Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you,
that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them.
(St. Luke 10. 23, 24)
Before Jesus proclaims the blessing in Gospel lesson, He offered thanksgiving to His Father for beginning to generate a new kind of seeing and hearing in the eyes and ears of His Apostles, which were opened, like new-born babes, into the new world of His mission and meaning. Yet no sooner had Jesus praised His Father for bringing new vision and meaning to His friends than one man, a lawyer, stood up to test his religious view against what he saw as an exhortation to the impossible. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Jesus will correct the lawyer’s senses with His own. The lawyer may turn out to be both blind and deaf, but Jesus will open the eyes and ears of others to the limitless love that He brings into the world.
Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted [Jesus], saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (St. Luke 10. 25) Archbishop Trench reminds us from the get-go that the lawyer is not tempting Jesus with pride or envy; he merely meant to test and try Jesus’ teaching. He knows that God ‘tempts’ man, putting him to wholesome proof, revealing to him the secrets of his heart, to which he might have remained a stranger. (Trench, Parables) So, Jesus responds, What is written in the Law? How readest thou? (St. Luke 10. 26) The lawyer replies, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself. (Ibid, 27) Jesus answers, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Ibid, 28) Jesus implies, You know the Law. If you can obey it, you shall find eternal life. That the lawyer cannot fulfill the Law becomes clear because he wants to put a limit on his love. (Trench, idem) The lawyer, willing to justify himself (–or prove himself blameless) said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (St. Luke 10. 29) The lawyer, wanting a healthy boundary to his love, means whom shall I love and whom should I refrain from loving? Archbishop Trench writes that the essence of Love has no limit except its own ability to proceed further. (idem) This man wants to know who my neighbour is to guard against nolimit and a virtue that might extend into infinity. His mistake is that he is looking at the recipient of his love and not at himself. His Love for others is limited! St. Cyril suggests that in asking, ‘Who is my neighbor’, he reveals to us that he is empty of love for his neighbor since he does not consider anyoneas his neighbor; and consequently, he is also empty of the Love of God. (C.A. Pent. xii)
Jesus answers him with a parable. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (St. Luke 10. 30) Here, Jesus tells the story of Man’s Fall, and how God, in Jesus, will respond to it. Because of sin, fallen man has freely willed to travel down from the Love of God’s Jerusalem into the sinful love of earthly Jericho. As a result, he has fallen in with the devil and his angels, who have stripped him of his original righteousness and wounded him with the sting of death, or sin. (1 Cor. xv. 56) Fallen man is wounded and abandoned, left half dead in relation to God. Throughout the course of man’s fallen history, great men, educated in the Law –like today’s lawyer, have forever gone up to Jerusalem to receive the discipline and correction of the Law and the Prophets but have also always come down and fallen into the ditch.
The parable continues. By chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (St. Luke 10. 31, 32) Origen reminds us that the Priest and the Levite represent the law and the prophets in all ages, (Origen, “What shall I do for Eternal Life?”)who might very well have had the wisdom to describe man’s indenture to the Law of Sin, even with hope in the prophesied promises but cannot offer Grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews iv. 16) This is because they cannot identify with Sinful Man, in themselves, fallen from God and wounded by sin. They do not see that in the ditch is the condition of another self in desperate need of God’s Grace. They have forgotten the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith, (Trench, idem) and, thus, have placed a limit on their Love, justifying [themselves].
Jesus continues. 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 bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (St. Luke 10. 33, 34) Man who knows that he has fallen from Divine Grace in earthly life lies helpless in the ditch. Along comes a Samaritan- literally an alien and exile to the Law and Prophets of Israel. Yet, Samaritan means one who observes the Law, and this Good Samaritan will turn out to be the only one who can fulfill the Law. For this Samaritan is one who is so full of compassion and mercy that he alone can impart the Love that he receives from God to others. He is the love of God and the love of neighbor in the flesh. He alone can heal Fallen Man and remedy his spiritual alienation from God. As Origen reminds us, Providence was keeping the half-dead man for One who was stronger than the Law and the Prophets. (Idem) Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil, the Priest and Levite exclaim to Jesus. Nevertheless, the Samaritan, which also means guardian, comes down with a medicine bag full of spiritual remedies. He carries with him bandages, oil, and wine, for He expects to find all self-consciously half dead fallen men, who know that this limitless love alone can break the sway of sin over their lives. This Samaritan sets fallen man upon his own beast –his back, and because loving his neighbor becomes the labor of his lifetime, he carries him into spiritual health that knows no limit.
The Good Samaritan is, of course, Jesus Christ, who alone bears and carries the weight of all self-consciously half-dead sinners on to their healing redemption. He carries man to an inn and cares for him. The inn symbolizes that hospital for sinners, the Church, who are passing through this vale of tears to God’s Kingdom. The Church’s innkeepers will be the Apostles and then their successors. Jesus, the Good Samaritan, spends a night in the inn, on His Cross, and then throughout His Resurrection, as He cares for fallen man and then teaches the innkeepers how to continue the work that His love has limitlessly begun. And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (St. Luke 10. 35) The Good Samaritan gives two pence to the innkeepers, the price He pays for the salvation of their souls with His Body and Blood. The Church receives these gifts as the means of ongoing spiritual convalescence in the Holy Sacrament. He has paid the price of their salvation with His Body and Blood, and because of what Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, has done, the salvation journey has limitless Love to draw upon. When the Good Samaritan returns, He will repay to the spiritual caregiver, the Church, what He owes them –the salvation He has gifted to them as the Love that keeps on giving.
At the conclusion of the parable, Jesus asks the lawyer and us, Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighour unto him that fell among the thieves? (ibid, 36) The lawyer answers, He that showed mercy on him. (Ibid, 37) Jesus said, Go and do thou likewise. (Ibid, 38)
Thus, we must ponder the significance of the parable for our own lives. Who is my neighbor, we ask with the lawyer? We learn that our neighbor is not, first and foremost, the man left half-dead in the ditch, but the Good Samaritan, or Jesus Christ Himself. Our neighbor, then, is not, first, the man upon whom we are called to show mercy. Rather, our neighbor is the One whose Love for us knows no limit. For, truly, we are the man in the ditch in need of redemption and salvation. Until we realize that Christ Jesus is the Good Samaritan who comes to bind up our wounds, heal our bodies and souls, take us into the inn of the Church, to convalesce by the Grace of God through the power of His Holy Spirit, we shall never sufficiently receive with thanksgiving that Saving Love which is born to be shared. The Priests and Levites are not alone in passing by the real problem. The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (Gal. iii. 22)Whenever we forget that this inn is a hospital, and that we are here because we are sick and need of the Good Samaritan’s limitless loving cure, we perish. Receiving the limitless Love that Jesus Christ, God’s Good Samaritan, brings to our fallen condition, we shall be sore amazed as His eternal desire and omnipotent might save us through the Holy Spirit. We shall not only see, hear, and obey God’s Love for ourselves, but we shall also love our neighbors as ourselves because God’s Love in our hearts touches all others, like the Sun, which does not inquire on which it shall shine. (Trench, idem) We shall receive from God, of whose only gift it cometh that [His] faithful people do unto [Him] true and laudable service. (Collect Trinity XIII) Such service loves God wholly and our neighbors as ourselves. With Archbishop Trench, let us see that Love is a debt we are forever paying and are contented to owe (idem) to God and all men, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Ghost. Let us see how Christ loves us with no limit as we hear His command to minister to Him in all others. (idem)
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: