The Text is the Good Samaritan. When you are preaching on such a story you really have to be content with telling the old old story. And as a Lutheran that Old Old story is captured in this incredibly compact story of law and gospel. The law story is clear and is the direct text. You have a lawyer, arguing points of the law, and a command to go and do likewise. The gospel? The gospel is the subtext of the story. Because you eventually realize that the text is impossible. Something or someone must deliver us from this narrative that we have been living. That someone is Jesus the Good Samaritan.
Christians often talk about our freedom in Christ, or at least pastors do, but I’m not sure that we often talk about what the freedom actually is. If we do the farthest we often go might be our freedom from sin. Yes, Christ has freed us from sin. And that is something big. But I think borrowing the Apostle’s analogy, that is the milk of the Christian life. As one grows one needs to eat meat. And what is that meat, or at least some of it? We have not just been freed from sin and because of sin from death, we have also been freed from Satan and the powers and principalities. The Good Samaritan parable is a lesson in Christian freedom. We can be so bound in our identities, the laws, rules and chains of those powers, that we pass-by on the other side. Life – and the Lord who writes that life – presents us we many opportunities to exercise our freedom in being and becoming truly human. In becoming Christlike and triumphing over those powers. We can choose to be neighbors. We can choose to pay the cost of that. We can have our guts churned and be human. Or we can stay bound in identity chains. Christian freedom mean choosing to be a neighbor.
I am constantly amazed at how the perfect text seems to appear to match external circumstances. What are the odds that the one time in three years that you read the Good Samaritan with its question of “Who is my neighbor?” would appear at exactly the same time as a verdict in a trial of a Neighborhood watch. A trial which is really about answering that question – who is the neighbor?
This is one of those sermons that stands as piece. It is a meditation on the gospel scene of a lawyer and Jesus with our lives woven in between the lines.
Here is the conclusion, but if you’ve got 12 minutes, give the entire thing a read or a listen. I’m pretty sure that none of the 24 hour news commentary has this.
The law can’t do anything about our refusal to see our neighbor. The law leaves a dead 17 year old and a man whose life has been beaten and robbed and left out in the open of the public square. If we insist on the law – what must I do – that is what we get. But Jesus, by being a neighbor to us first, has shown us a better way. A way of grace and mercy. Go and love likewise, as you have first been loved. Amen
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.