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The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier: “Our Blessedness” (Luke 10:29-37)

September 20, 2015

From the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier of Providence REC in Texas, here is an excellent sermon, titled Our Blessedness.  Part of Fr. Bernier’s focus in this message is the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, and as he points out, there is much to learn about the Gospel and the work of Christ in this parable:

This parable illustrates the meaning and superiority of the work of Christ and of his teaching. The superiority of the Gospel over the Law is illustrated by the response of the Priest and the Levite representatives of the highest righteousness the Law could achieve.
How did they respond before the dying man? They passed by. The letter of the Law says “thou shall not kill”; is negative, so that is what they did: nothing. They did nothing to this man and therefore they owed him nothing either; In their eyes they had fulfilled the Law!

But then comes along a Samaritan, which by his actions we recognize to represent Jesus himself. Jesus chose a Samaritan to represent himself, since the priests and religious rulers despised him as they also despised the Samaritans, (and remember they even accused Jesus of being a Samaritan).

The Samaritan is moved with compassion for the man who cannot help himself, just as Jesus did for us who cannot help ourselves. The victim of the thieves represents us in our fallen condition, wounded, half dead, left to die and unable to help ourselves. We have fallen in the hands of thieves: Satan, the world and the flesh. They have robbed us of our cloth of righteousness and taken away our innocence. They inflicted the mortal wound of sin to our spirit and left us naked, ashamed and dying before God and one another, so that we are unable to heal, clean, dress and save ourselves.

Jesus saw our condition with compassion and did not passed by on the others side of the road. He came down to us and cured the deadly wounds caused by the robbers with the wine of his sacrifice and the oil of his Spirit of his word of Truth; he covered our nakedness with his righteousness; then he brought us safe to the shelter of the church and there he provided the inn keeper, the ministers of the gospel, the two sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion to provide for our care with food and lodging, so that feeding on Christ and his Word our health may continue to improve until his return.

Here we have a complete picture of Christ’s redemption on our behalf; which reveals the superiority of justification by faith over justification by works. This wounded, naked and dying man did nothing to earn the compassion of the Samaritan; The Samaritan was moved out of his own bowels of compassion and did everything to save the unworthy man.
The healed man on his part, having freely received such benefits, could only repay the Samaritan during his absence with a profound sense of gratitude, manifested in the desire to imitate him learning to extend to others that same unbounded love and compassion he had freely received. This is a perfect picture of our condition in expectation of the Lord’s return.

Therefore at the conclusion of the story the Lord asked the lawyer, who had attempted to justify himself with good works by limiting the scope of the commandment to love our neighbor: who was a neighbor to the man who fell victim to the thieves?

“He who showed him mercy,” the lawyer answered. Then the Lord told him to go and do likewise. The lawyer saw and heard the gospel and received the commandment to follow it. And so the Lord tells each and every one of us. Hear the gospel and understand its meaning and implications. Love one another as I have loved you; this is the true meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” the principle underlying our whole life in this world in preparation for his return.

Our spiritual enemies have done everything in their power to destroy us. The law prepared the way for the gospel by revealing the perfect demands of God’s Justice and our inability to fulfill those demands; but Jesus revealed the love of God which paid the price for our redemption and has given us the power to overcome sin and all its consequences, by learning to live in this world loving one another as he has loved us in preparation for the life of the world to come which is drawing nearer and nearer each day.

Indeed, this makes it very clear how important the command to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” truly is, and how necessary the love of God is for us to be able to do this.  The sermon is very much worth reading in full.

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