Posted on Sun, Apr 22, 2012
[b]April 22, 2012[/b]
[b]Third Sunday in Easter[/b]
[b]Luke 10:25-37 – “Label Maker”[/b]
[b]The Parable of the Good Samaritan[/b]
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
Words have power. They have the power to swoon a friend to become a lover. They have the power to so anger a people, or a nation so that it will find the right words and metaphors to even justify mobilizing for war. Words have the power to comfort, even in times of near hopelessness or even imminent death. They have the power to convince oneself that they can go through life all alone, only with the help of their own contrived power … even though they are only convincing themselves that they are cutting themselves off with the greatest power of all, and that is our loving and gracious God.
Labels are just words… accept these labels can also just identify ones vocation or identity, or promote a person to powers of authority (deserved or not), or provide the justification to lower a human being to something called, “worthless,” or even less… something better off dead… like a perceived enemy.
In today’s text, Jesus is helping the People of God, Israel, understand their role as being the Chosen People of God, called to bestow God’s grace and mercy on ALL PEOPLE. They are called to be a blessing to their “neighbors,” but their understanding of “neighbor” has been so tainted by fear, bigotry, pride and the like, it takes the direct face to face honesty of Jesus to help them understand their true identities as the People of God. The role of this parable for the followers of Jesus will be made very obvious.
A parable is not a regular teaching. It is meant to be read over and over again, and each time you read it, if you apply your own life and situation in life to the parable, you will discover a new and helpful teaching. Jesus taught in parables.
The text says, a ‘lawyer’ stood up to test Jesus. Believe me, deciding to test Jesus is neither safe, nor wise. He asks, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ The key particle of this question is, “I.” What must “I” do, which means what must I do, apart from God, in order to inherit eternal life? Even though we live in the Post-Easter era, this question is still asked by human beings all over the world in every culture and language today. There are many forms of spirituality, but if their modus operandi is to give us a means to achieve eternal life without any relationship with God, we will only get what we seek… a relationship without the one who loves us and cares more for us than we could ever imagine.
He answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.’
This is the greatest law that Jesus proclaims to us we must do. It is directly from Deuteronomy 6:5. Let’s make the Old Testament Christocentric. First love God, this is the vertical line; Then love neighbor, this is the horizontal line. Luke helps us take the prophesies of the Old Testament and see them fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But the issue is this label, “neighbor.” Who is my neighbor? Our confirmation students know very well whom Jesus was referring to as “neighbor.” They were not only the People of Israel, but they were the ones the People of Israel were to show and make real the grace and mercy of God! That means, people OUTSIDE of their clan and tribes.
The problem is that for the People of Israel, even though it is clearly states that they are to care for the widow, orphan and stranger, the definition of ‘neighbor’ had become narrowed to only be those who essentially followed the same law and traditions of Israel, for example the table laws, stating the only people you could dine with, and especially those who now followed the Temple traditions set down by King David. According to King David, even though God was not interested in having a temple, (only in showing mercy, doing justice and walking humbly with God), the Jewish people were now obligated to offer up prayers and sacrifice ONLY at the temple in Jerusalem. King David (even though it was not at all according to the wishes of God), set up a temple system that was essentially an amazing money making racket, and Jesus was born to help the people understand that the power of God was not found in obedience to law and customs, but in faith to a Living God. The Samaritans looked, spoke and worshiped like the Jews, but refused to live according to David’s Temple laws… the Jews did not like this.
There is not much difference between a stone building and a golden calf when there is a Living God standing before your face calling us to, “Come, let go of all those labels that pull us down, and release yourself from all your contrived self-help concepts and devices and give yourself over to me.”
The man persists, and Luke makes it clear that his purpose is now not just to test Jesus, but also to justify himself, APART FROM HIS IDENTITY AS A PERSON OF GOD, a member of Israel.
Jesus uses a parable to help the clever man understand the power of the Law and Gospel. There is a road from Jerusalem to Jericho… I’ve been there; it is paved and very nice now. As Jesus was speaking to local Jewish people, they all knew that road, plus they knew the dangers of the road, they weren’t surprised to hear that some person, we don’t know the label/identity of the man, fell in among robbers who beat him, stripped him and left him for dead. Sad to say, a common event in places all over the world, making it a very relevant story for today.
First a priest comes along. There were thousands of priests working at the temple in Jerusalem, and the people knew what the priests did, they oversaw the exchange of local money to temple money, sold sacrifices at a hefty profit… and they lived very well off the system.
Along came a Levite. Levites weren’t priests but they came from the tribe/line of Levi, and helped the priests in their priestly duties. They too lived off the business of the temple.
The people knew about priests and Levites… the question was, as so-called servants of God working at the temple, were their words and deeds done in accordance with God’s greatest commandment. Not that if we just do them we will inherit eternal life, which is pure “works righteousness.” But according to Luther’s explanation of the fifth and eighth commandment found on pages 1160 and 1161 in the back of your ELW’s, it is not just that we are not to kill or say bad things about our neighbor, WE ARE TO FEAR AND LOVE GOD SO THAT, we are to care for them and make sure their needs are met.
The people knew the Law, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Is walking to the opposite side of the road, especially as a representative of the People of God, the best way we can bestow God’s grace and mercy on people in need?
The people may have laughed and jeered as Jesus put them in their place and the people may have had reason to justify humiliating the priests and Levites at the hands of the teacher from Nazareth… But then Jesus said, “But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.”
Jesus used the label, “Samaritan” to make his point as to who demonstrated love to God and Neighbor.
In Jesus’ day there was not such thing as a “[i]GOOD[/i] Samaritan!” The Jews hated the Samaritans, the people from Samaria who looked like Jews, spoke like Jews, worshiped like Jews, prayed like Jews, but would not adhere to the custom of bringing their sacrifice and offerings to the temple in Jerusalem. What an affront to the authority of King David! For the Jewish people listening to Jesus this day, he only [i]good[/i] Samaritan, was a dead Samaritan!
Because the Samaritans refused this custom, the Jews hated them, and labeled them as “below humans.”
But this Samaritan, because he was moved with pity, or better yet, moved with compassion, decided to help this unidentified man lying injured in the street.
Was it the right ritual or customs of Israel that Jesus was impressed with? Hardly, it was the compassion a person can have for another person, and what actions we decide to take up our compassion.
Take the word compassion apart, it means to ‘feel the pain or sorrow of the other person, together.’
Think of the feelings of all those who were once jeering the priests and Levites, all of them were now convicted by the words of Jesus’ parable. Would they have at least acted like the so-called, low-life Samaritan when their own priest and Levites demonstrated their faith by avoiding the one suffering. They may have held the same values, would they have embarrassed the words of their own scriptures by walking to the other side?
What about you and me? Because this is a parable, we are to ask ourselves, “Who are we in this scripture lesson?” If we aren’t convicted in some way as everyone else in the lesson, we miss the role of the law. It demonstrates exactly why we needed a savior! There isn’t one person among us who hasn’t acted or could even justify the actions of the priest or Levite.
Helping someone else requires time, money and effort! The excuses are plentiful, “I just can’t do it!” But look at what the Samaritan did, and soon we realize we can’t use those excuses any more. “34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”
In the end, who is convicted? We are all are! Everyone was convicted in some way by the text and we are left standing naked and helpless before our accuser the Law, and we are left with running in only one direction, so as we have sinned against God’s command, we can only run to the arms of our Savior and the Gospel.
The Law convicts each and every one of us, but through the cross and resurrection, Jesus gives us a new label, “FORGIVEN, REDEEMED, and SANCTIFIED!”
Through repentance, we are made new, and through the Spirit, we are guided and strengthened to boldly be the people of faith Jesus has made us to be.
Labels can cut, hurt, teardown, crush, blind and even kill us or turn us into killers. On the other hand, I like the label that Jesus bestows on us and sees in us… Jesus sees us as a new person of God, freed to live in joy, love, mercy and justice.
We are free to sing a new song, dance a new dance, and boldly proclaim what God has done for all people through the cross of Jesus. Remember your baptism, and claim your label as a Child of God. Amen.
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