Posted by: mikebackup | July 13, 2013

Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

When I read that the Good Samaritan was the main focus for today I smiled. Reason being I had been blessed by a Bible Study on the parable during my recent Newly Accredited Ministers’ conference. This gives me a great opportunity to share in that blessing and to add some of my further reflection on it. One very important thing you must take from today is to allow scripture to speak, not fit with your expectations. I’m going to give you a number of ways of looking at this parable, which let’s face it you will probably have yawned inside when you heard or read it just. You will not be yawning after I promise.

Let’s start easy and the first way of looking at this is the plain sense of the story. What must I do to inherit eternal life? There must have no limit to your love, just go and do it.

Next, the evangelical interpretation. We have been set upon by the Devil and been left by the side of the road. People passed by and then another namely Jesus came and helped us, cared for us and gave everything for us.

Prophetic interpretation. The Priest and the Levite represent the Lawyer and also ourselves. It asks why they passed by, why do we pass by? We British culturally don’t get involved, if we see something we don’t like the look of, we like to turn a blind eye. Also, as Christians we can quickly fall into the trap of only looking out for other Christians. The problem is that God asks us to love him more than things and more than the people of God. That thought leads us onto a big question – Why did Jesus choose a Samaritan?

This was very important to Jesus and he chose the most provocative character. Modern equivalents could be the hooded youth, a gay man with HIV, or a transsexual. Jesus uses this character and he is the one who inherits eternal life and we must copy. It relativizes our certainties on salvation. If you think that a big leap, go back to the start of the exchange; the lawyer asks – ‘What must I do to receive eternal life?’ Jesus answers him by bringing out the expected characters who don’t and the very unexpected character who does.

The door that opens the door to eternal life is to be humane. If Christianity helps us to do that –great, if not then it’s a waste of time. In Colossians we read that God wants to reconcile all things. There are no limits on the love God has shown us in Christ and this challenges our assumptions and any entry exam we like to place on people.

That then leads onto the incarnational interpretation. What if God is the victim and he is the one by the side of the road, having been abandoned by those he trusted?  How drastic is that for us? Matthew 25 in many ways says that the character is God. What does God require of me? Love God and love your neighbour, in other words love God and humanity at the same time as they have been fused together. In 1 John 4.1 we read that love comes from God and that love is made complete in us. Whoever lives in love lives in God.

This parable is about love and if you want it to it can challenge your assumptions about what that means. The only way we love God is by loving each other. It is not about religiosity at all. Sunday worship is only worship to God if it helps and enables you to love all you meet. If it doesn’t it isn’t worship at all, you’re wasting your time and you’re not loving God.

What must you do to receive eternal life? At this moment in time you need to look very carefully at the whole of your life past and present and realistically identify which of the parable characters you are. That will answer the question for now. Going forward we all must be the one that stops – but when the rest of the world is passing by it becomes the hardest thing in the world to do. Imagine it comes out in the Derby Telegraph that a reformed but notorious paedophile has moved into your area. Locals are furious, hate mounts and you are under pressure to agree. Then one day you notice a commotion gathering pace outside. Locals have found out where they live and have dragged the person into the street beaten them up and left them for dead. You are then faced with a question.

What must I do to receive eternal life?

Prayers of intercession

 

Allow time after each phrase to pray silently for those mentioned.

 
We pray for victims of violence, for victims of prejudice…
for those who are passed by in the streets of our cities,
for those whose needs are unwelcome…
for those whose wounds go untended, whose cries go unheard…
for those blinded by dogma, for those who create division…
for those afraid of their neighbours,
for those isolated in their communities…
 
We pray, too, for those courageous enough to cross boundaries:
for those whose compassion changes lives,
for those whose giving is costly,
for those whose ministry is dangerous.
 
Receive our prayers and make neighbours of strangers,
bring healing where there is pain,
vision where there is small-mindedness
and use us as the Good Samaritan used his donkey
to bring others to a place of safety and love.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Take a moment to reflect on your journey to church this morning, whether on foot or by car. Visualise the houses you passed, the people you saw on your way…
 
God of all,
we entrust to you those we have encountered
on our journey today:
those we greeted, those we looked away from,
those we didn’t notice, those we travelled with.
Bless those who live in the houses that we passed,
those who work in the neighbourhoods
that we travelled through.
Grant us the courage to initiate new conversations,
the determination to tackle old problems,
and the willingness to be united in a search
for the common good.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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