The Lord does not give His mercy to those insist they ought to have it. He gives His mercy solely from His fatherly, divine goodness, without any merit or worthiness in us. “His mercy is on those who fear Him.” He gives mercy to those who see no way out. He gives it to lift up those who have been laid low—the penitent sinner, the hopeless parent, the blind, the leper, the unloved and disrespected and despised and guilty. These are the people who fill pews. These are the people who pray, “Lord, have mercy.”
The young lawyer was blinded by his pride. He would not see that he was in need of the Lord’s mercy. It was pride that drove him to stand up, believing he was better than others—even better than Jesus. It was pride that caused him to think that he could trap Jesus. It was pride that urged the lawyer to believe that he had already succeeded in loving God with all he was. So it was the man’s pride that Jesus used to trap him.
To omit mercy in dealing with neighbors; to omit mercy by refusing to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you; to omit mercy by insisting that others meet your conditions; to omit mercy by shoving aside those who don’t please you; to omit mercy by refusing to see that anyone you come into contact with is your God-given neighbor—that is where this young lawyer stumbled, where his pride threatened his inheritance of eternal life. So did the lawyer beg for mercy? He would never stoop so low.
But we cry out for mercy. So when we go down on our knees and plead for the Lord to overlook our sins, when we sing, “Lord, have mercy upon us”—do we let the Lord’s mercy stop with us? Do we let it die within our hearts by storing up anger or resentment? Do we live only for ourselves? The Lord gives His mercy for only one reason: so that it has its way with us, so that His mercy is lived in through us toward everyone—without demands, without conditions, without envy, without pettiness.
That is what the Good Samaritan does. And this Good Samaritan is none other that our Lord Jesus. Just as the Samaritan poured on his enemy the healing medicine of oil and wine, so our Lord pours over us His watered blood in Holy Baptism and then nurses us back to spiritual health with His Body and Blood. Just the Samarian carts the man off to the inn so that he might safely be cared for, so our Lord compassionately and willingly sets us within His holy Body, the Church, so that His preaching and sacraments would see us safely to the kingdom of heaven.
The Good Samaritan is the very picture of our Lord Jesus. Yet with this parable, Our Lord is also telling the young lawyer—and us—that the Samaritan is equally the very picture of our life in God. For we are to “be merciful, just as our Father also is merciful.” “For if you will not love your brother, whom you can see, how can you love God, whom you have not seen?” So we are to love all people, even our enemies. You are to “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” So we show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ who sin against us, to the atheist who wants us to keep our mouths shut, and even to the radical Muslim who wants us dead.
And let us remember why we cry out for and rely upon our Lord’s mercy: He is truly “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and great in mercy.” Even to sinners like us who deserve from Him nothing but punishment and hell, Our Lord readily and mercifully gives us His Holy Spirit so we live in Him and His abundant mercy, even as He lives His love in and through us toward all men. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.