Artwork: Maximilien Luce, Le bon samaritain
I speak to you in the Name of Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Eph. 5:2). Amen.
We just heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. Of all the parables Jesus told, this one is a favourite for many. Something about it touches us in a very deep way. We’re moved by the compassion and mercy of this Good Samaritan towards the wounded stranger. Why is that, do you think? Why does this parable so warm our hearts?
If it were only a moral lesson to go and do likewise, we’d be left with a very high standard to meet; we would be discouraged rather than heartened. But we are commanded to go and do likewise - that’s what Jesus says. Clearly this whole story is about how the second great commandment of God is to be lived out: love your neighbour as yourself.
But it’s only possible to love others in this way if we have first received this same kind of love. That’s how the love of God works. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). This parable takes us into the very heart of God. So let us journey there together:
You and I are like the man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and […] fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
The man by the roadside stands for all of us in our fallen humanity: our broken, sinful, wounded state. Friends, ask yourself today: What wounds do you bear? What sins are troubling your conscience? In what ways are you broken?
We’re told that the man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem is the city of God, His dwelling place, the home of His Word and Commandments. We go down from there to Jericho – the old home of sin and idolatry in the Old Testament.
The robbers who strip and beat the man are the works of the flesh that we heard about in today’s first reading from Galatians: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. These works of the flesh are like robbers in that they steal our true humanity, strip us of our dignity, and beat up our souls, bodies and relationships. They leave us half-dead.
We’ve all experienced this in one way or another; and each of us is probably particularly afflicted by at least one or two of these works of the flesh.
That the priest and Levite pass us by on the other side shows that religion and the Law of God are unhelpful to us when we’re lying stranded on the road of life. In our first reading from Galatians, Paul says that we cannot overcome the works of the flesh by relying on our own obedience to the Law and trying harder to be good. When you’ve been beaten, stripped and left half-dead, you can’t very well expend that energy.
We need a Good Samaritan to come to where we are, see us, and have compassion. Elsewhere in the Gospels, that word, compassion, is used only to describe God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
In our fallen condition, God looked upon us with compassion; and He did not keep His distance, but drew near; He was pleased to stoop down to us by becoming incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus took upon Himself our frail flesh and lived amongst us as one who served; He drew so close to us in our suffering that He took our place on the road. In His Passion, Jesus Himself was stripped and beaten; and rather than being left half-dead, He died on the cross. The works of the flesh did their very worst to Him; Jesus, as God-in-the-flesh, destroyed them through His death. By His wounds we are healed with the ointment of His very blood.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. […] God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Through the compassion, the tender mercy of our God, we are saved by the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ. Friends, the more we come to receive and appreciate the love of Christ and Him crucified, the more we are transformed and empowered to love others.
In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10-11).
You see, it’s not just that we are called to imitate the love of Christ - it’s that His love first transforms our hearts from the inside out. As Paul says in our first reading from Galatians, those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. When we see Christ dying for our sins in our place, all of those works of the flesh lose their grip on us, and so our hearts and freed and purified to love God and others more purely.
This Law is written on our hearts so that we can walk by the Spirit, as Paul says. In our journey through life, we are led by the [Holy] Spirit, who is the love of God. And with that, the fruit of the Spirit will be borne in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
And with these alive, active and growing in our lives, we can be equipped and inspired by God to go and do likewise as Our Lord commands, and as He Himself exemplified.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20–21)