This morning a lawyer stands before Jesus and calls out “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answers, “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.” Jesus looks at the lawyer approvingly and simply says, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
The funny part is that the lawyer actually thought he was on the right track here. He thought he was on the way to eternal life. He thought he was a good person. He made a good living. He came to the synagogue. He tithed the 10 percent commanded by God. He was a member of the Lions club and town board. He’s a good guy everyone said of him. He kept his nose out of public scandal and shame. His reputation was impeccable. And he knew it.
But this successful, well thought of man, lacked one thing. He did not have a proper faith in God. He did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. He trusted in himself. And this man, seeking to justify himself, said to Jesus, “well, then who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man came down from Jerusalem and he fell among robbers, who stripped him, beat him to a pulp and left him half dead on the side of the road. First the priest passed by – he didn’t want to get his hands dirty and he passed by on the other side. Then the levite passed by as well – he was much too above the business of getting involved with something as unsightly as this bloody beaten mess of a man on the side of the road. The priest and levite were members of the religious establishment. In the Old Testament it was ritually unclean to touch the dead. So they passed by – they didn’t want to dirty themselves in the ghastly scene.
But then comes along the Good Samaritan. And unlike the priest and levite, the Good Samaritan took notice. Our text says that the Samaritan felt compassion. And this is a decent translation but the original greek text is more interesting. It says that the Samaritan was so moved in his compassion – that his bowels became contorted or twisted. The greek word is spagna which is actually the origin of the english word for our spleen. That is to say, this Samaritan – this outsider – was so deeply moved in compassion that the innermost part of his very being was troubled to the very core.
This Samaritan man was so profoundly troubled at this man’s injury that his spleen – his intestines became upset. Indeed the Scriptures elsewhere says when one member suffers all suffer with him. In a very real way the Samaritan was suffering with the beaten and half dead man.
So that Samaritan did not pass by. But ran to the man in need. And using an ancient yet very effective first aid kit – he began to help him. He used oil which not only cleans – but also a skin moisturizer and soothing lotion. Wine, of course is a disinfectant – it cleans wounds and helps heal.
The Samaritan hoists the man on an animal – a beast of burden and carries the man to an inn – and didn’t just drop him off but stayed the whole night with the wounded man. Probably continued to nurse him back to health through the night. Then he paid the innkeeper, saying “Take care of him, I will repay you when I come back.”
Jesus concludes the parable by asking the lawyer the following question: “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.” The lawyer said “Well, the Samaritan - the One who showed mercy.” Our Lord then says “You go, and do likewise.”
Over the last couple hundred years it has been a common practice to just assume that Jesus is telling us a story about how to be caring and compassionate. The Good Samaritan is compassionate and therefore be like the Good Samaritan. But this is not really the point of the parable. As with all other parables, we need to get over the idea of thinking the parables are about us when they are really about Jesus. With the early church fathers and with Martin Luther they understood that in this parable – Jesus is actually speaking about himself.
The man who has been robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead on the road is Adam (sinful humanity) – that is you and I! When God warned us from turning away from him. He said that in that day you shall surely die. Through one man’s sin death entered in. Saint Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2 that you were dead in your trespasses and sins. Not sick or injured but dead. Dead just like the man in this parable. Who are the robbers who beat the man?
The robbers are sin, death, and the devil – the same robbers that beat you up. Adam(sinful humanity!) then leaves Jerusalem (Jerusalem is paradise) he is beaten up by the robbers of sin, death, and the devil. The priest who passes by represents the law of the Old Testament which cannot save. The Levite who passes by represents the prophets of the Old Testament. But then comes the Samaritan, the outsider whom is Christ Himself. He heals our wounds, which is our disobedience.
We are placed on the beast of burden, which is the body of Christ. Jesus himself says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus carries our sorrows and bears our sins – fulfilling the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the beast of burden. He carries the sins of the world upon his back.
And when this Good Samaritan gets on his knees and pours out oil and wine – what should we think of? Since the earliest days of the church oil has been associated with Holy Baptism, where we are washed and cleansed and anointed in the baptism of Christ. And what is the wine that this Good Samaritan offers but the sacrificial blood of Christ! A sweet wine which is poured unto sin-parched lips – to refresh and bring back to life dying sinners like us. Here in this parable you have Baptism and the Lord’s Supper! – The very means by which dying sinners are resuscitated from death and raised to new life!
And where does the Good Samaritan carry the beaten and robbed man – that he might be taken care of – and nourished – and healed? He takes him to an inn. And what is the inn but the one holy Christian and apostolic church. Our church – here at St. Paul - our hospital of grace – our heavenly Jerusalem to keep us safe – the church! The Good Samaritan hands over the man to the Innkeeper, simply saying take care of him, until I come back. The innkeeper is the pastor charged with dispensing the means of healing, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel.
The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper that he is coming back. He is speaking of the Second Coming and the day of judgment. When Christ will come again.
Who is the Good Samaritan? There is only one who is truly good. It is the Good Shepherd – Jesus – who heals you. Annoints you with the healing water and oil of baptism. Gives you food for hungry souls and drink for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. He puts you on his divine shoulders and carries you, with all the children of God to the heavenly inn of eternal life. In Jesus name.