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Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37

by pastorjuhl ~ September 15th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

And who is my neighbor?

You are traveling from Momence to Chicago. Around Chicago Heights, a sleeper cell from Al Qaeda attacks your car at a stoplight. They drag you out of the car and beat you to within an inch of your life. Your car is stolen. You are better off dead than in the condition you’re in right now.

The Chicago Heights police arrive on the scene, take one look at your identification (the sleeper cell somehow didn’t take your driver’s license), realize you are from Momence, and walk away. They know this is an Al Qaeda attack. They know you are from Momence. They would rather the Momence police department handle the situation. It’s best not to get involved, lest the wrath of terror come down on the Chicago Heights police department.

The Illinois State Police are next to arrive. They also see who you are and what condition you’re in. They bring an ambulance unit with them. After CSI does their thing, they realize you are not worth helping. Al Qaeda is involved. Perhaps it’s best that the FBI handle this case. Even the first responders don’t want to deal with your injuries. God forbid someone might find out they were helping someone who was attacked by a terrorist group.

About the time your eyesight becomes so blurry that you think you might die in peace, a mysterious figure arrives. You think you might recognize him, but you’re not sure. He cleans and bandages your wounds, puts you in his car, and drives you to Saint James Hospital. When you become more aware of your surroundings several hours later, doctors and nurses have a stunned look on their faces. The individual who brought you in the hospital said he would pay your bill in full. No need for insurance to get involved. This person will stop by in a few days with the payment for your bill…in cash.

And that person…is Osama bin Laden.

So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?

Even though the parable is shifted into the 21st century in a place you recognize, the parable’s point remains the same. Replace “Samaritan” with Osama bin Laden, Al Capone, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, or any other person who would be the least likely fellow to be your neighbor. That’s the stunning impact Jesus’ parable makes on the lawyer.

When you are half-dead, lying by the side of the road, you don’t get to pick who will be your neighbor, your “Good Samaritan”. Someone will help you. It may be the least likely person on the planet. It may even be your worst enemy, someone you despise perhaps more than Satan himself. Remember, you’re half-dead. You are not in a position to refuse treatment because someone is doing what a neighbor should do.

It’s quite easy to see your face or your friends’ faces in the place of the priest and Levite’s faces. What if you switched places with the person who helped you? If it was America’s Public Enemy Number One lying on the side of the road half dead, would you stop to help? As it is when you are half-dead, so it is when you are able-bodied. You cannot choose your neighbor.

Nevertheless, when you say and do things that make it look like you can save yourself from your lost condition before Almighty God, you are choosing your own neighbor. Put another way, you are choosing your own god. You are taking the summary of the Law given in Deuteronomy chapter six, summarized by the lawyer before our Lord’s parable, and rewriting it according to how you want things done. You will show compassion only on those that fit your criteria of who is your neighbor. Compassion will be shown to you only by those you will allow to help you, even if you are half-dead by the side of the road.

The key phrases in today’s Holy Gospel are do this and you will live and go and do likewise. The lawyer gets to question Jesus after the first phrase. Saint Luke never tells us how the lawyer responds to the second phrase after Jesus takes his worldview and explodes it before his very eyes. Outside of Jesus Christ, you think you can give wise responses to both of our Lord’s phrases. It’s not possible. Do this and you will live? No man born of woman in the natural way can do the Law perfectly. Go and do likewise? Go and do to Osama bin Laden? Go and do to the person three pews away whom I have not spoken to in decades? Yes. That’s what you are supposed to do and you won’t do it because you can’t do it.

Out of the mess of picking and choosing your neighbor comes Jesus Christ. The greater majority of ancient Church Fathers, as well as commentators on this parable, agree that Jesus is the Good Samaritan. Sanctified common sense tells you Jesus is the Good Samaritan. In the eyes of the lawyer, not to mention the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus is worse than a Samaritan. He associates with tax collectors and sinners. That’s what makes this parable even more delicious to the ears of half dead sinners.

The priest and the Levite know better. They are commanded to show compassion, but do not. That’s something the lawyer should know right away. A Jew knows better than to leave a fellow Jew in the ditch. As God shows compassion to him, so he should show compassion to others. When the priest and Levite avoid the half-dead man, you can hear the ticking noise attached to the dynamite. The boom comes when the Samaritan is the one who shows compassion. Public enemy number one to every pious Jew, the half-breed from north of Judea rides to the rescue. He even takes care of the bill and promises to return to the inn to check on the wounded man.

The lawyer was so stunned by having his worldview exploded that he could not bring himself to say which one of the men showed compassion. He can’t say “Samaritan”, just as you probably couldn’t say “Osama bin Laden showed compassion to me.” To the lawyer, to a Pharisee, Jesus might as well be Osama bin Laden. However, they are not in a position to choose their neighbor. So are you.

Jesus Christ is the Good Samaritan. He comes to you as you are, half dead with no hope of being saved. He pours out oil and wine, the oil of healing and the wine of joy. Jesus gives you everything you need to live. He gives His life in order that you may live with Him. His blood is sufficient payment for sin. His life is your ransom from death.

He carries you to the inn, the Church, where the innkeeper, the pastor standing in the stead of Christ, takes care of you with medicine for your sick soul. He pours Life down your throat, the Body and Blood of Christ under bread and wine. He wipes clean the stains of sin in Holy Absolution. He washes clean the wounds of death with living baptismal water. He delivers to you all that your Savior gives to sustain you in this life as you wait for the life of the world to come.

So many people look at Jesus and consider Him Public Enemy Number One. His sayings are hard to believe. He destroys worldviews that make so much sense, yet are nonsense. His compassion and care are so radical, so unbelievable, that many will not believe He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. For those who are being saved, for you, dear redeemed, Jesus is not your enemy. Jesus is your Good Samaritan. He shows compassion on you. Dwelling among you, He powers your compassion to others. You do not get to choose your neighbor. What a freeing notion! Everyone is your neighbor, even your worst enemy. You are blessed to show mercy to everyone, friend and foe alike.

As Jesus remembers you, Whom He purchased of old and redeemed you to be the tribe of His heritage, so you remember those less fortunate, in order that you, with them, will praise His Name forever.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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