June 25, 2017


         All of our Scripture readings for this morning (1 John 3:11-17, James 2:14-26, Matthew 25:31-40) emphasize the fact that our faith should be reflected in our actions.  We are not saved from eternal wrath through works – we cannot earn eternal salvation - but faith without works is a dead faith.  Jesus did not say to the sheep on His right, “I was hungry and you wished me well”, or “I was sick and you posted on facebook that you would pray for me”.  In fact, how many times do we mindlessly even say we will pray for someone, and then go on our way and never actually pour out our heart to God for the person who desperately needs our prayers?

     One of my favorite parables in the Bible is that of the Good Samaritan.  Let me read you what is written in Luke 10:25-37…  “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

     ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

     He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

    “You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

     But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’

     In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

     ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

     The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

     Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

     So here we have an expert in the law, seeking to justify himself before the Son of God.  He tried to pick apart Jesus’ words by asking him who his neighbor was.  Did he mean the person who lived next door to him?  Maybe he had helped such a person on occasion, as after all, it would give him a good reputation in the community. Or maybe another Jew who worshipped at the same temple?  Of course he had prayed publicly for a fellow church member, this was expected of a church leader.  But Jesus knew his heart.  And His parable reflected the heart of this teacher of God’s law.  For in the parable the priest represented the religious-acting people, who Jesus said in Matthew 23 on the outside appear to people as righteous but on the inside are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  They talk the talk but rarely do they walk the walk. 

     Then there was a Levite, an expert in the Law, who sadly ignored what Jesus had just said that the fulfillment of the Law was; to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  Even though this poor man who was beaten and robbed was quite literally his neighbor being Jewish, the Levite didn’t have compassion, nor did he want to stop and help.  Maybe he thought the robbers might still be in the area and he didn’t want to risk it.  Or perhaps it was the Sabbath, and the Levite felt that he would be breaking the Sabbath law.  But then he must have also known the words of Jeremiah (22:3), “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.” 

     The one that Jews would least expect to help a Jew was a Samaritan.  The Samaritan saw that the man who had just been beaten and robbed was a Jew, and Jews were the natural enemy of the Samaritans.  The Samaritan went right up to him, cleaned and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them for medicinal purposes. This was at his own expense, and oil and wine were not cheap in those days.  Then, the Samaritan puts this man onto his own animal, takes him to an inn, pays for his room and board, and tells the innkeeper “take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”  So the Samaritan spends his own money and he promises to come back, showing that he has true compassion on this Jewish man, even though the Jews hated the Samaritans and vise versa.

     Our neighbor doesn’t mean our next door neighbors.  It doesn’t mean only our close friends and family, or our church members, or even members of the church down the street.  It also means the stranger among us, even the one who we might consider our enemy, or we might fear.  It means anyone we see who is in need.  And that doesn’t just mean in physical need.  It also means emotional need and spiritual need.  Jesus wants us to help anyone who is hungry, whether it be food for the body, or food for the heart and soul.  A heart hungry for a kind word, a heart that has been abused, a heart filled with darkness and despair.  A soul that does not know the love of God and that Jesus died for their sins so they could live eternally in heaven with Him.  If we pass by someone with any of these needs we are no better than the priest or the Levite.  There is no one who should be beyond the boundaries of our love.  No one we should not be willing to reach out to.  Every one of us can spare a moment of our time, or a dollar out of our wallet, to help someone who has fallen victim – be it to robbers, illness, accident, misfortune, or even spiritual attack.  And if we truly are not able to physically help someone ourselves, we should be willing to support those who can help people in need, even if only in prayer.  As Max Lucado said, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”  So share the love of Christ with someone in need today.  Amen.