Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
There’s no Law that’s been given that can give you life. No Law of God, no Commandment, no matter how good and holy it is, will give you life. If there was any Law that could give you life, then righteousness would be from the Law. If a Law could give life, you would be saved by your works, and then Jesus died for no reason. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.
So it is with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We try to justify ourselves. We want to put things back under the Law so that we can justify ourselves, make ourselves righteous, make ourselves just like God—the original sin. We do that with this parable when we make it a works parable. I mean that’s how it reads. Well, that’s the face value of it, at least.
That’s how we want to read it. There’s Good Samaritan laws, after all, and so that means that’s what this Parable’s all about. We flip the script. Start from our perspective. All the while forgetting that Jesus, the parable Master, uses them to flip the script on what’s being asked of him.
He gets asked a Law question. (Experts in the Law do that sort of thing.) And so He gives a Law answer: “Do this and you will live.” “Who’s my neighbor, anyway, Jesus?” Jesus’ Parable gives the answer, right? “Everyone is. Love everyone.” What’s the Lawyer supposed to do then? Do that and live? Is that Jesus’ point? Really His point? Maybe Jesus and Paul do disagree! Jesus says, “Do this and live,” but Paul says, “Doing the Law won’t make you righteous, won’t justify you.”
Maybe this Parable’s meant to show the Lawyer’s sin. But we still expect the same change in behavior, right? The same works-based outcome. The Lawyer’s “Oh my. I’m not measuring up. I should love my enemies, the people I hate. In fact, I shouldn’t hate anyone! Love those people. Serve them.” We’re usually in the ballpark of this interpretation. Aren’t we?
But this isn’t a works parable. It’s not even a works question that the Lawyer’s asking. It involves works, but it’s really a salvation question. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” After all, He was trying “to justify Himself.” But righteousness doesn’t come from the Law, it doesn’t come from our works, it doesn’t come from how we treat others and who love or don’t love.
Sinners always flip the script that way, especially we clergy types, which is what the Lawyer actually was. Sure it doesn’t fit into our modern categories of clergy and laity, but really He was. His interpreting of the Law is where He was looking for righteousness, but also His doing of the Law. You’ve gotta interpret it right, to do it right. You’ve gotta have you’re doctrine’s lined up right, right answers and all that. You’ve gotta be winsome. Have that pastoral heart, like the Samaritan, right? Bring those people back to the faith. Preach impactful sermons. And if people stay away, wander away, come after you, well, there goes our righteousness, right? We doubt our God in the tough times because we’re looking more to our doing than His doing for us in Jesus.
Jesus flips the script on it all! Jesus is trying to kill the lawyer and you. You want to live by the Law, fine: “Do it and live,” Jesus says. To put this in modern terms, don’t look at what the Synodical president or other LCMS clergy are doing, love your neighbor in need like that atheist liberal progressive does. “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus tells this parable to show us for who we are when we self-justify, when we play our salvation games. When we come up for all sorts of excuses for why we’re good with God. Sinners can’t actually do anything to help themselves, and no Law can do anything to save us from our problem. No examples of the Law, no matter how holy, good, or pious, could save the victim in Jesus’ parable. Someone else does.
The Samaritan does. Jesus does, too. He has compassion on us, on sinners, on those who self-justify. He wants to save those who look more quickly to themselves and their works when the going gets tough. He takes our sin as His own, and He takes our death as His own, and as the Samaritan gave two denarii and would return on the third day, so also Jesus on the Third Day. Jesus bears us up. He cares for us. He makes us His own. Treats us as His own family. We are! By Baptism you’re His brother. He binds up your wounds, forgives you. He feeds you: body and blood. His for you. For your forgiveness, your righteousness, your justification, your salvation.
But He says, “Go and do likewise, and so the Samaritan can’t be Jesus!” Ahh, the game begins so quickly… You want the Law answer? Fine. Be Jesus for your neighbor, the person you hate, the members you don’t like. Suffer for them. Die for the. Forgive them. Care for them. Bear them up. Give what you have and then some! Do that, and you’ll live.
Then again, “There is no Law that can give life.” Jesus parable says the same thing. He shows us how we really our in our salvation games. we’re dead and helpless. But His parable also displays His solution.“Lord, I’m yours. Save me.” Wonderfully, He shows us in this Parable, “Before you even ask it, I already have. I really am your Good Samaritan.”
INI + AMEN.