Sermon from 10th Jul 2022 (Pentecost 5)

Luke 10:25-37 (EHV)

25 An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “What do you read there?”

27 He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; Deut 6:5 and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Lev 19:18

28 He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 It just so happened that a priest was going down that way. But when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite also happened to go there, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 33 A Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was. When he saw him, he felt sorry for the man. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He put him on his own animal, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day, when he left, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. Whatever extra you spend, I will repay you when I return.’ 36 Which of these three do you think acted like a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?”

37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he replied.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we may show love and mercy to our neighbours for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

It happened on the Jericho Road. 

It always happens on the Jericho Road. 

The Jericho Road is the twenty-seven-kilometre road which connects Jerusalem to Jericho – about the same distance as between Burnie and Ulverstone, Launceston and Exeter, or Devonport and Sheffield.  It’s not far by car, but remember, they didn’t have cars in those days and this road drops about a kilometre in that same distance.  It’s a steep, winding, little travelled road which gave plenty of opportunities for robbers and the like to practice their evil craft.

You could say this Jericho Road is representative of some of the violent and oppressive roads we also travel on. It’s the road of suffering, victimisation, abuse, and abandonment. It’s the road of robbery, manipulation, deception, and death.

The Jericho Road is the long road of recovery after sickness, accident, or surgery. It’s the invasive road of repetitive cancer treatments and prods and pokes by doctors. It’s the downhill road of suffering we experience as we get older and more fragile.

The Jericho Road is the declining battle of those suffering from Dementia, Motor Neurone Disease, and Parkinson’s. It’s the slow robbing of memories and physical abilities which steal a person’s dignity and independence.

The Jericho Road is the place where the homeless and drug addicted reside. They’ve been abandoned by their families and their friends. They feel like love, hope, and mercy have abandoned them. They no longer trust anyone and feel alone and discarded.

The Jericho Road is the frightful boat trip by asylum seekers, or the road people travel when escaping war or family violence. Looking for a life of freedom and hope and peace, they often encounter suspicion, hostility, racism, and rejection instead.

The Jericho Road is the road of depression. Each joy, each hope, and even one’s faith are stolen by the whisperings of accusation, guilt, shame, doubt, and despair. For some, death would be a relief, and many die on that Jericho Road.

So, for many, the Jericho Road is a tragedy, a traumatic event, a time of suffering, struggles with health, a troubling place, or a nightmarish memory. The troubles of the Jericho Road are lived by all of us sooner or later. It’s that time or place or memory which robs us of joy, love, peace, health, sanity, dignity, and hope. After all, it always happens on the Jericho Road!

But what do we do with the people we meet on the Jericho Road?

Well, we have our door knocks, telethons, fund raising appeals, touching TV adverts, and walks around an oval to we show we care. We talk about others who are suffering behind their backs in hushed tones out of respect or horror, or we get passionate about them, urging others to do something about those we hear about on the Jericho Road.

But they’re still there feeling alone and abandoned. No matter how many times we shake our head in sorrow at their plight, no matter how many sermons preachers preach, no matter how many petitions we sign and demonstrations we attend, and no matter how much we’re moved by what we see on TV, they’re still on that Jericho Road.

Out of compassion, we might donate toward their plight. This seems like a noble thing. Sometimes it’s the only thing we can do. It makes us feel as if we’ve done our bit. Dipping into our pockets to hand over some money appeases our consciences and makes us feel good.

But money doesn’t always make things better. Money doesn’t always take away cancer or make the suffering disappear. Money doesn’t always save asylum seekers or provide for all war refugees. Money can’t turn back the clock or undo a tragic mistake. Money can’t make you young again. And what’s more, money is often stolen by the robbers who take advantage of those travelling on that Jericho Road.

Jesus tells a story about the Jericho Road. Or rather, he tells the story of just one person travelling the Jericho Road. No names are mentioned, but the suffering is clear – this man is beaten, robbed, stripped, and abandoned for dead.

Some people come by. Good people. The ‘churchy’ types of people who are usually moved with mercy and compassion. You know, people like us!

But these people walk on by.

It could’ve been you. It could’ve been me. We’ve all done it. There are times we’ve all walked on by. We’re too busy, too tired, too uninterested, or too afraid. Maybe it’s just too inconvenient. Maybe we don’t know what to do, so we don’t do anything and attempt to move on with our lives as if nothing happened. Whatever our excuse, we’ve all turned a blind eye and walked on.

But Jesus isn’t interested in excuses. He doesn’t list any of them, even though there are good reasons why some people don’t get involved. He knows we’re being good Christians by going to worship, having devotions, and being faithful, but so were the Jews of the day.

They did all the right things except one – they didn’t always show mercy to the poor. There were too many on that Jericho Road being ignored and abandoned by God’s faithful people. Sin isn’t always doing the wrong thing. Sin is also not doing the right thing.

So, it seems, the main point of this story was a direct attack on our non-involvement, apathy, indifference, and lack of concern.

Jesus knows we’re all sick with the disease of apathy and non-involvement. We see too much pain on TV or in our personal lives and we no longer know what to do or how to handle it, so we often do nothing. We turn the TV channel. We make out we didn’t hear their pain. We don’t contact our politicians about controversial proposals because we don’t think it’ll do any good. We turn our heads and walk the other way.

Even though we’ve experienced Jesus’ gracious love and have been taught to love as we’ve been loved, we still struggle to do it, especially to those on the Jericho Road.

To shame us even more, the only one who helped was one of ‘them’. You know the sort of people – the people we look down on, argue with, or stay clear of. They’re the ones we avoid and gossip about. They’re the ones we don’t want to associate with. We usually consider these people as our enemy.

But what puts us to shame is that Jesus says it was one of these people who helped the victim on the Jericho Road while we ‘good people’ walked on by.

It’s like a Palestinian helping a Jew, an Aboriginal man helping a young white person, or a Ukrainian widow helping a Russian soldier. It’s shocking! It’s meant to be shocking! Sometimes a shock is what we need to wake us out of our apathy and move us to action.

So, when we hear this parable, we often hang our heads in shame. We too have let people down. We’ve walked on by showing indifference to people’s plight. We’ve thrown money at them when we could have thrown our arms around them in love and service instead. We’ve been shamed by our enemies because they helped the needy when we didn’t!

But there’s more to this Jericho Road than meets the eye.

For starters, sometimes we’re on this Road. Sometimes we’re the victim; beaten, robbed, and feeling half dead. Sometimes we’re the one doing the abusing and stealing out of selfishness. Other times we’re one of those walking on by. Perhaps out of a moment of compassion we’ve also been the Samaritan.

But where is Jesus on this Road?

Well, like us, he also plays different roles.

Jesus is the victim. He was beaten by his own people, robbed of his clothing, deprived of justice and dignity, and left for dead on the cross. Accordingly, he identifies with all the victims on that Jericho Road. He’s travelled that Road of suffering and death. He hangs out on that Road so that every traveller on that Road never truly travels alone.

Jesus is also the Good Samaritan. He was abandoned on the cross because the Jews considered him an enemy – an enemy to the state, an enemy to their faith, and an enemy of God. But Jesus suffered and died for all his enemies, including you and me. He’s the One who gave up his place in heaven to come down and save us. He’s the One who paid the full price for our forgiveness, our healing, and our salvation.

Jesus is also the innkeeper, receiving us into his Church so he may care for us, comfort us with his Word, heal us with his forgiveness, and renew us with the holy medication of his body and blood. He gives us security, hope, and the promise of eternal life where the troubling Jericho Road no longer exists.

In this way, as we’re helped by those who have compassion on us as we’re travelling that Jericho Road, we’re helped by Christ himself. Even if the hands are Aboriginal, Muslim, Atheist, young or old, they’re the hands of Christ coming to help us in our time of need.

In the same way, whenever we help out the needy, we’re helping Christ himself. As we offer a glass of water, bind up a broken bone, or wipe away the tears of those on that Jericho Road, we’re doing these things as if we’re doing them to Jesus.

We don’t have to go very far to find people travelling on that Jericho Road. We all travel that Road sooner or later, and some of us travel it more than others. This Jericho Road doesn’t distinguish between bad or good, old or young, friends or enemies. The only difference lies between those who indifferently walk by those who are suffering, and those who respond with love and compassion.

In this world criss-crossed by Jericho Roads, imagine the difference this world might experience if we not only have our hearts filled with the gracious forgiveness and love of Christ in worship, but those same hearts would move our lips and hands and feet to forgive and love and serve as we’ve been forgiven, loved, and served by Christ.

Imagine all of us going out from this holy place with hearts filled with the love of Christ which long to tend the poor, help the needy, aid the suffering, and bring comfort to the dying, no matter what their race, creed, colour, age, gender, situation, or relationships.

Imagine a Jericho Road filled with good Samaritans like you and me who bring the forgiveness, love, mercy, and compassion of Christ to those who suffer, even if we once considered them our enemies.

Imagine us doing this, not out of shame or because we must, but because our hearts, filled with the loving compassion of Christ, simply act that way, naturally, because that’s what God’s people do when touched by the love and mercy of Christ, the true Good Samaritan.

Fellow travellers on the Jericho Road, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard and tend your hearts and minds and hands in Christ Jesus. Amen.