Sermon on the Parable of “The Good Samaritan” 11/10/19
Have we all read the little book “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives?” I hope we have. In one place in it, the Elder Thaddeus says: “It seems that we do not understand one thing: it is not good when we return the love of those who love us, yet hate those who hate us. We are not on the right path if we do this. We are the sons of light and love, we are the sons of God, His children. As such we must possess His qualities and His attributes of love, peace, and kindness towards all.”
The Lord Jesus Christ says to all of us, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Perhaps the most difficult of His commandments is to love our enemies, to love those who are unloveable, to love those who hate us. It is a commandment that soars high above the prevailing wisdom of the day which said that you only have to love your near and dear ones, your own people, but it’s perfectly okay to hate, disregard, or abuse others, especially your enemies. In Matthew 5: 43-44 Jesus says "You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." He is saying “You have heard it said.” Who said such a thing? Some among the pharisees and the religious leaders were suggesting it. But trust me, Jesus isn’t suggesting that “hate your enemies” comes from the Old Testament, from the Law of Moses. It doesn’t. In fact, in Exodus 23:4-5 it says: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.” In Proverbs 25:21 it says “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” This is the way of the Lord. Whereas, trickery, robbery, violence, abuse, or neglect of our fellow human beings, even if they are our “enemies,” this is the way of Satan, and the inclination of a fallen and worldly person, not a new creature in Christ! Today’s parable is a rebuke to the pharisees, yes, but more importantly, it is a challenge to us.
It is very easy to hate and get angry. In essence, anger does not require self-control, whereas forgiveness and love are more difficult because they require self-control and enormous spiritual strength. Hence, this commandment is really what distinguishes Christianity from any other religion or belief and cannot be accomplished without Divine help. Therefore, it is very difficult for those who depend on themselves, their worldly minds and their earthly strength and quite easy for those who depend on and unite with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. So, let’s get back to the parable, shall we?
At the time of Christ, the Jews did not like the Samaritans. They considered them to be covenant breakers, race-traitors, and in all things, basically, despicable. The Pharisees on several occasions accused the Lord Jesus of being a Samaritan because they hated him too, and his teaching. They also knew that he was headquartered with his disciples in the north country, nearby Samaria, and with a little bit of misdirection, a little bit of “fake news,” they tried to turn the people against Jesus by calling him a “Samaritan.” The pharisees also accused Jesus of being an agent of Satan, demon-possessed. It’s interesting that the Lord denied that He was demon-possessed, but He didn’t bother to deny that He was a Samaritan. For the purposes of the parable, He embraces the role of the Samaritan, the outcast, the despised man, the “enemy.”
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jerusalem, a town on top of a mountain range, represents the City of the God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Jericho, which sits 846 feet below sea level, represents the world in darkness, in the clutches of the devil. The man who was traveling represents all of humanity in one sense, and in the other, any individual among us as well. The traveler can represent any person whose faith is growing weak and who is starting to go astray from the path of the Lord. The thieves represent Satan and his demonic minions. The clothing that the man was wearing represent the robe of light which was given to us by the Lord Jesus at our baptism and with which nothing could harm us if we kept it pure, and undefiled. The wounds represent our succumbing to demonic trials and temptations and falling into sin. The Priest and the Levite represent the Levitical priesthood and the temple service of the Old Testament. In addition, they represent the Law and the prophets who wept for mankind but could not save it. Finally, the Good Samaritan is the Lord Jesus, the awaited Savior, who not only loves, but He saves mankind. It is this Good Samaritan, who bent down so low, all the way from heaven to earth, in order to lift up and carry the wounded man. He applied the oil of mercy and forgiveness to his wounds to sooth his pains, and He added the wine of His own blood in the Holy Eucharist, to purify him from sins, those wounds inflicted by Satan. He carried him to an inn, which is His Church. He spent the whole day and night caring for him until he began to revive. He later handed him over to the owner of the inn and his family, who represents the Bishop and the presbyters of the Church, who continued to care for him until the Good Samaritan comes again to take him to the place which He prepared for him and all those who love Him, who confess Him, and who abide in His commandments. This parable is a story of true love and self-sacrifice. Many times we think that only our family members, our closest friends, or our co-religionists are our neighbors, but the Lord has shown us today that whoever shares our common humanity is our neighbor. Our love should be directed to everyone without prejudice, even to those who hate us. “Go and do likewise” says the Lord. In other words, follow the example of the Good Samaritan, that is, follow and be an imitator of Christ. Amen.