Bad Samaritans, Good Samaritans & The Good Samaritan
September 8, 2017
Verse: 2 Chronicles 28:14–15
(This Sunday our new crucifix will appear for the first time in the sanctuary. Though it will be formally dedicated next Sunday during Divine Service, we will include a special petition today in the prayers of the church thanking God for the mercy he displayed in Christ crucified for us. And praying that this chief image of our faith will comfort us in our tribulations, and give us eternal life.)
Christ Lutheran Church
September 10, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Bad Samaritans, Good Samaritans
& The Good Samaritan
So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the assembly. And the men who have been mentioned by name rose and took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria. 2 Chronicles 28:14-15
Basic to the Bible’s story line is the fact that the Jews and the Samaritans were ancient enemies, who hated one another with perfect hatred. It wasn’t always like this, though.
At one time they were brothers! They worshiped the same God, had the same customs, ate the same food, and shared the same national vision. But, as sometimes happens in families, a rift occurred.
In the year 930 BC the once united nation suffered an ugly divorce. The North, whose chief city was Samaria, rebelled against the South, whose chief city was Jerusalem, and the estrangement never healed. Not only never healed but the antagonism amplified from generation to generation! Which is what makes today’s readings such a brilliant lesson for the church, and for all the world to learn.
Today’s gospel, the parable of the Good Samaritan, is well known within the church and without. Nearly every state has Good Samaritan laws on its books. Laws that “hold harmless” anyone who tries to help a person in distress, but the in the process makes their situation worse.
But today’s Old Testament lesson is a horse of a different color. Most people never heard it, but no surprise there since biblical literacy, like all literacy, is in free fall; as the western world plunges headlong into a new Dark Age … only it doesn’t know it because it can’t get its head out of its iPhone long enough to notice. Wake up O Christians! Wake O Man! “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
The first people we come upon in today’s Old Testament lesson are not Good Samaritans, but Bad Samaritans. In a few paragraphs Scripture informs us that they attacked Judah, their hated southern neighbor, and decimated their army. After killing all the men, they gathered up the spoils of war, the women, and the children, and brought them back to Samaria where they would spend the rest of their lives in abject slavery. That was the plan at any rate; until a Prophet named Oded stepped up to oppose the madness!
With nothing more than a word from God he stood before the returning victorious army and condemned them for their war. His message was this: “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven! And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God? Now hear me! Send back the captives! from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.”
And though conquering armies are little inclined to give up their winnings there were four men among them. Four Good Samaritans named Azariah, Berechiah, Jehizkiah and Amasa, who heard God’s message, and they along with Oded, turned the tide.
These Good Samaritans gathered the captives together, and Scripture gives us a beautiful description of how they tenderly cared for these dazed and forlorn people. The Bible says that they, “took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.”
Little did they know it, dear Christians, but these men were types of the coming Christ, of Jesus who is The Good Samaritan.
Most people misunderstand this parable of Jesus. They use it to teach Christian behavior, and they’re not wrong. But you should never put the cart before the horse. The parable is first about Jesus. He is the Good Samaritan. He is the one who traveled not from Jerusalem to Jericho, but from heaven to earth to be our Savior.
Like the man in the parable we too have been fallen upon by robbers, the worst Robber there is, the evil despot himself. He who glories in your shame. In tempting our first parents he robbed humanity of its righteousness, innocence and blessedness. He turned people, created by God in his own image, into little more than animals. But we are not animals, not in any way, shape or form. Don’t listen to what they teach you in school, youngsters! And don’t believe the brainwashing you subjected to long ago in school, oldsters!
Though humanity is in wretched condition because of its sin. Though we often behave like dogs who lick up their own vomit (2 Peter 2:22), we are images of the Living God. Fallen images to be sure, but that is why the Good Samaritan came.
Like the Good Samaritan in the parable Jesus saw us, came to us, took pity on us in our lost condition (which is why we should never indulge in self-pity). He bound up our wounds with the wine of his blood shed on the cross, anointed us with the oil of the Holy Spirit in order to restore our humanity, and carried us on his own cross-indented shoulders into the inn of the church.
And it is here, in this church, where our recovery continues until the Lord should make his return journey. Not to pay any balance due for our care, for all sin has been settled on the cross. And O how telling to see it “publicly portrayed” (Galatians 3:1) before our eyes; as our gaze falls easily upon this most sacred icon of our faith. This blessed crucifix that will magnify our faith, enlarge our love, and increase our peace in Christ. For without saying a single word, it will announce the gospel to all who gaze upon it in faith and love week after blessed week, until our eyes close in death, and open before the glorious face of our God. (John 3:14-15)
And it will do more! It will transform us into Good Samaritans like the men in today’s Old Testament lesson; it will make us imitators of Christ in the world; and there is nothing better than that. Amen.