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07.14.13 The Priesthood of Believers Luke 10.25-37 Sermon Summary

by on July 15, 2013

The story of the Good Samaritan appeals to our hope that goodness exists everywhere, but it also exposes an ugly side of our humanity.

Summary Points

  • The popular appeal of the parable of the Good Samaritan
  • The question all students of the Scriptures eventually ask
  • The surprising answer Jesus gives
  • The shocking revelations of the parable
  • How even you can have eternal life
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

You’ve seen those “Good Sam” bumper sticker on RVs, right? And you know the State Farm jingle, “Like a good neighbor . . .” These reflect the reason Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan is so popular: It suggests that at any time, in any place, we can find good people doing good things.

In this scene from Luke, the Lawyer asks Jesus a question. Lawyers in Jesus’ time aren’t what we think of them today (though this one does resemble one later in the story, as we’ll see below). Instead, in Jesus’ day, Lawyers were highly educated students of the scriptures. This lawyer has studied the Scriptures and comes to a question that anyone who studies these Scriptures eventually asks: “How can I have eternal life?”

Jesus’ answer, which he gives outright in the parallel accounts of this scene in the other Gospels, but which he draws out of the Lawyer in Luke, is “Love God, and love your neighbor.” These two loves are related in Jesus’ mind. They share a relationship of cause and effect: If you love God, you will love your neighbor. If you don’t have the effect, you have to wonder if you have the cause . . . But they’re also related as end and means: the way you love God is by loving your neighbor.

It’s interesting to notice also that Jesus’ answer is a “here and now” reality. “Eternal life” isn’t something we wait for, it’s something we can experience right now. We can love God and we can love our neighbor. This is implied by Jesus’ final word to the Lawyer, “Go and do likewise.”

The Lawyer asks a follow up question to the “eternal life” question: “Who is my neighbor?” Again, if this lawyer was like today’s lawyers, we might suspect him of trying to find a loophole in the whole “loving my neighbor” thing. But I believe he truly wants to be faithful. He knows, as we know, that loving God and loving neighbor is the summary of the Scriptures, but he wants more concrete direction.

Jesus’ answer, of course, is the Parable of the Good Neighbor. In the parable, two people see the destitute man and pass by on the other side of the road. It could have been any two people, but Jesus makes them a Priest and Levite. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t wait for the paid professionals to act like the neighbor—anyone, even you, can do it.”

The third person to see the destitute man stops to help him. Again, he could have been any person, even a lawyer, which would have driven the point home quite nicely for the Lawyer. But here again, Jesus makes a specific point by making the third person a Samaritan. Jews hated Samaritans, and the Lawyer is no exception. This is why (and here he does sound like a contemporary lawyer), the Lawyer, when asked by Jesus who was the neighbor to the destitute man, couldn’t utter the word “Samaritan.” Instead he answers, “The one who showed him mercy.”

This reveals a very dark side of our humanity. The Lawyer’s problem is not that he doesn’t know who his neighbor is. It is that his fear of others doesn’t allow him to see his neighbor. And his fear is based on race and religious bigotry. That’s why Jesus makes the third man a Samaritan. Think about it: We all have “Samaritans” in our lives—people if we were in trouble we’d rather stay in trouble, even perhaps die, than have them help us.

But that’s who the hero is—the Samaritan, the other, the one of a different race and religion. The Samaritan shows us the path to eternal life.

I love this story from our Presbyterian News Service. It tells of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt and how it is acting as the good neighbor. Here is an excerpt:

“After the Jan. 25 revolution (2011), we started realizing that we needed to take part in society, to find a way to be helpful to the state,” said Hani Behman, an engineer, a Presbyterian and a member of what is being called the Citizenship Committee — a gathering of Christians across denominational lines to build a better future for Egypt.

Before the revolution, and because of its minority status, the church was often more like a shelter from the world rather than an outpost from which to be sent into the world.

But that sense has shifted dramatically in the past two and a half years, and the move from shelter to solidarity is having quite an impact.

“We want to be helpful to our society — in the same way that the previous missionaries were more than 100 years ago who came to found schools and hospitals and outward-looking activities,” continued Behman.

Vivien Zaki is another leader of the Citizenship Committee’s. “Christians are thought about as immoral people because of the image portrayed from Western movies,” she said. Often, Muslims in Egypt formed their perceptions of Christians from such media outlets rather than from personal encounters. “When we started to speak out — which wasn’t allowed before the revolution — these perspectives of Christians began to change.”

But Christians in Egypt are doing more than speaking — they are backing up their words with actions.

One such example, part of the ministry of the Citizenship Committee, is the mobile clinics that are set up during protests or other encounters that escalate into violence. These church-run clinics don’t wait for the injured to come to them. Instead, they go out into the violence to help the injured, regardless of politics or religion.

“We move to where the troubles are,” Behman said. “If there is something in Tahrir Square, we send our people to where the problem is. We don’t wait inside. We are active.”

Through such tangible acts of love, compassion and self-sacrifice, the church hopes its witness will be seen as evidence of their Christian faith and Egyptian citizenship.

Behman told a story of one man affiliated with a radical Islamist group who was injured during a clash in a recent demonstration. He came into the mobile clinic unsure whether he would be treated and afraid of being shot because of his religious and political affiliation.

“I gave him something cold to drink and asked if he wanted something to eat as he was waiting,” Behman said. “I said to him, ‘We are the church and we are here to give you a hand. You are safe here with us.’ I think he began to reconsider his truth”

It is not easy work. It is not quick work. It can often be discouraging and challenging.

“We are not safe,” Zaki said. “We are not secure. But we are not afraid and we will not back down. If we do, what will happen to Egypt then?”

We Christians are called to be Samaritans. What does that look like? Well, the Samaritan was just a Samaritan. Hani Behman is just an engineer. Amos was a just shepherd and a fig farmer. What are you? Can you be open to the Spirit’s leading when you are simply being you Monday through Saturday? Like the Samaritan, can you be moved by pity through the Holy Spirit to help someone in need while you are on your way, on your route, in your routines?

If so, when you see the need—and I guarantee you, if you are open, you will see a need—will you meet it, even exceed the need like the Samaritan did? Will you, even you, follow the Samaritan’s example and love God by loving your neighbor, by being the neighbor?

If so then you will discover that you are living your eternal life, even now.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Throughout the Bible, God promises life in relation to his Word, culminating in the famous statement by Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, “I have come to give life to the full” (John 10:10, see John 1:14). Does your reading of the Bible generate a desire for “eternal life”?
  • How do your love for God and love for neighbor relate to one another? Do you depend on your love for God to be able to love your neighbor? Do you love your neighbor as a way of loving God?
  • Have you been waiting for your priest, your minister, your church’s paid staff or volunteer leaders to “love your neighbor” for you? Why don’t you do it yourself?
  • Share about a time when a “good Samaritan” helped you. Share how you will seek and find a neighbor in need to whom you can be a “good Samaritan” this week.

 

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