The text is probably a familiar one, at least it contains a couple of Jesus’ aphorisms that still have public purchase. “The one who wants to be first must be the servant of all” and “who ever welcomes the little child, welcomes me and the one who sent me.” These two sayings form Jesus’ teaching on ambition, although as I’m always saying the context of Jesus’ aphorisms is important. This sermon ponders the struggle of the divine and human ambition with Jesus himself. And this struggle (think about the Garden of Gethsemane) is the frame for a Christian teaching on ambition. Crucifying our ambition toward domination (“Who is the greatest”) and raising our ambition for service toward those whose only recompense is from God.
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