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 that introduces today’s Gospel lesson, He offered thanksgiving to His Father for beginning to generate a new kind of sight or vision in the eyes of His Apostles, whose infant eyes He was opening into the new world of His mission and meaning. Sight here relates to knowledge. But the knowledge or comprehension which the Apostles were beginning to discover was a vision into the nature of love. This vision led them to know and then receive the love of God in Jesus Christ, which alone could redeem and save them. This love is [God’s] only gift enabling His faithful people to render unto [Him] true and laudable service, to obey Him, and finally to attain to [His] heavenly promises. (Collect Trinity XIII)
To show how difficult it really is for natural man to get right with God so that he might obtain God’s heavenly promises, Jesus allows His praise of the childlike faith that is being born in His friends to be challenged. So, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted [Jesus], saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (St. Luke 10. 25) The lawyer seems to resent Jesus’ blessing of the Apostles’ new spiritual vision and hearing, which seems to challenge and contradict his own. What he sees and hears appears alien to the good work of his long established religious practice. So Jesus asks, What is written in the Law? How readest thou? (St. Luke 10. 26) The lawyer answers, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and 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) So Jesus’ meaning is, in effect: It is clear that you know the Law. So if you really can do this, do this and you shall find eternal life. That the lawyer cannot do or fulfill the Law naturally becomes clear immediately when he shows that he does not understand it. Willing to justify himself – or prove himself blameless, [the lawyer] said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (St. Luke 10. 29) Had he been able to keep or do the Law, he would not have needed to ask the question. There is even an air of condescending superiority and pride in his query that seems to suggest that he has had very few neighbors. The lawyer may have known the Law, but he did not know who his neighbor was, and so was not able to love his neighbor as himself. 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 anyone as his neighbor; and consequently he is also empty of the love of God. (C.A. Pent. xii)
This latter point will prove decisive as Jesus drives home its implication in today’s 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 pictures and narrates the story of everyman’s Fall and how God, through Him, will respond to it. All men, because of sin, have freely chosen to journey down from the paradise of God’s Jerusalem and into the sinful world of Jericho. As a result, they have fallen in with the devil and his angels, who have stripped them of the clothing of their original righteousness and wounded them with the sting of death, [which is] sin (1 Cor. xv. 56). Fallen man is wounded and abandoned but is left only half dead in relation to God. Throughout the history of man’s fallen earthly existence there has always been hope for man’s salvation and return to God. But God’s Law and its representatives have never been able to do more than reinforce man’s sense that he is a sinner and lost in sore misery, half dead, alienated from God and his fellow man, and, therefore, in dire need of what neither the Law nor any man can generate. 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) The Priest and the Levite represent religious men who can see and look on the problem, but must pass by because they lack the tools to secure a solution. And this is because knowledge of God’s Law is never enough to stimulate that love that alone can fulfill it. As St. Paul says, for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (Gal. iii. 21)
And so we read: 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) The man who is self-consciously fallen from Divine Grace in earthly life lies helpless in the ditch. Along comes a Samaritan - an outsider to the promises of Israel literally and an alien to human expectations spiritually. Samaritan means one who observes the Law, and this Good Samaritan will turn out to be the only man who can both do and fulfill it. For this Samaritan is one who is so full of compassion and love that he alone can share and impart the love that he receives from God to others. For him God’s Law is His love and that Love is the Law of his life. And thus it is he alone who can and does draw near to, touch, and remedy every man’s spiritual alienation from God. For, as Origen of Alexandria reminds us, this Samaritan never journeys without his medicine bag of spiritual remedies, for he must have enough bandages, oil, and wine to heal not only this self-consciously fallen man, but all self-consciously fallen men who know and experience sin’s desperate hold and sway in their lives. (What Must I do…Or.) And conscious that fallen man’s disease is so serious, this Samaritan sets him upon his own beast, carrying and bearing him on to the next stage of healing, loving him still, for he knows that full and complete spiritual health will involve the labor of a lifetime.
The Good Samaritan is, of course, Christ Jesus Himself, who alone bears and carries the burden and weight of all self-consciously sick and sinful men on to their spiritual healing and redemption. He carries man to an inn and cares for him. The inn symbolizes that half-way house or hospital for sinners, who are merely passing through and over to their appointed end. Specifically it refers to the Church, whose innkeepers are first the Apostles and then their successors. Jesus the Good Samaritan spends a night in the inn, symbolizing the time of His Resurrection, in which He not only cares for fallen man but teaches the innkeepers, His followers, how to continue the care and therapy He has so lovingly 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 leaves the innkeepers with two pence, the price and cost of ongoing care. These symbolize His Body and Blood, given to the church then, and also now, as the way and means of ongoing spiritual convalescence. The price has been paid, the offering has been made, and because of what Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, has done, the salvation process has been well underway ever since. When the Good Samaritan returns, He will repay the spiritual caregivers of the Church what He owes them – Love’s reward for Love received and passed on.
At the conclusion of the Parable, Jesus asks the lawyer and us, Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (Ibid, 36) The lawyer answered, He that showed mercy on him. (Ibid, 37) Jesus said, Go and do thou likewise.
And though we don’t know it, we pray that the lawyer did not do it. Why? Because he could not have done it until he came to see that our neighbor is not, first and foremost, the man in the ditch, but the Good Samaritan or Jesus Christ himself. We pray that the lawyer was beginning to realize that he could not go and do likewise until Christ became his neighbor or Good Samaritan to him. Our neighbor is not then, first, the man upon whom we are called to show mercy. Rather our neighbor is the One who shows mercy upon us. For, truly, we are the man in the ditch in need of spiritual restoration and salvation. And 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, where we can convalesce and recuperate by the Grace of God through the movements and motions of His Holy Spirit, we shall never so adequately and sufficiently receive with thanksgiving that Love which is born to be shared with all others.
Yet if we accept the loving care and remedy that Jesus Christ, God’s Good Samaritan, brings to our fallen condition, we shall be nothing less than sore amazed as His incessant desire and all-powerful might sanctify and save our souls. We shall be stunned, startled, and stupefied with the work of Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit in our lives. And then we shall not only see, hear, and obey God’s law of Love in and for ourselves, but we shall love our neighbors as ourselves because the Love that loves us can do nothing other than desire to share His compassionate healing through us to them. For if we receive the all-healing and all-curing Love of God from the heart of Jesus, as Archbishop Trench says, we shall not ask, ‘Who is my neighbor’? For the love [of God]… is like the sun, which does not inquire upon what it shall shine, or whom it shall warm, but shines and warms by the very law [and light] of its own being, so that nothing [can be] hidden from [its] light and heat. (Par. p. 252) Amen.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons