The text is (or should be) well known. It is the Good Samaritan. One of the roles of parables is to get us thinking about the relationship between God, the kingdom and us. We have heard this parable over and over and know that it is a moral tale. Go and do likewise. Easy enough to turn off the brain. I’ve heard that sermon.
But what if the matrix of words we use to look at this is a little larger, and let’s focus on the man who is not named – the one who fell in among robbers. In the traditional tale this man is the everyman. He is our neighbor the world. But what if we matrix in Matt 25:31-46? Who is the man who was hungry and thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison? Everyman, yes, but more importantly Jesus himself. When we help that man, we help the Lord himself. The very first question that starts this parable is – what do I do to inherit eternal life? (How do I get in with the sheep?)
Jesus was not against telling parables against the pharisees and the saducees – See Luke 20:9-18. The priest passes by, the Levite passes by, but the hated Samaritan cares for the man who had been abused when he came down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Was not the second question – who is my neighbor – the offensive one that this parable answers? If you want to be saved, take yourself down a notch. Put youself in the shoes of the Samaritan. After all the the law would have you do good, even to this beaten man. It is the gospel that calls for us to be little children (the lowest of the low, those with no standing) to enter the kingdom. It is the gospel the urges us to recognize our plight and stop justifying ourselves.
Does it just collapse into moralism – no, the target is not good works becuase even the law requires those. The question is to look at ourselves – are we passing Jesus by becuase we are justifying ourselves, or do we rightly judge our place and need of mercy.
The parables should cause thought. There are some things that don’t hang together with the above, but this parable does not let us off as easy as some change in the beggars hat.