by death? Aren’t you the one in the need of rescue? Aren’t you the one who’s fallen from Jerusalem to Jericho?
And who’s that Good Samaritan? Who is the truly compassionate one? Who is the one who can help, restore, and bring back to life? Well, Jesus isn’t exactly describing you! He’s speaking about Himself and His mercy, His love and compassion toward you.
He sees you in your present condition. He sees you hurting. He knows the sins that terrify you. He knows the hurts that plague you. When we try to muscle up some compassion for one another, we say to one another, “I know what you’re going through.” But with Jesus, it’s actually true. Because when He heals the sick, and drives out demons, and restores life to those who are dead, He’s taking it all right into Himself. He knows what you’re going through, because He took your sins, your sickness, your death and made it all His own. He is the Good Samaritan.
And this morning we see how our Lord did it. What a picture we have of Him this morning! The compassionate one, who was stripped, beaten, left for dead on the cross and buried in the tomb. But He turned the tables on those robbers of sin, death, and the grave. He sacked and plundered the power of hell and the devil when He laid down His life for the life of the world. Having no sins Himself, He rose from the dead. To heal us all. To be our Good Samaritan. To pour the oil of the Spirit into our wounds in Holy Baptism. To give us the antiseptic wine of His blood in the Holy Supper – which gives and bestows His life – His righteousness – and all that He is and has.
And this Jesus, our Good Samaritan, carries us safely to the inn of His holy church, a field hospital for weary and wounded travelers. His angels minister to us. And there, Jesus, the Compassionate One, pours out upon us lavishly the abundant fruits of His redemption in the Sacraments to care for us all. Through innkeepers, the pastors of the Church, who provide everything we need for life as they call us to repentance, faith, and the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus concludes the parable by asking, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The answer could not be missed. “The one who showed him mercy.” Now you, go and do likewise!
Dear friends of God, don’t get things mixed up here! Is Jesus telling the lawyer he needs to do something, to go and do good works and get himself saved! No! Jesus is calling the lawyer to faith in the Gospel! As he does to each and every one of us.
Jesus is preaching this: Believe in Me! Believe in the one who justifies and saves sinners by taking your place on the cross, bringing you to the inn of the Church. And He preaches to you this wonderful message, that He has paid the price to save you. That He has wondrously restored your health, and that He is coming back graciously to take you to Himself in the splendor of paradise, the new Jerusalem and our very happy happy home.
This morning, what simple message can we take to heart? First, we see the kind, gentle, and merciful heart of God in the Good Samaritan. We recognize the ministry of the Risen Christ among us, and how He even now revives us through His Gospel, promising life and resurrection to all who trust in Him.
Second, we recognize that we have been brought from death to life, from Jericho to Jerusalem, from the depths of hell to the heights of heaven, all through the tender mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins. We have truly been restored and set free. Revived and restored to love our neighbor. And freed to cheerfully bear witness to the love of God, and gladly do good to all. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: Jesus Thy Boundless Love to Me LSB #683
Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76
Translator: John B. Wesley, 1703-91
Tune: Norman Cocker, 1889-1953
1 Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Unite my thankful heart to Thee,
And reign without a rival there!
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am;
Be Thou alone my constant flame.
2 O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My ev'ry act, word, thought be love.
3 This love unwearied I pursue
And dauntlessly to Thee aspire.
Oh, may Thy love my hope renew,
Burn in my soul like heav'nly fire!
And day and night, be all my care
To guard this sacred treasure there.
4 In suff'ring be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my pow'r;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide,
And draw me safely to Thy side!