This past week, I started attending a Christian education course taught by Pastor Petersen at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne.
One of the topics discussed was the parable of the Good Samaritan. Pastor Petersen pointed out that Christians often misinterpret this parable. We often think we are to be the Good Samaritan. But if this is the true meaning, then Jesus's response to the young lawyer who asks "what must I do to be saved?" is simply "you can only go to Hell."
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?"
Now this question is important because look at that Law! We can't love God will all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. We are sinners. So the only way to limit that weight is to focus on who is our neighbor (not that I see much relief in that. I know I am guilty of that just as much with those who are closest to me!).
So Jesus continues and tells the story.....
" 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 on him, and 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." Luke 10:25-37
So, who are we? Most often when this story is told, we are told we are to be the Good Samaritan. We are to love even when we are hated, we are to help those in need. But this can't be the answer to "What must I do to be saved." Because we cannot earn our salvation. And the lawyer does not get this.
We are not the Good Samaritan. We are the wounded man - kicked, beaten and robbed near our dying breath by Satan, the world, and even our sinful self. We cannot revive ourselves or continue to go on. The Law, in the persons of the Priest and the Levite, cannot heal us. They just show us what we should be, and when we are kicked and beaten, how can we even delude ourselves into attaining that? They go to the other side, not because they turn their noses up at us and go on, like often is interpreted to us (notice, the story doesn't say that they say "ew" and step over us). They are powerless to help. The Law does not save but shows us our how bad and hopeless we really are. So they walk to the side. They are useless and cannot be made unclean by contact with a wounded, bleeding, dying man.
But Jesus is the Good Samaritan. He comes and bandages our wounds, gives us a safe place, and revives us. He is God, so He cannot be unclean, but He takes our uncleanness upon Him. He gives the innkeeper two denariii (two days pay) to watch after us and says He will repay him when He comes back....when? He took care of two days...so He's returning on the 3rd Day...when He rises again.
So Jesus is NOT telling the man to focus on loving others, everybody, in order to be saved. He was telling the man that he was wounded and dying, and Jesus Himself, despised more than even the Samaritan, loved every neighbor, even those who hated Him, and healed His wounds and cared for His every need. He died for the sins of the world, even when we were crippled, unclean, and dying in sin.
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,"
So we are the poor beaten man, and our neighbor, the Good Samaritan is Christ......and He has already loved us as we were supposed to love Him but could not. "Now go and do likewise" has a different meaning looking at it this way.
We are to love Christ. We couldn't before. As Luther teaches - before, when we were under the Law, we could only live in terror to God, but only since we are redeemed by Him can we fear and love God."
The man who was beaten probably never could love a Samaritan before that time. He probably never thought to. He could never get close because of the history between the Samaritan people and his. But the Samaritan reached out and saved HIM.
Because Christ reached out and saved us, now we finally can go and do likewise. We can love Christ.