Sermon From July 14th 2013 / “And Who is My Neighbour.”
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / July 14th / Eighth Sunday of Pentecost, Luke 10:25-37.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 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.” And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 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. 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.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
The biggest detail was who stopped to help the man set upon by robbers, not the one you’d expect, not the priest, not the Levite, but the Samaritan. This was the irksome and difficult detail. The listener knew that the Samaritan people were a mix of peoples, primarily Assyrians who had settled into the Northern kingdom of Israel after defeating the Jewish people of the north and largely deporting the inhabitants of the land; the Samaritans were also made up of a sort of cousin people group of the Jewish people as the invading Assyrians took the relocated and conquered Jewish peoples into their families. In our modern context here in Saskatchewan you might think of this segment of the Samaritan people as being sort of like the Métis people who are made up of a combination of Europeans and the Aboriginal First Nations peoples.
The Samaritans of the Bible weren’t a mosaic, they were a melting pot and in the midst of this melting pot the Assyrians had adopted worship of the Jewish God, the one true God: Yahweh. All of this, the invasion of the Assyrians into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the deportation of the Jewish People and the start of the mixing of the Jewish and Assyrian people had begun almost 750 years before the lawyer asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” The Jewish people of the southern kingdom of Judah who had largely remained ethnically unchanged in that same 750 year period had grown bit by bit to hate their neighbours to the North and it really didn’t matter that they too worshiped Yahweh. Animosity between the two peoples was so great that Jesus’ words to the lawyer would have fallen hard. This animosity and fear stemmed back to their attitudes about the Assyrians who had been an ever present danger in the years leading up to the fall of Northern Israel.
In many ways this is a sort of racial thing, today in the modern Israel you find tensions and open hostilities between Jewish and Palestinian people, between Jewish and Muslim peoples. People are quick to rush to the support of one group or another but according to Jesus you are to love your neighbour as yourself. Love them all without picking sides.
Your neighbour, by the way is everyone who isn’t you, not just the people who live in the house next door to you. Do you ever find yourself thinking, or speaking of others in a way that you’d personally dislike being spoken of if the tables were turned and they were speaking of you? Does it ever fall along racial lines? Are there other aspects of a person or people group that hold you back from loving them as you love yourself?
Last week at Camp Lutherland with the 8 to 10 year olds we read through the whole book of Jonah, all 4 chapters of it; and before we started I asked the kids how much they knew about the book of Jonah, they knew that Jonah had run away from God and that he’d been swallowed up by a great big fish as he tried to run away, and that was about it.
Jonah begins with the Word of the Lord, coming to him and telling (not asking ... but telling) Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” Now Nineveh was an Assyrian city full of the Assyrians who would eventually by conquest or blood make up the people who became the Samaritans from whom Jesus provide the example of the Good Samaritan. Jonah didn’t see these ancestors of the Samaritans as good, in the book of Jonah they are described as “evil” and “violent,” they were described as people “who do not know their right hand from their left,” and yet God had compassion on them and send Jonah to give them an opportunity to repent of their ways and receive forgiveness. Just as we would like to receive, a chance for a second chance, and third and fourth and fifth chance even, but Jonah didn’t like this idea – he was prejudice toward them and he was angry that God would forgive them because they were so evil. Jonah had tried to run from God but he discovered that he could not, the presence of God is everywhere, once he knew this for certain then and only then did he listen to the World of the LORD, then and only then did he do as he was told but he still didn’t like it, in fact when God did finally forgive the repentant Nativities, those evil Assyrians, who would later become Samaritans Jonah railed against God praying a prayer of complaint saying “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah was so angry that God would give the same forgiveness he gave to Jonah to such an undeserving people. Jonah was so angry that he wanted to sit down and die in his anger.
God was merciful, more merciful than Jonah would have been and more merciful than you or I would be. In the book of Jonah God asks Jonah “Do you do well to be angry?” Do you do well to be angry about my forgiveness when it’s given to others? When it’s given to neighbours you don’t like? According to Jesus you are to love your neighbour as yourself.
As this lawyer comes with the question “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus knows that He Himself, Jesus, is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” Jesus knows that this eternal life that the lawyer seeks will be won for him, and for you, and for me at the cross; when Jesus who was and is and ever shall be pure and sinless and innocent takes on the sins of the lawyer who didn’t always love God with all his heart and all his soul with all his strength and all his mind, who like Jonah didn’t always love his neighbour as himself; when Jesus at the cross took on our sin too which is not qualitatively different from the sin of the lawyer or from the sin of Jonah. While Jesus did not deserve the wages of sin He still saw the necessity of saving the people (His neighbours) who would be paid eternal death for their sin. For this reason, out of compassion for the lost Jesus died in this lawyers place, died there nailed to the cross for the evil of the people of Nineveh, for their violence, he died there for Jonah’s angry and murderous heart: Jesus bled and died upon the cross for all our anger and prejudice and hatred and lack of love; for every time we didn’t show mercy in our thoughts words and deeds. For every time we out of malice or negligence or inconvenience refused to bind up the broken hearted and restore the hurt and the dying, every time we didn’t defend a person in need and help them. He even died for those times that you were angry with God.
The Good Samaritan isn’t you; in the parable Jesus teaches the Good Samaritan is Him. Jesus is the Good Samaritan you are the one who was set upon by robbers and left for dead at the side of the road. And no one will stop for you but Jesus. In fact most who stop will more than likely pick your pocket or kick you while you’re down. Jesus however is the one who will rescue you from the death and from all your enemies, He binds you up and makes you whole. As you lay by the side of the road it is Jesus who sees your poor condition, He sees your sin which has left you so beaten and dead that you can do nothing to improve your sorry state, Jesus is the one who scoops you up, washes you in the waters of baptism, gives you His very own body and blood in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion to strengthen you, He is the one who pays the price for you recovery, He’s the one who puts you into the church where you will be looked after, Jesus is the one who promises to return for you on the last day, the one who promises to take you to Himself when you die so that you may be where He is.
This morning little Brooke who is not able to save herself, has been washed in the waters of Baptism, she has been sealed into Jesus’ life death and resurrection, she has become a part of the body of Christ Jesus – the Good Samaritan – and as such she will grow up in the faith being taught God’s love for her. You who are baptised can trust this same love and those of you seeking baptism can have the same, the Holy Spirit is already at work in you drawing you to the waters of baptism. Now just because you are older than Brooke and you are very sure in your own abilities this doesn’t mean that you are able somehow to save yourself, in fact when you’re honest with yourself and you examine your heart you will find in it the sin that leaves you dead, just like little Brooke you are helpless to save yourself from sin and death: Jesus however is not helpless He is not unable to save you, He is the only one who truly can, He loves you and has mercy on you and is compassionate towards you every day, every night.
Now you know that you are not truly the Good Samaritan, (sure you may say “I’ve done my good deed for the day” but that doesn’t make you the Good Samaritan) you know that when Jesus says “You go, and do likewise” like He said to the lawyer that you fail in doing this, that you don’t always love God and neighbour as you are supposed to. Today I want you to hear that Jesus is always the Good Samaritan, He’s always the unexpected one who will pick you up from the side of the road each and every time you are laying there. He will always be merciful and kind and loving to you. He is the one who gives you eternal life. Be like Him and when you’re not like Him turn to Him for forgiveness and He will forgive you. You are His neighbour and he loves you perfectly with all His heart, all His soul, all His strength and all His mind. This is Jesus, this is Jesus for you! Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.