During this lenten season, Pastor Ben of Trinity Lutheran Church asked if I would give a sermon at one of our Wednesday night Lent services. During the whole season the theme of these Sermons were to be taken from a different parable of the Bible.
Lent Sermon 13-Mar
Character & Courage of The Good Samaritan
1. " O Lord, Let my words give glory and praise to you through Christ Jesus…. Amen"
2."You know I almost feel sorry for Pontius Pilate". But we'll come back to that. During this Lenten series each of the Pastors and Deacons have been charged with basing their message upon the foundation of a parable found in the Bible. Pastor Carol did hers based on The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin & The Parable of the Lost Son"…. Deacon Glenn did his on The Parable Of The Great Banquet…. Pastor Bergren did his on…. Well we will find out next Wednesday at Bethel. And I have chosen to do mine on a very tried and true parable - perhaps one of the 1st each of us learned many moons ago when we were children - The Good Samaritan….
3.It is found in Luke 10:25 starting in Verse 25 - Let me read it….
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.”
4.I know that by design, parables are Stories… Told to reveal a moral or a meaning. Told to make a point. The Bible is rife with them - containing by various counts over 45 of them. Some easy to understand, but also some difficult to understand. If you want to chew on a harder one, read the Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke. Pastor Ben's going to have to school me on that one. Ahh, but the Good Samaritan is simple and easy to understand. Jesus told it as an illustration that we should love one another. But beneath the surface, Christ revealed other meanings too and they are those that I want to explore tonight. (3:06 through here)
5.For this parable also illustrates how we are to love and care for our neighbor. That when our neighbor is in need, we should WANT to help them out of Christian love - as Christ does for us even in our fallen sinful state. Before Christmas last year, you may recall a wonderful modern day example of the Good Samaritan. Remember the story of the homeless man barefoot on the winter streets of New York. And the New York cop who took pity on the man and went and bought boots with his own money to give to this stranger. It was a newsworthy story not just because of the love shown to this man - but because it does not happen as frequently as it should.
6.And that's because Loving your neighbor - all of them - is something far easier to talk about than to actually go and do. Question: This week, how many of us have actually tried to repair a relationship that at its heart is no longer underpinned with Christian love for each other? How many of us have shown Christian love to a person we might not even know? Easier to talk about than to do……
7.As we come up to Holy Week we are reminded of Christ's words to his disciples at the Last Supper where he says in John 13 34… “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Was he telling the 12 that they should love just themselves? No. Christ was saying that a disciple of Christ loves all mankind.
8.But as I said earlier, there are meanings in this parable that go beyond the words "Love Your Neighbor". This parable of the Good Samaritan also speaks about how you should conduct your life. And just how is that? Well when the beaten man was encountered by the Priest and the Levite, Christ says they "passed by on the other side". Implicitly that means both the Priest and the Levite chose to refuse to help this man, because not only did they not want to help - BUT NO ONE ELSE WOULD HAVE SEEN THEM REFUSE TO HELP. So without the fear of being exposed as callous, un-caring people, who either couldn't be bothered to help or viewed themselves as too important to help - they quickly scurried by on the other side. (4:53 through here)
9. Contrast their behavior to the Samaritan in this parable. Seeing the beaten man lying in the ditch, what did he do? He treated his wounds, personally providing immediate medical care. Then he personally transported him to a place of recovery, paying for his continued care. He made arrangements with the Innkeeper to continue to provide care for him and upon his return promised to reimburse him for any additional costs as the beaten man recovered. He didn’t call the Jericho Daily Herald with a Human Interest Scoop for their front page. He didn't hold a Press Conference to "Spread The News" about the Love that he had just showed this beaten man.
10. No the Samaritan acted not just with Love, but also with Christian Character. And you know what Christian Character is? Christian Character is doing God's will when no one else is looking. That’s right let me say that again. "Christian Character is doing God's will, which is always the Right Thing - when no one else is looking. The Good Samaritan chose to do God's will when no one else was watching. That is to mean his motivation was pure & righteous - Love for his fellow man. That simple. There was no ulterior motive or desired reward that this act might bring him a later profit or accolade. It was steeped in humility, governed in love, with Obedience towards the will of God. Nothing was desired or expected in return other than the knowledge that he was living God's will on earth, as his disciple.
11. And that behavior of Christian Character is something I would like you to reflect on. Not just that you should Love One Other - which you should. But that the way that you Love should be pure and humble and obedient to God. That your efforts give Glory to God - not yourself.
12. At the beginning of this message I purposely said something controversial. If you remember I said "You know I almost feel sorry for Pontius Pilate". Why is that? Like us he was a sinner and made many mistakes. But unlike us, his most egregious mistake is verbally recounted in the Apostles & Nicene Creeds by millions of Christians every day for the last 2000 some years. Sure wouldn’t want one of my millions of sins recited publicly by the majority of the planet for the rest of earthly time. How's that for a legacy?
13. But Pilate's actions in condemning Christ to his death provide a parallel window to this notion of Christian Character that I am speaking of tonight. I want to preface my words by saying this is my observation - not my judgment - as only God judges. But I don't see many behaviors of Character, Christian or otherwise, exhibited by Pontius Pilate. But where he really fell short was not just in his lack of Character, but in his lack of Courage, which also afflicts us all.
14. So then what is Courage or as I would like to refer to it - Christian Courage? Well if Christian Character is defined as doing God's will when no one else is looking, then Christian Courage can be defined as doing God's will when everyone is looking. That's right - When everyone is looking.
15. Doing God's Will when everyone is looking may not seem hard but it is. It is even harder than exhibiting Christian Character. Behaviors driven by Christian Character are seen only by God and not by others. Behaviors driven by Christian Courage are also seen by God, but also seen and experienced by everyone else. Look, Pilate knew that Christ was innocent of the false charges that were made. Yet he couldn’t muster the Courage to face down the Pharisees and the crowds demanding Christ's death. He took the easy way out by "Washing his hands" of the matter sending Christ to the cross. Just that same week Disciple Peter, the Saint that Christ had said was "The Rock that my church is to be built upon", stumbled when it came time for him to show his Christian Courage. And that time of course, is when he denied Christ 3 times in fear for his own life at the hands of the Romans. So you see showing Christian Courage is not easy either.
16. It is unfathomable to consider the Courage of Jesus Christ during his journey to the cross. Laying down his life through a tortuous death to save the sins of others - when he is perfect.
17. So where do you stand when it comes to displaying Christian Courage? For me, it would be hard to believe I could be weaker. I continually retreat from situations where I could show Courage in the name of Christ. I, who will benefit in eternity from Christ's ultimate sacrifice, find it difficult to talk his walk to strangers. I sometimes find it inconvenient to speak up to right wrong. I all too frequently find it easy to "Go with the Flow" rather than take a public stand for God's Will.
18. And if we are to change, how do we do it? We can start by pondering four words that will always guide us. And those words are: "What is God's will?" In our hearts we know what it is, we just find it difficult to do it. I pray that we all examine what is God's will in our own life and dedicate our efforts to pursuing it in all that we do. We will be serving him by serving others.
19. And so, as we traverse this period of Lent coming up to Holy Week, let us reflect on how we can serve God, not just by loving each other, but by renewing our commitment to living our life according to God's will. Equipping ourselves with not just the cloak of Christian Character but also the armor of Christian Courage. Let us pray for the Character to do God's Will when it is invisible or inconvenient. Let us pray for the Courage to do God's Will when it is unpopular or awkward. In that way we will be living out the full meaning of this simple parable. The parable of the Good Samaritan. Amen.