July 14, 2019
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 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.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
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.
Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 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. 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.’
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
“If you see a mess, clean it up,”
my mother used to say.
If you see it, you’re responsible.
Mothers have the best wisdom.
Kids; always listen to your mother!
Today’s contemporary version goes like this:
“If you see something, say something.”
Jesus’s story about a Samaritan suggests
This marketing jingle for homeland security
falls short of Divine expectations.
A Gospel rewrite might go something like this:
“If you see something, do something!”
Who do you see?
Seeing is one of many
Narrative themes of the Gospel of Luke.
Who Jesus sees,
Who Jesus focuses his attention upon,
Gives us a sense of identity and trajectory:
Who Jesus is, and
Where Jesus is going.
Pay close attention to who Jesus sees.
Who does Jesus see in the world today?
Who is Jesus looking at through your eyes?
When it comes to Biblical interpretation,
Context is everything.
- The Jewish lawyer knows his law.
He asks Jesus what he must DO to inherit eternal life.
a teacher of the law,
Asks the Jewish lawyer,
a practitioner of the law,
What is written in the law.
Go back to the source, my Greek and Hebrew professors would tell me.
The Jewish lawyer correctly summarizes the beloved Shema
From Deuteronomy 6:4-9
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Being the bright and shinning star student he believes himself to be,
The Jewish lawyer applies for extra credit,
Citing Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
There isn’t any evidence (yet)
That at the time of Jesus
It was fashionable for scholars and practitioners of the law
To bring together the Shema and Levitical Code in such a masterful way.
It wasn’t the trend.
New ground was being plowed and cultivated.
This tells me,
This Jewish lawyer
Was more of a trend setter
Than a trend follower.
The Jewish lawyer’s conclusion?
Loving God is incomplete without loving neighbors.
In other words, our acts of worship on Sunday ring hollow
Unless we’re loving our neighbors the rest of the week.
Who are the neighbors of the Rush United Methodist Church?
Who are your neighbors?
Are you loving
All of them?
Context is everything.
- Let’s talk plainly about Samaritans.
Jewish v Samaritan relations at the time of Jesus
Were about the same as Israeli v Palestinian relations today.
The hatred and enmity between two highly religious cultures
Tragically separated people from their core religious faith and values.
Hatred, instead of love;
Racism, instead of equality;
Violence, in place of peace;
Oppression, instead of mutual respect;
Injustice, instead of fairness;
Vengeance, instead of forgiveness.
Jews viewed Samaritans
As mixed race, traitors, and pagan, religious schismatics.
The Jewish lawyer hated Samaritans so passionately
He couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan” —
“Which of the three, do you think was a neighbor …? (Jesus asks)
“The one who showed him mercy …” (10:36-37)
Shut the front door!
What’s up with that? inquiring disciples want to know.
600 years before Jesus,
People of Judah, Samaria, and Israel
Were conquered by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.
Wealth was plundered and hauled back to Babylon.
The captured were exiled to concentration camps.
The only ones remaining were those who worked the farm.
Oh, yeah, there are reports that the Babylonians salted some of their fields, too.
Three waves of Babylonian exile and captivity
were traumatic to our Jewish ancestors.
Two generations suffered punishment by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Cyrus the Great allowed the exiled Jews to return to their lands
70 years later.
Mid-landers, between Judah in the South and Galilee in the North,
Had been left behind and were prohibited to travel to Jerusalem
To take part in their Jewish Temple cult or rites.
The Temple in Jerusalem had been completely destroyed, anyway.
So their made their own local Temple on Mount Gerizim,
Where they worshiped Yahweh,
With their own local, evolving traditions and rites.
When the exiles returned 70 years later,
They discovered those who had been left behind had collaborated with captors.
They had inter-bred with the enemy.
And, they had evolved a separate, schismatic branch of Judaism called Samaritianism.
Never mind the fact that Samaritianism was created out of necessity.
Collaborators with the enemy.
Mixed race, half breed, back country farmers.
Religious fanatics who have gone astray.
That’s what the Jewish lawyer thought of Samaritans.
You can imagine what Samaritans thought of Jews
Who returned and rebuilt the Jerusalem Temple in lofty grandeur.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well
The Gospel of John reports
“Jews do not share thing in common with Samaritans.” (John 4:9)
Such was the hatred.
Whom do we hold in contempt because of their faith, values, or history?
Whom do we exclude?
With whom do we raise barriers
– or refuse to remove them –
Between them us,
Between them and Jesus?
Context is everything.
- It is well to remember
Jesus had just been given the dust off
By the inhabitants of a Samaritan village.
Luke reports in the ninth chapter that
The Samaritans didn’t receive him because
His face was set towards Jerusalem,
Not their own local Temple on Mount Gerizim.
Interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus would tell a story
To teach essential truth
To a Jewish lawyer
Using a Samaritan as a literary foil,
Who’s words and deeds would answer the question,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25)
Let that sink in for a moment:
A hated, despised, pagan Samaritan
Was Jesus’s example of how one could inherit eternal life.
Jesus loves to rock our world and turn it upside down.
The one we fail to love
May be the one
Who God has given the keys to unlock our tomb.
What title is given a parable often influences the way we interpret it,
Sometimes deviating our thoughts towards the intent of Jesus,
Sometimes, sadly, not.
No place in Biblical text,
In this unique passage to Luke,
Is this wonderful, fictional story of Jesus titled
“The Parable of the Good Samaritan,”
Despite the fact that is
This is the title you and I probably learned in Sunday School!
What if we title this story by Jesus
“The Parable of a Heartless Priest and Levite”? Or
“The Parable of an Unfortunate Victim”? Or
“A Parable of Mercy”? Or
“A Parable of Conservatives and Liberals”?
Oooo! Now I’ve caught your attention!
Likewise, who we identify ourselves within a parable
Will influence the way we interpret Christ’s truth and will.
We all want to think of ourselves as the Good Samaritan.
This works at one level;
But allow me to reveal another.
Allow Jesus to upset our world for a moment by saying,
“Get yourself off the road, and get into the ditch.”
Have you ever been beat up before?
On the losing end of punches, blood, spit, broken teeth, and bruises?
I haven’t, thank God.
But I’ve had many beat up people in the back of my ambulance.
Whether the circumstance is a bar fight or domestic violence,
Getting beat unconscious can leave wounds that last a lifetime,
That scar much deeper than skin deep.
Join Jesus and me in the ditch.
Have you ever been robbed before?
Had your pocket picked?
Your purse grabbed?
Your home ransacked?
Your identity stolen and your account drained?
I haven’t, thank God,
But from my pastoral experience
I know how unsettling it can be.
It’s a violation of personal space and safety.
Get down with this nameless traveler, Jesus, and me in the ditch.
Jesus tells the story saying the victim was stripped naked.
I’m too modest to go there.
I can’t imagine the humiliation,
Knocked out cold,
Left for dead,
By the side of the road.
The violence done to this nameless traveler is nearly unspeakable.
Being the victim of such violence and abuse is the foundation for
A lifetime struggle with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
I suspect many of us can identify at a deeply personable level with Jesus’s nameless traveler.
That feeling in your heart …
That empathy and mercy you feel for another …
Tap into it.
What you’re feeling is God’s gift of grace given to you.
Get off the road and get into the ditch.
You’re not the only one disappointed by organized religion.
Having two leaders of the Temple see your need
And indifferently pass by the other side
Hurts to the core.
I’ve heard it before
“The pastor doesn’t understand.”
“The Lay Leader doesn’t care about me.”
“How can The United Methodist Church open doors for some but not for me?”
“Christians are such hypocrites.”
Then there is one.
There is always one neighbor;
Called by God Almighty, the Great Physician,
Who hears your cry,
Comes to you,
Bringing the healing touch of God into your life.
That’s what neighbors do.
By God’s grace we heal and
We become healed.
Be the neighbor.
Heal, and be healed.