The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
The Rev. George Pejakovich
Luke 10:25-37

8 PENTECOST 2013 – LUKE 10: 25 – 37
Rev. George Pejakovich

THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN IS SO FAMILIAR THAT MOST OF US COULD RECITE IT FROM MEMORY. IT IS SO FAMILIAR THAT IT HAS EVEN ENTERED INTO THE SECULAR REALM, WHERE THERE ARE MANY “GOOD SAMARITAN” HOSPITALS AND EVEN “GOOD SAMARITAN” LAWS IN SOME STATES WHICH REQUIRE PROVIDING REASONABLE ASSISTANCE IN EMERGENCY CONDITIONS.

FOR BOTH THE CHURCHED AND THE UNCHURCHED, THE UNDERLYING CONCEPT OF THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN IS THAT, IN SOME WAY, EVERYONE IS OUR NEIGHBOR AND WE SHOULD ALWAYS EXTEND WHAT HELP AND AID AS WE ARE ABLE TO PROVIDE. WHILE THIS UNDERSTANDING OF THE PARABLE IS WELL AND GOOD, AND, IN SOME SENSE TRUE, IT IS NOT THE WAY JESUS USED THE PARABLE, NOR IS IT THE MEANING HE INTENDED WHEN HE TOLD IT.

JESUS WAS ON HIS FINAL JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM, AND TO THE CROSS ON WHICH HE WAS TO DIE. AS HE MOVED THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE, HE STOPPED IN VILLAGE AND TOWN TO PREACH ABOUT THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD. HE HAD CREATED QUITE A STIR, WITH LARGE CROWDS FOLLOWING HIM, AND HE HAD JUST SENT SEVENTY OF HIS DISCIPLES OUT TO SPREAD HIS MESSAGE FAR AND WIDE. THIS, OF COURSE, UPSET THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES, WHO WERE THE CUSTODIANS OF THE LAW OF GOD, SO THERE WERE ALWAYS SOME PHARISEES OR SCRIBES IN THE CROWD WAITING TO HEAR WHAT HE WOULD SAY. AT THIS STOP, AFTER JESUS HAD FINISHED SPEAKING, A LAWYER STOOD UP TO TEST HIM.

THIS WAS NOT THE KIND OF LAWYER WE HAVE TODAY, BUT RATHER AN EXPERT IN THE LAW REVEALED TO MOSES. THIS KIND OF LAWYER HAD SOME CHARACTERISTICS IN COMMON WITH MODERN LAWYERS; THEY WERE THOROUGHLY VERSED IN THE LAW, THEY CONTINUALLY STUDIED IT FOR ALL ITS DETAILS AND NUANCES, AND THEY RARELY ASKED A QUESTION TO WHICH THEY DID NOT ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER. WHETHER THE TEST OF THE LAWYER WAS TO SEE IF JESUS REALLY KNEW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT, OR TO SEE IF HE COULD TRIP JESUS UP BY MAKING HIM SAY SOMETHING FOOLISH, WE CAN NOT SAY. THE QUESTION HE ASKED IS INSTRUCTIVE; “TEACHER, WHAT ONE THING MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?” IN OTHER WORDS, “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE: TELL ME THE BOTTOM LINE.”

TO WHICH JESUS RESPONDS, “YOU’RE THE EXPERT; WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?” WITH THE QUESTION TURNED BACK ON HIM, THE LAWYER RECITES THE LAW OF GOD: “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.” THAT IS INDEED THE LAW OF GOD, AND JESUS TOLD HIM HE GAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER; “DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.”

AT THIS POINT IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE DISCUSSION IS ABOUT THE LAW OF GOD. LOVING GOD WITH ALL THAT YOU ARE, AND LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF, IS THE LAW OF GOD. I DEFY ANYONE TO TELL ME HE OR SHE HAS KEPT THE LAW, NEVER ONCE PUTTING SELF BEFORE GOD, OR SELF BEFORE THE NEIGHBOR. I KNOW THAT I HAVE NOT; MY HEART, MY SOUL, MY STRENGTH AND MY MIND HAVE VERY OFTEN BEEN DEVOTED TO SOME THING OTHER THAN THE LORD OUR GOD; AND, SINCE I AM THE VICE PRESIDENT OF OUR HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, PLEASE, DON’T GET ME STARTED ABOUT MY NEIGHBOR. LUTHER SAID THAT IF WE COULD KEEP THE FIRST COMMANDMENT PERFECTLY WE WOULD NOT NEED THE OTHER NINE. THE LAWYER, KNOWING THAT EVEN HE HAD NOT KEPT THE FIRST LAW OF GOD PERFECTLY, ASKED, TO JUSTIFY HIMSELF, “WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?” THIS WAY, IF JESUS SAID YOUR NEIGHBOR IS A FELLOW JEW, OR ANY OTHER CATEGORY, THE LAWYER COULD CLAIM TO HAVE ACTED RIGHTEOUSLY IN SOME WAY. THUS, JESUS TOLD HIM THE PARABLE OF THE MAN SET UPON BY BANDITS ON THE ROAD TO JERICHO.

THE FIRST LISTENERS TO THE PARABLE WOULD HAVE EXPECTED THE PRIEST OR THE LEVITE TO DO SOMETHING TO AID THE MAN IN THE DITCH. THE PRIESTS WERE THE REPRESENTATIVES OF GOD TO THE PEOPLE, AND THE LEVITES WERE MUCH LIKE OUR DEACONS OF TODAY. SURELY, THESE TWO REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FAITH OF ISRAEL WOULD KNOW THEIR OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE LAW OF GOD. HOWEVER, THE LISTENERS WOULD ALSO HAVE KNOWN THAT FOR ONE OF THEM TO TOUCH A DEAD BODY WOULD MAKE HIM RITUALLY UNCLEAN AND UNABLE TO SERVE AS A PRIEST OR LEVITE UNTIL HE UNDERWENT A RITUAL CLEANSING. YET, BOTH THE PRIEST AND THE LEVITE WERE RETURNING FROM JERUSALEM, WHICH MEANT THEY HAD COMPLETED THEIR TIME OF SERVICE. THEY USED THEIR ADHERENCE TO THE LAW OF GOD TO AVOID GOD’S LAW TO LOVE THEIR NEIGHBOR AS THEIR SELVES.

WHEN JESUS SAID A SAMARITAN CAME ALONG AND SAW THE MAN, THE EXPECTATION OF THE CROWD WOULD HAVE BEEN FOR THE SAMARITAN TO KICK THE WOUNDED MAN AND FINISH HIM OFF IF HE WERE STILL BREATHING. THE JEWS AND THE SAMARITANS HATED EACH OTHER, AND THE JEWS CONSIDERED THE SAMARITANS TO BE WORSE THAN GENTILES. NOT LONG BEFORE THIS TIME, THE SAMARITANS HAD POLLUTED THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM SO THE JEWS HAD TO CANCEL PASSOVER. SO WHEN JESUS SAID THAT THE HATED AND DESPISED ONE POURED OIL AND WINE AND BANDAGED THE WOUNDS OF THE INJURED MAN, SET HIM ON HIS DONKEY, TOOK HIM TO AN INN, STAYED WITH HIM THE NIGHT, GAVE MONEY TO THE INNKEEPER TO CARE FOR THE MAN, AND PROMISED TO RETURN TO SET THINGS RIGHT, THE CROWD MUST HAVE BEEN STUNNED. THEN WHEN JESUS ASKED, “OF THE THREE, WHICH ONE WAS THE MAN’S NEIGHBOR,” THE LAWYER HAD TO ANSWER, “THE ONE WHO SHOWED HIM MERCY.” THEN JESUS COMMANDED, “GO AND DO LIKEWISE.”

MERCY DOES NOT COME FROM THE LAW, EVEN THOUGH THE LAW OF GOD IS LOVE, BECAUSE WE, BY OURSELVES, WILL ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO TWIST THE LAW AND PUT OUR SELVES FIRST. MERCY, GRACE, COMES FROM BEYOND THE LAW; FROM THE DESPISED OUTSIDER, FROM THE REJECTED ONE, FROM THE ONE EVERYONE WANTS TO NAIL TO A CROSS BECAUSE WHAT HE TELLS US IS TOO UNCOMFORTABLE TO BEAR. THE LAW CONVICTS US, BUT THE MERCY, THE GRACE OF GOD, SAVES US AND RESTORES US TO HEALTH. WE CAN NOT DO ACTS OF LOVING KINDNESS TO OUR NEIGHBOR BY OUR SELVES; IT IS ONLY THROUGH THE LOVING KINDNESS OF GOD WHICH HE HAS EXTENDED TO US THAT WE CAN LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS OUR SELVES. IT IS ONLY WHEN WE REALIZE THAT WE WERE THE MAN IN THE DITCH, AND THAT GOD HAS REACHED OUT HIS HAND TO US IN LOVE, SAVING US AND RESTORING US, THOUGH HIS SON THAT WE CAN EXTEND THAT SAME HAND OF MERCY AND GRACE TO ANOTHER.

WHEN, THROUGH THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, WE REACH OUT THE HAND OF LOVE AND GRACE TO ANOTHER, THEN WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OUR SELVES. WHEN, THROUGH THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OUR SELVES, WE ARE, BY THAT SAME GRACE AND MERCY, LIVING THE LAW OF GOD. GOD HAS SHOWN HIS LOVE AND MERCY TO EACH OF US, NOW, WE MUST GO AND DO LIKEWISE.
AMEN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>