The True and Better Samaritan

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
5 August 2018
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost / Ordinary Time

Listen Here

Luke 10:25-37

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”30 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

This is one of the most well-known parables in the world. In fact, the phrase “Good Samaritan” has come to mean anyone who tries to help someone else (especially a stranger) in an emergency situation.

The State of Texas even has a Good Samaritan law. According to The Texas Good Samaritan Act, “a person who in good faith administers emergency care at the scene of an emergency or in a hospital is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent.”

In this story, a religious lawyer stood up to exam Jesus’ life and doctrine. This lawyer was an expert in God’s Law. He was more like a theologian than an attorney.

He asked Jesus one of the most important questions in the world. What must I do to inherit eternal life? In other words, what must I do to be saved and go to heaven?

But Jesus turned the tables and tested him.

So the lawyer pointed to the heart of the Law and talked about loving God and loving neighbors. He did not say anything about justification by grace through faith.

And yet, Jesus said he answered correctly.

The religious lawyer knew the right texts in the Bible, but did he do the right things with them in his life?

To test him some more Jesus added: Do this — love God and love your neighbor — and you will live — you will inherit eternal life, you will be saved, you will go to heaven.

We all know that there is a big difference between knowing the right texts and doing the right things. But, like the lawyer, we want to justify ourselves. So we ask deep theological questions like “Who is my neighbor?”

This reminds me of something NT Wright has said: “When the church needs hard work and generous action, it’s interesting how some people, perhaps as an avoidance technique, suddenly discover that there are all sorts of theological and biblical disputes that they need to hide behind.” (164)

That’s what this lawyer is trying to do — instead of obeying God’s word, he wants to find a loop hole. To stall, he hides behind semantics; he plays word-games.

What exactly is the definition of neighbor?

The expert in the Law should have known the answer. For the Law describes your neighbor in this way in Leviticus 19:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life-blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

The lawyer wrongly believed that God’s Law — love your neighbor as yourself — just meant to love your Jewish neighbor only — to love people who are just like you only.

In context of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has been doing God’s Law of Love and showing us a better way. He loved his neighbor as himself, whether his neighbor was male or female, sick or healthy, rich or poor, young or old, Jew or Gentile. He has been proclaiming and practicing the good news of Jubilee — rescue, release, and rest.

The lawyer knew all that about Jesus, but he did not like it. He thought Jesus was violating God’s Law, so he wanted to expose Jesus. That’s why he stood up to test him.

The lawyer wanted Jesus to say out loud, “Your neighbor is anyone, whether he is a Jew, a Samaritan, a Roman — a US citizen, an African refugee, or an undocumented immigrant.”

Since Jews and non-Jews were mortal enemies, this would give him all the evidence he needed to accuse Jesus of treason and charge him with trespassing God’s Law.

But Jesus answered by telling a story about a man who was ambushed by robbers, stripped and beaten, and left for dead in the dirt.

Who was this man? Was he a Jew? A Roman?

Most people assume he was a Jew, but Jesus leaves that to our imagination.

But he makes it clear that religious men — who were the right color, and who knew all the right scripture texts (just like the lawyer) — saw the dying man on the side of the road and passed him by without lifting a finger to help him.

If the Law requires a man to help his brother lift his fallen donkey or ox off the road, how much more should a man help lift his brother or neighbor off the road — and not ignore him! (Deut. 22:4)

The religious men ignored him. Whatever the reasons for this — in a hurry, too busy, not my expertise — they are not good enough. What they did is unjustifiable. They disobeyed the Law of God. They walked away in sin.

Finally, a Samaritan — a man of mixed race, a mud-blood, an undocumented immigrant — saw him. He went out of his way to help the broken and dying man, at great personal cost to himself, without expecting anything in return. The Samaritan paid attention to his neighbor and took responsibility for him.

In this way, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question: Who is my neighbor?

But that is not the end of the exam.

Jesus tested the lawyer again: Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

The lawyer answered correctly, if not reluctantly, “The one who showed him mercy.” 

And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.”

Like the lawyer, we must imitate the Samaritan. We must go and love our neighbor.

Now, who is your neighbor?

It is the person God puts right in front of you — and the next one after that. Regardless of race, creed, or skin-tone. Your neighbor is anyone made in God’s image that God puts on your path and in your way.

Again, knowing the right answer and doing the right thing go right together. It’s both/and not either/or.

It is good to ask, Who is my neighbor? It is better to ask, How can I love them as I love myself?

It is good to ask, Who needs mercy today? It is better to ask, How can I show mercy to them in this situation, in this moment?

If you want to inherit eternal life, to be saved, and go to heaven, you must love your neighbor as yourself, without showing partiality or favoritism, whoever (and whatever) your neighbor happens to be.


Communion / Comunion

Jesus loved his neighbor as himself. That is how he saw us and why he showed us mercy.

Jesús amaba a su prójimo como a sí mismo. Así es como nos vio y por qué nos mostró misericordia.

Like the unknown man in the parable, We were just going on our way from one place to another when we were ambushed by sin, the flesh, and the devil.

Como el hombre desconocido en la parabola, nos ibamos en un rumbo, de un lugar a otro cuando fuimos emboscados por el pecado, la carne, y el diablo.

We were left naked, bloody and bruised, and dead.

Nos dejaron desnudos, golpeados, heridos, y muertos.

But Jesus came to seek and save us; he saw us and stopped and stayed with us. He came to us where we were, and he had compassion on us.

Pero Jesús vino a buscarnos y salvarnos; él nos vio y se detuvo y se quedó con nosotros. Vino a nosotros donde estábamos, y tuvo compasión de nosotros.

Jesus came near and laid down his life for us.

Jesús se acercó y entregó su vida por nosotros.

He fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and pierced him with nails and abandoned him, and left him to die hanging on a tree.

Él cayó entre ladrones, que lo desnudaron y golpearon, y lo crucificaron y lo rechazaron, y lo dejaron morir colgado en un árbol.

By his wounds we are healed, by his blood we are washed, by his Spirit we are made alive again.

Por sus heridas somos sanados, por su sangre somos lavados, por su Espíritu somos vivificados de nuevo.

He carried us to the church and charged local pastors to take care of us and treat us as he treats us.

Él nos llevó a la iglesia y acusó a los pastores locales de que nos cuiden y nos traten mientras nos trata.

As your pastors, we want to take care of you and remind you that Jesus is a neighbor to you.

Como pastores, queremos cuidarte bien y recordárte que Jesús es tu prójimo.

He loves you as himself. He washed you with water through his word in your baptism. He poured out his Spirit in your heart. He brought you to a safe place.

Él te ama como a si mismo. Él te lavó con agua a través de su palabra en tu bautismo. Él derramó su Espíritu en tu corazón. Él te ha traido a un lugar seguro.

He sets this table before you in the presence of your enemies.

Él pone esta mesa frente a ti en presencia de tus enemigos.

Look around, he has set you in a family with other people who were alone, beaten, crushed, desperate — just like you — until Jesus the true and better Samaritan came in the grace of the Holy Spirit and applied the gospel of Jubilee to you:

Mira a tu alrededor, te ha puesto en una familia con otras personas que estaban solas, golpeadas, aplastadas, desesperadas, tal como tú. Así era hasta que Jesús, el verdadero y mejor Samaritano, vino en la gracia del Espíritu Santo y aplicó el Evangelio del Jubileo para ti:

In the power of the Holy Spirit,
Jesus proclaims good news to the poor,
liberty to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind,
release for the oppressed,
the year of the Lord’s favor,
to comfort all who mourn;
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.

En el poder del Espíritu Santo,
Jesús proclama buenas nuevas a los pobres,
libertad a los cautivos,
nueva vista para los ciegos,
rescate para los oprimidos,
el año del favor del Señor,
a consolar a todos los que están de duelo,
a darles una corona en vez de cenizas,
aceite de alegría en vez de luto,
traje de fiesta en vez de espíritu de desaliento.

And now, he welcomes you to his holy table.

Y ahora, él te da la bienvenida a su sagrada mesa.

All you baptized Christians, who have turned from sin and trust in Christ alone to save you, come. He serves you the bread of life and the cup of salvation.

A todos ustedes, cristianos bautizados, que se han apartado del pecado y confían solo en Cristo como su salvador, vengan. Él les sirve el pan de vida y la copa de la salvación.

He gives you his broken body to heal your brokenness, and he gives you his shed blood to show you mercy.

Él te da su cuerpo quebrado para sanar tu quebrantamiento, y él te da su sangre derramada para mostrarte con su misericordia.