Scripture: Luke 10:25 - 37
Luke 10:25-37 (NIV) The Parable of the Good Samaritan 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Read the scripture through.
To me this parable has become fat with meaning – the encounter of Christ, the purpose of the church, the commonness of all humanity and the challenge to be more than a church of this age – to become the Church beyond our temporal borders.
I want to take you on a journey through this parable and show you a new way of seeing it. Of course, I am not presuming that I am original here, or that you don’t already know what I am going to teach – so maybe I could say “I want to show you a new way I have seen this parable that has both created a crisis within me and also brought great joy to me.”
I first need to give you a terminology that will come up throughout this lesson:
“Doing, having and being”.
We spend a lot of our time in life doing stuff, accumulating things and being involved with events and activities to hid from our fears and deepest soul desires – this is what I mean by “Doing, having and being.” The way humans hid from the crisis life presents us.
Point 1: Just enough religion.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
This expert, this professionally trained man, comes to Jesus with all his wisdom, all his knowledge and all his desire to validate who he is and all he wants others to see him as. He comes with just enough religion to make himself important. Standing before his neighbors he rises up in such a way as to presume he has something to say to the Lord. He, the created, would try to make a fool of the creator.
This is humanity in religion – both Christian and all other religions. We set up our morality, rituals and rules before God’s throne and beating our chests with pride we declare “Look at all we are.”
Our God is patient, as too is his son, and he allows our arrogance and presumptions – at least for a time. Answering gently and patiently our Lord merely asks him a question to engage this arrogant and hollow man.
“What does the law say?”
Jesus seems to be playing into the hands of this religious lawyer, this man trained in argument – with self-importance he raises his voice without hesitation, as if he could lecture the great law giver – “That’s easy…. Love God with your all and Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Smugly this hollow man, with all his religion and all his human skill, smiles as if the crowd ought to clap his achievement at proving himself before this Galilean as superior. He looks to his left and right to see who is looking on towards him. Who might marvel at his cleverness and achievement.
It is like religion before the throne of God that stands there smugly saying we have worked it out, we know how to appease you, we know how to make our followers feel good before about themselves. We have given them the words, the holy pilgrimages, the penance, the mystical experience and the new fads – we have done what you could not do.
Our Lord again simply answers patiently, more than humanity deserves and more then human inspired religion ought to have, and says “Go do it then mere mortal”, do all you know to be true and all you know God has taught through your fathers.
“Love God with all you are, and love the neighbour as you love yourself.”
If religion and humanity could simply “Love the neighbour as they love themselves” what an improvement this world would already have. Imagine the care and concern that thousands of years would have brought us to today – but my reality and understanding of human history shows murder, hatred, war, poverty, starvation and petty hatreds spilling out from the pages of history. (Yes – with some good that a few have done well.)
We love few like we love ourselves – we love ourselves poorly anyway. Our self-love finds our own being hollow, useless and worthless – but more to come about this.
In this religious enquirer, we see religion and humanity arrogantly coming to the Lord lecturing the Lord on our “expertise” on the things of God. Yet with a simple answer the Lord shows easily that our presumptions and religious exercises leave us hollow and faulted in our thinking.
The best answer we humans can give is in our “Doing, having and being.”
Point 2: Seeing the parable through new eyes.
Let me give us a new way of seeing this story through the eyes of my recent reflection.
There is a picture I found a few years ago that made me very uncomfortable. An artist has the picture of Jesus walking with a soldier down a European road. On Jesus’ back is the soldiers pack, and his weapon. Jesus is turned slightly towards this soldier and showing himself to be engaged in deep conversation with him. When you look closer at the soldier you discover he is a senior man, a captain of men, trained in the art of killing. On closer examination, you discover he is a Nazi soldier engaged in conversation with Jesus, who is dressed obviously in his Jewish clothing.
In this picture we find the parable of the good Samaritan – That Jewish Jesus, one hated and despised by the Nazi ideology, would show care and concern for this man. Jesus’ enemy was only an enemy in his own thinking – to Jesus this Nazi was a “hollow” man moving from sin towards new life.
Let’s get into it:
All humanity is on a journey going from to towards. Each of us walking from our birth to our deaths – from our Jerusalem to our Jericho. A long and windy road full of dangers and risks that we all take to reach our destination. This is a crisis for humanity that it wants to ignore – the crisis of mortality, we all will die and soon be forgotten.
We start form a high vantage point of potential, opportunity and a sense that life is long and we have much “Doing, having and being” before we come to the end of our journey.
Along the way we must turn corners not knowing what awaits us on the other side – life throws things at us that remind us just how risky each choice, each moment and each encounter is.
Along the way down this rocky road of risks we run into robbers who take from us all our “Doing, having and being”. These robbers who wait for us to stumble, to lose confidence and realise the crisis of our journey pounce out to steal from us the sense of importance and value we have in life.
One robber is called “mortality”, another “futility” and still another is called “terror”. They pounce on us and take from us all that we had built into our lives, all our “Doing, having and being”. And we are left on the pathway destressed, broken and empty.
For some they get up and struggle on through the journey trying to put back into their ripped open back packs more “Doing, having and being” to try and pretend nothing happened. For others, the crisis is so terrible they are left sitting on the side of life’s road waiting for someone to come along who might help, and yet for others they join the band of robbers stealing from others who pass by in hope to get back their own sense of value and importance.
Along this road comes religion and all human achievement – the scientist, the producer and manufacturer, the teacher and university. All with their bag of tricks, but they too are merely journeying along the same road.
Yes, they do see the brokenness, yes, they do feel for the people they see on the side of the road. They look, they analyse, they wish for better things. But they too fear the robbers and cannot stay too long to help. Anyway, for some of them to get their hands dirty might expose their flawed thinking, their self-importance might fade to nothing – some might even mutter quietly so as not to offend the broken person “It’s your fault, if you did it my way you would have been better off.”
Each of these specialists move off on their own journey from birth to death thinking of their own self-importance – their own “Doing, having and being” completely unaware that “mortality”, “futility” and “terror” awaits them just around one of the corners – waiting to take from them all their false sense of security and knowing.
Here we lie waiting, hoping someone might present real solutions in our broken hollow state.
Through tired eyes, the reality of brokenness and the sense of hopelessness, we see someone drawing near – a stranger, one from another place. Not the one we would normally hang with – in fact as he draws nearer we find a cold reality come on us. This is a man that I have called my enemy – not of my race, not of my culture and certainly not of my beliefs.
A new impossibility comes over us as we think “How can such a person help me, and why would he – all I have shown him is hatred.” We watch expecting him to look on like the others and carry on his own journey from birth to death – but he stops, he looks, he draws near and kneels before our “hollow” selves.
All we see in his eyes is a reflection of our own humanity – he is no stranger at all, yes, he is a foreigner but he shares my common humanity. One who is no stranger to my pain and who does not judge me for my “hollow” state.
He bloodies his hands with my blood, tends to my brokenness as a brother, a friend and a loving neighbour. He gives of his own “oil” and his own “wine” – and as they are poured onto my wounds a soothing effect fills my soul. I am conflicted – in the oil I sense his own Spirit is given, and in his wine, I sense his own Life is added to mine.
He picks me up and carries me – I find no strength in my own “Doing, having and being” and can only lean upon his.
In this foreigner, I find such care and concern in all he does – and he takes me to an inn, a place where others like me have come for care. A fellowship of the broken robbed travelers all finding care and concern together as we share our stories and speak of this foreigner who would give so much to those who were not of his own people, culture or worldview.
Point 3: “Do likewise.”
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour?”
Jesus now draws a fatal blow to the religious lawyer, the one who would attempt to raise himself above his own creator.
This proud man, one full of his own sense of “Doing, having and being” attempts to hold some dignity still and simply says “The one who had mercy on him.”
Still holding on to a little pride, a little elitism, he refuses to say in the original story “the Samaritan” – that race, that people, that disgusting religion and land that he hated. All Jews, at least the pious good Jew, hated this people. This lawyer would admit the Samaritan was good, but without saying the nationality, he would never give away that which would show him as a flawed hollow man.
Jesus draws the final blow to this man’s pride “Go do as this Samaritan did, go make a difference to those you hate, those beyond your border of self-comfort, to those who might hate you and all you consider of value. Dare to walk your journey between birth and death in such a way that you show care and concern like this.
Of course, who really is like this?
Who really loves the one who hates so much?
Who exposes themselves to other peoples pain and risks being robbed of their own “Doing, having and being” for the sake of a stranger?
Well, actually, God does – this is the lesson of the incarnation. God becoming human in the person of the one telling the story to the lawyer. Jesus was speaking of what he was willing to do for humanity on the road from birth to death.
Conclusion: The Christology that models our ecclesiology.
So many of us in the church live lives failing to understand that we are called to engage our fellow Journeyers in care and concern. We are to not discriminate between one broken hollow person and another. Like the good Samaritan, and the greatest Samaritan, we are too see our common humanity as the only qualification for our care and concern. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners, not self-declared saints – who are really hollow people.
Let me show you how Jesus exemplifies this in scripture:
Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV) 6 (Jesus) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus, the great outsider who is neither from our race, our creed or our worldview came to this world to deal with the robbers called “mortality”, “futility” and “terror”. He comes to our reality as one of us – not judging us, not pulling the superiority card and looking down on us. He comes to deal with the journey between life and death with his oil and his wine.
This stranger who has every right to walk on by, gets bloodied with us and for us – he gives of his Holy Spirit that we might have new life in Him, and he pours out his blood as a new covenant that death and futility might fade fall away before his grace – his care and concern for us.
Did not Paul also attest to this when he said he spoke to the Roman church in chapter five:
(5) “…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…”
(6) “…just the right time…while we were still powerless (robbed of our doing, knowing and being) ... Christ died for the ungodly (the foreigner and enemy) …”
(8) “… for God demonstrates his own love for us… while we were still sinners (rebelling, hating, hurting and hiding from Him) … Christ died for us…”
(10) “…while we were God’s enemies… we were reconciled to him (oil and wine) … through the death of his Son (the great good Samaritan) …”
And now are we, the Church, not the hands, feet and mouths of Jesus in this world. Are we not to be like Him in our going from our birth to death – giving oil and wine to the lost and broken sinner, filling the hollow person with abundant life?
Are we not to see the common humanity we share with others as the only qualification we need to help the other with care and concern?
Are we not to reflect the love of God to the ones left broken by “mortality”, “futility” and “terror”.
Or are we like the Lawyer who began this event with Jesus – just enough religion to comfort ourselves, just enough religion to be elite and just enough religion to ease our own brokenness.
Just enough religion to walk on by, and offer maybe a prayer…