Pentecost 11 August 16, 2020
1 John 3:10-18
5, 295, 439, 46
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
In the name of Christ Jesus, who saw our great need and came to our aid, grace and peace be with you, dear fellow redeemed,
Corporations know that advertising is an important part of attracting consumers to buy their product. Some companies spend millions of dollars on advertising in hopes of getting your business. Advertising consultants are usually hired to try and help businesses come up with catchy slogans that convey an image of their business with the hope that you will choose to give them your money. For instance, a few years ago Gieco Insurance company wanted you to know how easy it was to sign up for insurance with them. Their advertisement slogan was, “So easy a caveman can do it.” Progressive insurance wants you to know that they will insure you for the mayhem and chaos that affects your life, so they created a character named “Mayhem” who ruins cars and property.
And then there’s State Farm Insurance. Since 1971, they have used the same slogan. It’s a slogan that is so catchy and memorable that I would imagine most of you could sing their jingle: “Like a good neighbor…State Farm is there.” With this advertising slogan, State Farm wants you to know that whatever problem arises, they are there for you like a good neighbor.
Today we have a parable before us—an earthly story in which Jesus wants to teach us a heavenly truth. Of course, Jesus has more in mind than a catchy jingle for advertising the Christian church. Let’s explore this familiar parable and ask what it means to be “like a good neighbor.” Luke, chapter 10, verses 25 through 37:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
So far the Word of God.
As our text begin, an expert in the Law of Moses approaches Jesus to test Him. He begins by asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Now, the question is flawed from the get-go. Who among us “DOES” something to INHERIT anything? That’s not how inheritances work. Inheritances are gifts given, not gifts earned by doing something.
Jesus points the expert in the law back to the Law in order to help him see his deep spiritual need. “What is written in the law?” Summarizing the commandments the lawyer answers, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” When God gave His 10 Commandments, His first three dealt with our relationship with Him while He gave SEVEN more to deal with our relationship with one another. This reminds us that our relationship with God can be most clearly seen in how we treat one another. The Apostle John reminds us, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20) Loving our brother and neighbor who we see, should flow from our love for our unseen God.
Back to our parable. In response to the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus proceeds to tell the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells of a man who was mugged and left half-dead by the men who robbed him. Now, clearly these men were not being a “good neighbor,” but that is not the point of the parable, nor does Jesus end there.
After the robbers left, two other men came on the scene. One was a priest—a leader in the church, one who knew his Bible and God’s law about loving your neighbor as yourself. The next to pass by was a Levite. That is, he was from the tribe of church workers. Both came upon this half-dead man. Both, like the lawyer, would have known well the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Certainly, if that was either one of them lying half-dead in the ditch, they would want someone to help them. But no. They couldn’t be bothered. They had places to go and things to do. And so they went out of their way to avoid the man—going so far as to walk on the other side of the road.
Third, a Samaritan came on the scene. Now, we need to keep in mind what this Jewish lawyer would have thought of when he heard the title, “Samaritan.” Jews referred to Samaritans as “dogs.” They despised the Samaritans almost more than rank heathens. Samaritans were half-Jewish and half-Gentile, who only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. They often mingled their worship of God with the worship of false gods. Jews despised Samaritans so much, that they would actually go around the territory of Samaria in order to avoid contact with them.
Yet, when this despised Samaritan man, this “dog” in the Jewish mind, sees the mugged and bleeding man on the side of the road, what does he do? He has COMPASSION on him and goes OUT OF HIS WAY not to avoid him, but to help him. He bandages his wounds. He places the man on his own donkey. He takes him to an inn and stays with him throughout the night to care for him. And when he had to leave in the morning, he leaves money with the innkeeper asking him to take care of the man as he recovers. The Samaritan himself cares for the half dead man and promises to cover all of his medical bills as he recovers.
Now the question of Jesus, “So which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” Did you notice how Jesus turned the question of the lawyer around? The lawyer asked who his neighbor was, as if there were some sort of reasonable limit to who he had to love as himself. But Jesus asks which of those three WAS a neighbor TO the man who was left for dead. “He who showed mercy on him,” was the lawyer’s correct reply. Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Rather than telling the lawyer who his neighbor was, Jesus asked him to consider whether HE had been a neighbor by showing mercy to others.
With this parable Jesus holds up a mirror to our lives. How many times have we had the opportunity to BE a neighbor to someone else, but went out of the way to avoid it? And we come up with ALL sorts of excuses don’t we? “I’m too busy.” “I’m in a hurry.” “I can’t be bothered.” “They probably deserve this.” What do I see when I look into the mirror of this parable? I see that I am the priest. I am the Levite. I know in the 5th Commandment God wants me to help and be a friend to my neighbor in every bodily need. But so many times I have gone out of my way to AVOID helping those who were in need. I have not been a good neighbor. What about you? How many times have you had the opportunity to BE a neighbor, but went out of your way to avoid it? God have mercy on me, a sinner!
As we examine this parable and see our failure to be a neighbor, do we also see the Good Samaritan? Do you know His name? Sure you do. It’s Jesus! Jesus is the one who did not pass you by in our great need. Jesus looked upon our defeated state, saw we were spiritually bankrupt, and were half-way to eternal death in hell—and He came to us to care for us.
Though we were natural born enemies of God, who were hostile to the things of God, Jesus loved you more than He loved His own body and willingly laid down His life to save you! Maybe we could steal that jingle from State Farm, “Like a good neighbor, Jesus was there!” May God the Holy Spirit work that self-less and self-sacrificing love in our lives as well, that we may be that good neighbor who has mercy on others in their need. Praise be to our Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ, who was a good neighbor to us in our great need. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.