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God’s Word for You

Luke 10:35-37 The Good Samaritan (part 2)

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, June 22, 2018

35 The next day before he left he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Look after him. When I return, I will repay you for whatever extra you spend.’ 36 Which of these three do you think acted like a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he replied.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Many of Jesus’ parables contain details that aren’t really important to the way we apply the message; they simply carry along the scene or the story. The innkeeper is one of those details—as is the location of the inn, which might have been obvious to the audience (“Oh, he must mean the Motel Shesh in Jericho, or the new Yomim Inn on the edge of town”) but is long gone today. Along the same line is the detail about two denarii, which is two days’ wages. Would a Bed and Breakfast owner give you a little extra care for a wounded man if you gave her $200? The point isn’t the money. The point is the Samaritan’s mercy; his compassion.

The Samaritan story completely answers the lawyer’s question. He thought he was being generous with his brotherly love, but it only went out so far, only to so many people. Jesus’ parable showed him just how pitiful that kind of love is. That’s no better than a pagan; any unbeliever can love the people around him and seem like the world’s nicest man to everyone who lives nearby. Neighbors who share your geography aren’t the limit of what God means by neighbors.

The word “neighbors” has no limits, no borders, no color, no language, and no social status. Let’s go back to the oil and wine the Samaritan used. Those things were typical for first-century first-aid. We don’t need to use them today. Yet they also remind us that some of the love we show will sooth, like oil, and some of the love we give may burn, like wine poured on a wound. So it is with the Law and the Gospel.

Think of someone who is guilty of the most offensive sin you know. The guy who broke into your car, or a serial killer, someone guilty of matricide, someone living with his girlfriend without getting married, someone who sells drugs to Middle School kids, someone who’s always in your face about LGBTQ rights, or whatever it is. Maybe it’s someone who demands that you tolerate whatever their pet sin is; someone who gets furious if you call it a sin. What does loving that person mean? It does not mean tolerating their sin. They show that themselves by being intolerant of your attitude toward their sin: they’ve drawn a line between right and wrong, accusing you of being wrong. That means that they accept that some things are wrong and that it’s appropriate to declare that. You may never, ever, get that person to admit that they were wrong, or even to acknowledge that their hatred or perversion is sinful. God doesn’t command us to win arguments. He commands us to be faithful. He doesn’t command us to stop anyone from sinning. He commands us to stop ourselves from sinning.

When the lawyer admitted that the one who showed mercy, the Samaritan, was the one who was acted like a neighbor, Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” Don’t counter sin with more sin. Be a neighbor. Show mercy. Proclaim the gospel.

When I feel wretched because of all the times I’ve failed at this, the rest of the Bible comes and washes over me with God’s forgiveness. Don’t despair, wretched, crushed heart. Let’s listen to what Luther said:

“When the Samaritan comes, he helps, that is, when Christ comes and offers us his mercy, and says: Behold, you are indebted to love God with all your heart, but you have not done it; now believe in me, I will give you my sufferings: this will help me. Here he lifts me on his beast, that is, on himself, and takes me to the inn, that is, into the Christian Church. After this he comes and pours into me his grace, which is the oil, so that I feel I am lying on his shoulders, this gives me a very joyful conscience; moreover he pours into me wine, which is to devour and drown the old Adam. But even then I am not perfectly well. Health has indeed been poured into me and there is a turn for the better, but nevertheless I am not perfectly restored to health. Meantime Christ serves and purifies me by the grace he pours into me, so that day by day I become purer, chaster, milder, gentler and more believing until I die, when I shall be entirely perfect.” (Sermon on the 13th Sunday after Trinity).

Rejoice that Christ treated you like a neighbor.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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