INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: We’re not the Samaritan in the Parable.))
There’s a problem with this parable. Well, the problem isn’t the Parable Jesus tells. The problem’s us. It has to do with how we mischaracterize the people in this Parable, give ourselves roles in the parable apart from the context. The context includes the details in the Parable, but also what Jesus says, and why Jesus says anything at all.
People treat this parable just like they treat the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We want to be the hero of the story, the main character. The main character is the Samaritan and so that has to be us. We think that Jesus, of course, would tell a story about us! Now, we and the Lawyer are included, but we’re not meant to be Samaritan, not chiefly. Now you could run the Parable that way. Jesus allows that to happen. In fact, He tells parables so that “seeing they may not see.” You can force your way to the main character role, but then you’d miss Jesus’ point—more on that in a minute.
We’re not the main character of the story. The story itself isn’t chiefly a moral tale about loving everyone, so that you can be a better person. That’s not why Jesus tells this story at all. We are not the Samaritan.
((4. Ugh!: In fact, Jesus’ point is that we can’t be the Samaritan!))
In fact, Jesus’ point is that we can’t be the Samaritan! When we really look at the details of the Parable and why Jesus tells this Parable, that fact will become super-abundantly clear. Now, we are included in the Parable, as was the Lawyer who stood up to test Jesus.
But we’re not the main character. Not the Samaritan. Just because there are “Good Samaritan” laws doesn’t mean anything. (“Good Samaritan” laws are laws that say you can’t be prosecuted if you trying to help someone in need causes un-intended harm.) Man-made laws don’t have anything to do with how we understand what the Bible says. Besides, it’s a good bet that if there’s a law supposedly based on Scripture, the man-made law misunderstands it. As Paul says, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can He know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Besides all that, even if Jesus’ point was that we are to be the Good Samaritan, we run into a really big problem. The problem is that Jesus tells this Parable to illustrate the first thing He said, “Do this and you will live.” And if that’s the case, then what Jesus says here disagrees with what Paul said in Galatians today. Paul said, “If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” And Paul says earlier in Galatians 2, “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
The Law can’t help you. Can’t save you. The Law can’t fix your problem, your true problem. Your sin problem. It might fix your outward behavior for a little while, but it doesn’t fix the inner source of your behavior. Your sinful heart. “The Law says, ‘Do this,’ and it’s never done.” (Luther, Heidelberg Disputation XXVI) Never done with your “whole” heart, your “whole” soul, your “whole” mind, or your “whole” strength.
Jesus’ point is to pin the Lawyer down, pin us down, too. He tells a Parable, and Parable full of Gospel and statements full of Law, to show us our place in His story. And when this is the case, then Jesus and Paul don’t actually disagree, and then, in fact, Jesus’ parable illustrates Paul’s point perfectly.
((3. Aha!: The Lawyer’s asking a salvation not a good works question.))
We can see that this is Jesus’ point. All we have to do is pay attention to why Jesus tells the parable that He tells, and why He says the things He says. Jesus is preaching the way He is not because He just decided to tell this Parable out of the blue. It all starts when “a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test.”
How does the Lawyer test Jesus? Well, he’s not actually asking a good works question. He’s not asking what good works should I do. He’s not asking what do good works look like. He’s not even asking what’s the Law all about! He’s actually asking a salvation question. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He’s asking, “What must a I do to be saved?”
He wants to earn standing with God based on what he does. He may know the Law, that it’s to love God completely all the time in everything you do and to love your neighbor as yourself, which means, love your neighbor first, because we always put ourselves first. The Lawyer wants to “justify himself” before God, and he does what we all do with the Law when we’re trying to justify ourselves. We lessen it. “Who’s my neighbor?”
The first question sets the stage. We can’t loose sight of that in all that Jesus says after that. “What must a I do to inherit eternal life?” “What must I do to be saved?” That’s not asking about how to love your neighbor. That’s asking about how you get in good with God and stay that way. That’s a salvation question.
((2. Whee!: JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN.))
Inheritance doesn’t come from the Law. It’s given through promise, through faith in the promise. That’s what Paul says, and Jesus is telling the parable for the same reason. Jesus’ point again is to show us, and the Lawyer, how we fit into His story. And in His salvation story, JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN. Jesus’ parable is a salvation parable, based on a salvation question, and in this Parable JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN.
How do we know JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN? How can we see that’s His place, His role, in the Parable? Well, first, the Samaritan isn’t where he’s supposed to be. He’s not in Samaria where he should stay. Jews and Samaritans hated each other. The eternal Son of God, isn’t where you’d expect Him to be either. Wandering around Palastine instead of up in heaven. Not only that the Samaritan “had compassion.” Within the Gospels, this word, “have compassion,” is only ever used to talk about Jesus, or maybe the person who stands in for God the Father or Jesus in a Parable, which is what we have today. Finally, the Samaritan gives “two denarii” to the innkeeper. That’s enough for two days, which lets you know the Samaritan intends to come back on the third day.
So, what’s our place? Well, we’re the man in the ditch. Often we don’t see ourselves that way, but when Jesus says “Do this and live,” He wants to drive us to that conclusion, drive us to say, “I haven’t. I can’t.” Left to ourselves, we’re dead. And the Law, as represented by the Priest and levite, can’t save us. “The Law says, ‘Do this,’ and it’s never done.” (Luther, Heidelberg Disputation XXVI) “Do this. There is no try.” The Law leaves you in the dust. But Jesus doesn’t. God’s “grace says, ‘Believe in Him,’ and everything is already done.” (Luther, Heidelberg Disputation XXVI) He does it for you. Of course He does. Because JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN.
((1. Good Samaritan Jesus mercies you.))
Jesus, as Good Samaritan, mercies you. He is merciful to you. He goes into the ditch of sin and death after you. Our sins are many. We don’t love our neighbor like we love ourselves, especially our coworkers, our congregation members, the people in our community, or even the people in our own families that we don’t like that much or even hate. We don’t trust God like we should, especially when it comes to the dinero, the money we store up for ourselves. We’d never spend that on others, let alone as an offering to God. We put stock in our works to balance the scales. “Yeah, I may do that, but I least I do this other good thing.”
But Jesus goes into our sins, claims them as His own and bears their penalty. He dies for our sins, and is raised for our innocent verdict, our forgiveness. He continues to care for you. He washes your wounds, your sins away. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the true anointing of oil, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathes new life into you through His Word. He gives you His body to eat and His blood to drink, the true wine of salvation.
JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN in that He mercies you. He is merciful towards you. But JESUS IS THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN also in that He mercies you in making you merciful, by giving you people to be merciful towards, giving you the means to do it! Innkeeper got the money. Most importantly, you’ve got Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness, but also your possessions and money. The Samaritan brought the innkeeper and that man together. So also Jesus has brought you together with all the people in your life. So, whether you’re a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker, you’ve been “created in Christ JESUS”—baptized into THE TRUE GOOD SAMARITAN—“for good works.” You just have to “walk in them.”
He’s already worked out all those details for you, just like the Good Samaritan that He is.
INI + AMEN.