We’ve been on a trip. It took us 4½ hours to go down from Penn Hills to here. The way was easy and fast. We didn’t have any car trouble, and nothing kept us from our destination, other than getting bored of driving. Now we’re here, and you can’t wait for all the fun stuff that awaits.
The Jewish man in this Gospel parable did not have such an easy trip. Jerusalem is much closer to Jericho than Pittsburgh is to Buffalo, but the trip is much more mountainous. And he had to walk! And even worse, the path wasn’t safe! It had lots of bad people on it, just waiting to take you out and take your stuff. You wouldn’t go that way, would you, but he had no choice!
So what’s this parable about? When I was your age, I was taught a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. What does that mean? It’s a story about Jesus. It can tell us about Who He is or what He does or it can be about how we react to Him.
What do we learn about Jesus from this story and how we react to Him? Well let’s get the details down. The near-dead guy? Us. The robbers? Sin, death, and Satan, the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh taking away from you any good you might have in you and making you just right for eternal death. The priest and Levite? The two tables of The Law totally unable to make you just right for eternal life.
That leaves The Samaritan. That’s Jesus! He put the guy on his donkey and nursed him back to health and took him to an innkeeper and paid him to take care of the guy until He returns. What’s that all about?
Put yourself in that guy’s shoes. I can. A few weeks ago I was in Kittanning for the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival. While we were there, one of my tires popped because it was bald. Oh, it was night. We couldn’t get it off - those bolts get put on way too tight – and couldn’t go anywhere. My family and I coulda been stuck on that dark side street all night! But finally somebody you might call a “Good Samaritan” came along and got the tire off and the donut on, then we went home, quite thankful for what he’d done for us.
This guy in our Gospel is a lot like that. He’s stuck on the side of the path. He can’t go anywhere because all his bones are broken. He’s covered with bruises and has lots of pain. His clothes are all torn up and useless. He’s the most disgusting, pathetic thing you ever did see. But along comes the man. He pours healing wine and oil into him and carries him off to care for him at an inn.
That’s what Jesus does for you. Sin makes you a dead man. God says you can’t do anything good, and “the wages of sin is death.” That means you have no chance to escape your eternal death sentence. But then Jesus came along to make you alive and He did. What did He do? He marked you with the things He did for you. He died and rose for you. On His Cross He was punished for all your sins. Now He says you aren’t going to be punished for your sins. He says you have eternal life already. He’s waiting to raise you from the dead to live forever with Him.
So what can you do to inherit eternal life? Nothing. That’s the point of Jesus’ parable. Without God’s help you can’t love God or neighbor. You certainly can’t save yourself; after all, you never could be as thorough in nursing a near-dead guy back to life as The Good Samaritan was. Believe that Jesus your God died and rose to forgive your sins and you will be saved. For He wills that by His Death you should inherit eternal life. And you do nothing to inherit something. It’s His gift to you. Thanks be to God.