Bruised, bloodied, beaten and helpless, the man who had fallen among thieves lay on the roadside. He was half dead – and if help did not come soon, he surely would have died. Two proud members of the Jewish religious establishment – a priest and a Levite – see him and walk by on the other side of the road so they don’t have do get involved. Displaying not one bit of common decency or mercy, they ignore the plight of the helpless, dying man.
But then comes this Samaritan. Samaritans were foreigners of mixed race and religion, and they were universally despised by the Jews. But when he sees this poor, wounded man, St. Luke says that the Samaritan had “compassion.” The Greek word that is used here means that he was literally moved in the gut – the same way that Jesus was moved when he saw suffering people.
The Good Samaritan wastes no time in helping the injured man, immediately binding up his wounds and cleansing them by pouring on oil and wine. He places him own his own animal and takes him to an inn, where he places the man in the care of the innkeeper. He gives the innkeeper money for expenses and promises to repay any extra amount when he returns.
This clearly is what you call “going above and beyond the call of duty.” And if all of this were just a lesson in morality – a lesson to remind Christians what they should do for others – then that would not leave us much in the way of comfort, would it?
The world wants to simplify the Parable of the Good Samaritan by turning it into a warm and fuzzy object lesson, but that was not Jesus’ purpose when He spoke those words. That’s because this parable is actually a beautiful portrait of your salvation. Jesus shows you just how desperate your condition was on account of sin, and He shows the gift of healing that He had come to bring. The man in the parable provides a picture of all of the fallen sons of Adam. Wounded by sin, beaten by the devil’s attacks, robbed of our righteousness and our good standing with God, we, too, were “dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Like the man in the parable, we were helpless and destitute. Left to ourselves, we most certainly would have perished eternally. Eternal death and damnation are a fitting reward for our sins. Who or what could help us? The Law? Could Moses raise us up from spiritual death to life? The parable would seem to suggest that this is not so. The priest and the Levite represent Moses and the Law of Sinai, which do not heal – but only condemn. The Law is good; its commandments are pure. But it cannot help or heal the wounded and beaten sinner.
So along comes this foreigner called Jesus. He is not from these parts, you might say. People say that He came from Galilee, but He has actually come from heaven. And He is despised by the world. As the prophet Isaiah foretold: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). But He came anyway. The Son of God saw your wretched state and had compassion. He came and did what the Law and Moses could not do. He has bound up the wounds of sinners. He has carried your sins and griefs and sorrows to the cross. And by His stripes, by His wounds, by His death at the hands of men, you are healed.
The healing medicine of Jesus’ forgiveness was first applied to you in your Baptism. As you were buried and raised with Jesus, your Savior began His good work of healing and restoration in you. For like the man fallen among the thieves, “you” –– “were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
But the cancer of your sin continues to rear its ugly head. You need ongoing treatments. And that is why your loving Savior has brought you into the inn of His Church and placed you into the care of His shepherds. In this way, He continues to do for you what He began in your Baptism. He continues to apply the healing medicine of His forgiveness, life and salvation to your souls. He does this in a unique and special way in the Lord’s Supper.
In that salutary gift, the same Jesus who healed every disease among men – the same Jesus who bound up the brokenhearted – the same Jesus by whose stripes we are healed – comes and does for us what He did for so many wounded souls in the Gospel. We come to the Lord’s Table wounded by our sins, helpless and in need of mercy and healing.
Jesus sees our miserable condition and has compassion on us. He comes to us weak and weary sinners and gives to us the healing medicine of His crucified and risen body and blood. Like the Samaritan in the parable, Jesus binds up our wounds and pours on us the oil and wine of His good Spirit, to comfort wounded consciences.
The hymn that we sang tonight makes this clear, connecting Jesus’ healing power to the gift of His body and blood: “Jesus comes today with healing, Knocking at my door, appealing, Off’ring pardon, grace, and peace” (LSB 620:1). For this reason, the hymn appropriately calls the Lord’s Supper a “balm to heal the troubled soul.”
What’s more is that this healing medicine of Jesus’ body and blood is truly a medicine of immortality. Whoever receives this medicine, trusting in its power and benefits, has eternal life. Whatever sickness or ailments you now endure, know that they will no longer annoy or trouble you in the life to come. For you know that the healing that Jesus has begun here will be brought to completion at the day of the resurrection.
Our Lutheran forefathers well understood the healing power of the Sacrament as well as our lifelong need for this sacred gift. So did the Ancient Fathers of the Church. Over 1,600 years ago, St. Ambrose wrote: “Because I always sin, I always need to take the medicine.” These venerable fathers in the faith understood that because the sinful flesh is with us from cradle to grave, there is never a time that we do not need this healing gift.
So what about you? Do you have need of consolation? Do you have a wounded conscience? Have you lived as if God did not matter and as if you matter most of all? Are you plagued by sin and the temptations of the devil? Then this medicine of our Lord’s body and blood is for you. It is for your healing and your sanctification.
We give thanks to God during this Lenten season that through this salutary gift, Jesus’ healing hand reaches out to us and heals us. “Take and eat!” “Drink of it all of you!” These are the words of the Great Physician, your Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Note: This sermon has been adapted from The Salutary Gift, a sermon series published by Concordia Publishing House.