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The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is Jesus’ most famous parable. Even though almost no one knows what a “Samaritan” was, everyone seems to know what it means to be a “Good Samaritan.” Most people see the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how we’re to live. It shows us the good we’re supposed to do, and all that is left is for us to go out and do it. Always keeping an eye open for those in need, so that we can help.
Many even see themselves as the Good Samaritan mentioned in this reading, the one who helps the beaten man, binding his wounds, taking him to an inn, and providing for all his needs. But does that really describe sinful mankind? Does it even really describe each one of us? And even if it does in the short term, or in one particular case, can any of us claim that we are consistently like the Good Samaritan?
Truth be told, we are much more like the man who was robbed and left for dead along the road. The one the Samaritan helps. We are the ones who cannot help ourselves, trapped in sin and constantly falling into temptation. In fact, the beaten man in Jesus’ parable may actually be better off than we are! The robbed man recognized his pathetic and hopeless condition, unlike us. We don’t realize just how much trouble we’re really in. How sinful we really are. We identify with the Good Samaritan in this parable because we actually believe we’re capable of doing an OK job most of the time. Perhaps we admit we’re not perfect, but do we ever really think we’re as bad off as we actually are? Are we comfortable with identifying ourselves as sinners in need of being saved?
In this parable, Jesus is the Good Samaritan. He is the one who has compassion on we who are wounded and left for dead. Jesus was outcast and shamefully treated by mankind (as Samaritans were by the Jews), yet He still goes out of His way to save us. Christ is the one who binds up our wounds by taking them upon His own body, as the prophet Isaiah says “By His wounds we are healed.” In the parable, the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine upon the man’s wounds. Oil was used for anointing and washing, just like Holy Baptism. Oil in Scripture represents the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. The wine parallels the blood of Christ given for us to drink. We get these gifts in Christ’s own household, the Christian Church. He pays the cost for our lodging not with money, but with His own holy and precious blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. This is the point we often miss in the parable of the Good Samaritan: that Jesus is the ultimate Good Samaritan. And that we are the ones most in need of His help.
The priests and the Levite in this parable pass by on the opposite side of the road, wanting nothing to do with the man. Human beings are sinners, and we fail. Perhaps your church has failed you in the past. Organized religion has not helped you when you needed it. A pastor caused you great pain. These things happen. That is what sin does. What you need is a Good Samaritan. What you need is a Savior. What you need is Jesus. He is the One who never fails and always shows mercy.
Pastor Jeffrey Dock, Trinity and Good Shepherd Lutheran Churches
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