In Christianity there is no justifying self. The kingdom of God turns on grace, not more or harder work. On this day, Reformation Day, Christians remember the famous posting of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Justification by grace through faith, apart from human effort, is the great theological emphasis and legacy of the Reformers. I suppose one would expect to look at the books of Romans and Galatians on such a day. But to the gospels we go….
The parable of the Good Samaritan is just as famous, but perhaps not so much when one is thinking of the Reformation. Yet, Luke gives us insight into the thought process of the person for whom Jesus told the parable. The man sought to “justify himself.” When we look at the parable from the view of justification, we see the perspective of the wounded and hapless man, the victim of robbers. He was left for dead, and, indeed, in the story we know that he would die apart from help – the kind of help the man could not do for himself. He was completely dependent on someone to rescue him from his plight.
The Samaritan, the Christ figure in the story, comes and shows the man mercy. This grace was free, lacked any sort of favoritism, and full of sheer kindness. Without the Samaritan’s actions of binding up the man’s wounds and getting him to a safe place, the victim would have died.
Today is a special day to celebrate the wonderful and glorious reality that Jesus Christ saves people from their terrible plight. His mercy is not dependent on what kind of people we are, but simply based on need. God graciously gives us the gift of faith and the mercy of deliverance. By Christ’s wounds we are healed. Take some time this day to reflect on this most gracious of truths that we do not need to justify ourselves, but as Christians already possess justification by grace alone apart from human effort. Read the parable of the Good Samaritan carefully and slowly, absorbing it from this angle of the inability to justify ourselves and the incredible mercy of Christ. Let this sink deep in your soul to bring wholeness and healing.
Merciful God, you sent your Son to rescue me from my sinful condition. Thank you for the great grace you have shown through Jesus to save me and justify me so that I need no longer try and justify myself before others. Amen.