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Who Are You?
Who do you identify with in the parable? This is part of what makes parables so powerful. Some days we read the story through the eyes of the priest or the Levite. Some days we feel like the Samaritan. And then there are those days when we are the man in the ditch. Some days you are the windshield and some days you are the bug, as the saying goes.
It is easy to miss the shocking nature of this parable if we start to think that this story only teaches us to imitate the Samaritan. The parable says so much more about God, our relationship to God, and the lengths to which God will go to reach out to us.
Through the image of the Samaritan, Jesus lifts up a surprising rescuer as an image of the God who relentlessly cares for those in need. Could it be that we are meant to identify not with the Samaritan or even the lawyer to whom Jesus speaks the parable, but rather with the man who is hopeless and left for dead? Could it be that Christ is the good Samaritan who embraces us with the tender compassion of God?
All of the sudden the parable is turned on its head. Jesus is not just giving us a comfortable morality tale reminding us to be nice, helpful, generous people. Instead Jesus is proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. God’s grace comes to us through the cross. God’s grace comes to us even—and especially—when we are at our worst, when we struggle in the depths and cry out for help. Even when we cannot or will not cry out, mercy and grace come into our lives through Jesus. So whether you are on the road or in the ditch, Jesus even now is coming for you.
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
Jesus is challenged to explain what is involved in obeying the greatest commandment. He tells a parable rich in surprises: those expected to show pity display hard hearts while the lowly give and receive unexpected and lavish mercy.
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He 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.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”