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First Impressions: Luke 10:25-37

July 9, 2010

For the story of the Good Samaritan, I will preach a narrative sermon this week from the perspective of the man beaten by robbers.  At each act of kindness by the Samaritan, the wounded man will become more and more upset.  His position will be that it would have been better for him to have bled out in the ditch than to have been rescued by such a revolting person.  I will try to keep the story light and humorous, essentially using the story the same way that Jesus did—as an example of right action—but from a different perspective.  Fred Craddock calls it “an example of acting in love which is without preference or partiality and which expects nothing in return” (Interpretation:  Luke [Louisville: John Knox, 1990], 151.).

10:25 For the lawyer to “test” Jesus is not necessarily bad.  We ought to test public figures and ideas by delving deeper into them before uncritically accepting or rejecting them.  Perhaps the lawyer did not have a friendly—or even neutral—attitude toward Jesus, but I don’t think that can necessarily be read into the text.  It isn’t until chapter 11 that Jesus directly antagonizes lawyers.  Aside from that, the question is a reasonable one.  The preacher could prepare a sermon on that question alone.  As I see it, the answer is not about requirements, but about relationship, loving relationship with God and neighbor.

10:26-28 Even the law is about relationship rather than requirements.  It is the law itself that teaches us about being in right relationship.  Those connections, of course, are never about knowledge.  It isn’t knowing the right answers (as the lawyer, Jesus and most of us know them), but in living them out.  This is what Jesus encourages the man to do.

10:29 Again, the lawyer’s further question, an attempt to “justify” himself (as the NRSV and NIV; is this intentionally theological language?), may not necessarily be selfish or disingenuous.  The question of “who is my neighbor?” could be a simple case of making sure of what God requires, and honest attempt to please God.  Then again, it could be the lawyer’s way of knowing who could be safely excluded from his neighborly care.

10:30-35 I don’t have much comment on the Samaritan story itself, other than to remark that the man certainly went the extra mile in caring for the man.  He went out of his way, almost to an absurd degree—in time, effort and money—to help the injured man.  This is what gave me the idea to write a narrative sermon, to imagine the offended man’s increasing frustration as at each step the Samaritan extends his care, driving the knife deeper into the waylaid man’s pride.  He wonders when the offensive stranger will finally leave him alone.

As I considered the Samaritan, conceivably an enemy to the man in the ditch, I recalled Paul’s line in Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”  Did Luke intend for us to think of the Samaritan as a Christ figure who, while the man is yet an enemy, is then saved and restored?  And remember, the Samaritan will return.  “When I come back,” he said to the innkeeper, “I will repay you whatever more you spend.”  That could preach.

10:36-37 The wrap up dialogue between Jesus and the lawyer defines neighbor simply by a person’s willingness to act as a neighbor.  Proximity, goodness or badness, and prior relationship mean nothing.  All that is required is a willingness to act with compassion.  Go and do likewise.

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