Deuteronomy 30: 9-14
Psalm 25: 1-9
Colossians 1: 1-14
St. Luke 10: 25-37
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
In today’s Gospel we come upon a most loved parable given to us by Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan. Leading up to this parable a lawyer tried to trick Jesus with what he thought were crafty questions, all in an attempt to cause Jesus, who is literally God and will not fall for human tricks, to stumble. So the lawyer tries to put Jesus to the test and asks an incredibly loaded question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Now the first obvious answer is to perfectly follow the Law, but because no one short of Christ can do that then the second option which is purposely not provided on account of the lawyer’s presence is to have faith in the Son of Man.
Now the intent of the question was to trick Jesus into giving particulars, but instead of outright answering the lawyer with a statement, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question, thus redirecting the question back onto the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The thing is the Law gives a good answer to this question, and by saying how do you read it, Jesus is flipping script by making the lawyer the source of the interpretation. By now we all know lawyers, if one is openly antagonistic towards you then no matter what you say they will find some fault in your statement, as no longer is Jesus the one answering the lawyer, but the lawyer himself.
Now because the lawyer does not want to incriminate himself he doesn’t answer the “How do you read it?” question but only simple the “What is written in the Law?” question. 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.” Two things to note here. First, according to Luke it is not Jesus who said this but in all reality the shifty lawyer. So where did the lawyer get these two commandments? That leads us to the second note, that the answer given comes straight from the Old Testament. Love the Lord your God is Deuteronomy 6:5; Love your neighbor as yourself is Leviticus 19:18. The entirety of all the Laws can be summed up in these two commandments.
Upon hearing the correct answer Jesus tells the lawyer, as if he was the one who initially asked the question, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” I can imagine the lawyer puffing out his chest with a smug smile on his face, rubbing his finger under his nose, saying, “well I am a lawyer,” feeling a sense of accomplishment at getting the answer correct… but wait that’s not why I’m here! How dare Jesus trick me with his compliment. I did not come here receive answers but only to trick Jesus into providing an answer that I can later abuse and misrepresent.
So after realizing he was tricked by Jesus into answering his own question, which defeated the purpose of his trickery, he, feeling he needed to justify the whole point of him being there in the first place, asked a follow up question, “And who is my neighbor?”
O boy I got him now! You fooled me once, but you won’t fool me again. Ok, so what is his answer… oh a parable. Ok, typical Jesus. He does love his parables, but at the end of each parable he does elaborate. Let’s listen intensely so we can catch all that he says. Ah, he’s talking about a man who was robbed. A priest walks past the poor man; odd of Jesus to say that. A Levite! And the Levite walks pass the poor man too; what are you getting at Jesus? And now a Samaritan, horrible people, he passes the poor… no, he helps the poor man? Ok, well maybe there may be one out of a thousand Samaritans who would do that. The Samaritan takes care of the Jew, drives him to an inn, selflessly pays for his lodging, and promises further aid if needed. Boy, this Samaritan, I mean this is a parable, but I think Jesus would have done better if he replaced him with a Jew.
It is obvious that the lawyer was listening intensely to the point that he forgot his purpose for asking another question, for as soon as Jesus concluded the parable with, again, another question the lawyer immediately answered, “The one who showed him mercy.” No hesitation, the lawyer immediately answered, and correctly, but in the end Jesus once again tricked the lawyer into answering his own question. The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor?” The lawyer answers his own question, and Jesus looks at the lawyer and says, “You go, and do likewise.”
The whole point of this sermon is to express one simple statement, everyone is your neighbor and you should act in a neighborly way to all people. And the reason why Jesus didn’t just simple say this is because he wanted the lawyer to produce the answer himself. Another reason why Jesus answered the way he did because a more appropriate question the Lawyer should have asked was, “How can I be a loving neighbor?” To ask Jesus, who is my neighbor, must imply that there are those who are not your neighbor, which is at best improper.
Now there is one thing about the Jewish culture that we need to understand to bring more depth to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, and that is the great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. The two hated each other. The two viewed the other as an enemy, a thorn in their side. Whereas the Jews also despise the Romans who ultimate rule over them, their animosity towards the Samaritans runs much deeper. The same is true for the Samaritans towards the Jews. The two just could not stand each other. From the view of a Jew, a Samaritan would never have helped a downed poor man. In fact, of all the people on earth, the Jews would have gladly decategorized the Samaritans as their neighbor. Which is precisely why Jesus used the Samaritan as the example of someone acting neighborly. By why the intense animosity?
It goes back to the days when Israel and Judah was sacked by the Babylonians and once again became slaves. While the Jews lived multiple generations in slavery, a northern tribe near Israel not in slavery became after what is known as the Samaritans, or at least that is what they claim. In the end, when the Jews were released from their servitude and rebuilt Jerusalem, the Samaritans antagonistically accused the Jews of not being real followers of God. They falsely claimed that the Jews who were just released at the grace of God of alter Scripture, and that the Jews have no genealogical connection to Abraham. The Samaritans then boldly claimed that they were the only true religion of the ancient Israelites. And from there on the animosity went downhill, and 600 years later, it is these very same Samaritans that Jesus use to describe what it means to be neighborly.
No Jew would expect such aid from a Samaritan, for the unexpected aid from a Samaritan is unfathomable, but this is exactly why Jesus paints the picture of, of all people, a Samaritan helping a Jew. Everyone, even your enemies, is your neighbor. This is why Jesus commands us to love thy enemy, because even they are our neighbors.
Now today there are only an estimated thousand Samaritans left and that is shrinking fast. But this parable can be aptly used for any two groups of people who have extreme hatred for each other. We can even use fresh examples today such as Right vs Left, or Constitutionalist vs Socialist, or Christians vs Secularists, or Proud Boys vs Antifa. It doesn’t matter who takes the place of the poor man or who takes the place of the Samaritan, the story is still the same.
A pro-constitution American is robbed and beaten on the street. An originist judge walks by and ignores the down man. Next a libertarian with a “Don’t tread on me” shirt walks by and ignores the down man. But a Good Socialist walks by and uses only their own money to selfless care for the pro-constitutionalist. Another example; a member of Antifa gets robbed and beaten on the streets. A black clad Molotov cocktail wielding member walks by and ignores the down man. Next a speaker for Antifa does so likewise. But a Good Proud Boy walks by and aids the down man all while defending him from other attackers.
It doesn’t matter what example you use, for they would all work in this format. It doesn’t matter who the person is, they could be the person you hate above all else, they are still your neighbor.
And as the final example; the chief priest, the elders of the church, the Pharisees and Sadducees, all deemed Jesus to be the enemy and had him hung on the cross. Little did they know that Jesus’ mission was ultimately to die so that through Him all who have faith in Him will be saved. Jesus did not withhold His salvation from anyone, this much is most certainly true. Thus we know, that Jesus died on the cross, He did so as well for those who placed Him there. “Lord, forgive them for they no not what they are doing.” Jesus was to His killers, a Good Neighbor.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you who sent your Son to save all including those who despised Him from their sins also fill us with a Spirit of kindness mirroring your Son, that we look at our enemies and see for who they really are, a neighbor whose also in need. We pray in your name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.