Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 10:25-37
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 10–Sunday Between July 10 and July 16 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

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 pouring 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 robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

DIAGNOSIS: Bad for the Neighborhood

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Passing By
The familiarity of this story of the Good Samaritan sometimes gets in the way of our appreciating how close it comes to home. That, as we will see, is also the malady for the lawyer, as well as the religious figures in the story itself. Thus, these characters are closer to who we are in this narrative. The lawyer’s “putting Jesus to the test” is his attempt to create some distance. More than simply having a deontological (rule-based) lifestyle, the lawyer-type is not ultimately interested in relationships–not with Jesus, not with any “neighbor,” and ultimately not with God. His preference is for more distance from such encounters. So he, like the priest and Levite, “pass by on the other side”–even after “seeing” the other.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Justifying Ourselves
The lawyer’s test for Jesus is just a front for a more, heart felt problem: his desire to justify his existence, to make himself look better than he really is. His distance is essential in order to maintain the front of security. The lawyer (like the priest and Levite–and us) seeks to create a comfortable box for his life, with all the problems solved in advance–and with no room for error/failing. As a result, the lawyer-type is incapable of admitting he may be wrong (let alone how deeply he may be wrong). There is always a good reason for everything–a “right answer.” But the answers only betray our own deep-seated lovelessness–which, in this narrative, is a sign of faithlessness.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: God’s Test
The insecurity and excuses of the heart are exposed in Jesus’ telling of the story in response to the question, “who is my neighbor.” Jesus’ call to mercy, “Go and do likewise,” is likewise accusatory–noting our failure to be a neighbor. However, even in the lawyer’s own rote response to the question about “what is written in the law” (loving God and loving neighbor) there is already a accusatory signal to us “passer-by-types.” Ultimately, we fail God’s test, and merit his accusation. The deus absconditus may be experienced as distance; but truthfully, God is closely watching–and critical.

PROGNOSIS: Good for the Neighborhood

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: The One Who Comes Near
The fact that Jesus is the Good Samaritan who “came near” to us, however, makes a difference. An outcast (Samaritan), ultimately under critical cross-examination, Jesus takes our distance from God away, bringing us near to the Father. He (like the priest and Levite) also sees us, but does not pass by. He is moved to compassion for us, heals our infirmities, and binds us to himself at great cost, paying whatever is necessary to bring us back.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Living, eternally, by faith
Because Jesus is our Good Samaritan, one of the first blessings is that we do not have to be responsible for nurturing our lives back to health. Neither do we have to be afraid to admit our sins and weaknesses. We get to live–not just now, but for all eternity–as those who have their source of life in the Good Samaritan. We are no longer distant from God, and we needn’t fear the truth that we may be wrong. Our “Right Answer” has come near to rescue us.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Looking for the Neighbor
Neither is our behavioral response to live in a moralistic manner as though we are the Good Samaritan. We trust that that role has already been filled by Jesus. But we, who have been brought near by the love of our Lord, do get to look upon our neighbor, and to look out for our neighbor. We do not pass by, but seek to be the neighbor, neither fearing the neighbor nor the consequences. And because we trust that our Lord is looking out for us, we may focus our attention on our neighbor–and become those upon whom they look as “good” for them.


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