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Sermons

The last word in Jericho

7/11/2010

Luke 10:25-37

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Last Word in Jericho

Sermon given July 11, 2010 by The Rev. Jon Roberts

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Venice, Florida

The road to Jericho by Alexander Bida,1874

The last word in Jericho that one wishes to hear is the unspoken rule of mercy whispered softly in one's ear.

There was a great risk in travelling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Forging ahead with mule and small supplies you begin the descent from on high. The day is done. Gone the sun. From the lakes from the hills and from the skies.

All is not well or gentle in this night. There were no convenience stores. There were no street lamps making any light upon your path. A rustle in the bush reminds you of the great risk you have taken. With no one to call upon, without much light you are strong-armed, stripped, robbed and beaten. The story of the Good Samaritan must touch the wounds of total depravity felt by this man in the story today.[1]

It is risky to take this venture; to put ourselves in his place, but I tell you, it is even more a risk to put yourself in the place of the priest or the Levite. Yes, there are many risks taken in this world. Some are careless to take, and others are careful to take. Eventually, the Samaritan calls us softly back with the last word. If you only had one last wish in life what would you risk to ask?

One day, an insurance sales rep, an administration clerk and their manager are walking down a road going to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp on the side. They rub it and a genie comes out in a puff of smoke.  The Genie says, "I usually only grant three wishes, so I´ll give each of you just one." "Me first! Me first!" says the admin clerk. "I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world." Poof! She´s gone. In astonishment, "Me next! Me next!" says the sales rep.  "I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life." Poof! He´s gone. "OK, you´re up," the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, "I want those two, back in the office after lunch." The moral of the story is, "always let your boss have the first say."

When we have the first say we usually assess the risk and calculate the payoff. The first word in these cases usually speaks of "justice."  But when we listen to God first we discover He has already assessed the risk made the payoff and commonly leads off with a different word. He usually speaks of "mercy.”  God does speak of justice, but only after He has whispered in our ear, ever so softly of His divine mercy. You have heard that He speaks this word, but not so literally; Rather, He speaks out of compassion and kindness. He sends figures down the road to lend us help. By the use of others, those unlikely, He bears much fruit. In this way, He binds up the battered and broken-hearted.

Let's return to that dark road to Jericho. It's not just a parable used by Jesus, for He has actually observed the crime before. He knows of those who have in year's past been robbed; Physically, mentally and spiritually. It is a feeling of complete helplessness. For those who have experienced it before, they are exhausted. Expectations were never met according to one's own design. Expecting help to come from likely places and receiving none is quite terrible.

What would happen today if you were robbed, and the police did not come to hear your report? If the hospital would not admit you? If your family did not pick up your call for help? Indeed, our emphatic, "Stop" quickly turns to "Help". "Will someone punish that guy?" now turns to, "will someone please give me a hand?"

The Levite was out of the office. He could not enforce the rules. As a teacher of law, the Levite represents the one who provides justice. The priest was out of the church. He could not administer compassion. As a teacher of forgiveness, the priest represents the one who provides mercy. What would happen if, "Poof", they're both gone from the story? You remove the expectation. The Samaritan alone was not expected to do either. The Levite and priest were, yet there is so much we do not know. We do not know what kind of man it was who was beaten. Other than what their title suggests, we do not know the circumstances preventing the priest and Levite to help him in the way they know how. We do know this ancient society looked down on the Samaritan. They were the least and some say they were the lost. Some people may think, the Samaritan had nothing to risk therefore nothing to lose.

If the story of the Good Samaritan were extended wouldn't it be wonderful if someone managed to say to God, "Those who left this man to die, I want them back in the office after lunch"? That would be justice. But we are to be like the Samaritan, not calculating our risk but whispering tenderly with our actions of mercy, and of love, for those we claim to be our neighbor. There are still people laying by the wayside today, and the gospel is not a means of escape from the real world. Many are too weak and ashamed to call out for help. Therefore, do not disappear. Do not walk away. Jesus tells us to go and help others, to "Stay in the office". Others need to hear about the life found in Jesus Christ for by His grace alone we are healed.

When you hear people call out, "have mercy on me?", will you stop and help them? Or, are you one of them? Have you been beaten and robbed and need help up? In either case, let the rule of mercy bear fruit in your own life by accepting the Son of God as your savior. By Him, and with Him and in Him, we are called to share His holy name; and ultimately, God and Jesus, both justice and mercy are one. Therefore, not only is He the first word but He will also be the last to be heard in Jericho.

 

[1] Luke 10:25-37