Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Good Samaritan ... where are we?

The Gospel for this Sunday, Luke 10:25-37, is a rich place to mine.  Even before we get to the familiar parable, the exchange between the expert in the law and the young upstart Rabbi Jesus is full of tension.  For Jesus to turn the question back on the law expert, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" is both a chance for the expert to show off, and a trap.  Jesus responds to him (how condescendlingly!) "You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live."

The whole idea of the expert in the law wanting to justify himself is another sermon in itself.  We are not justified by our works, but the expert didn't get it.  He wanted to show off his knowledge about different Rabbinical traditions as to what constituted a neighbour.  And Jesus actually doesn't answer his question.  Instead of an opinion on who would have status of neighbour (factual information), Jesus asks who acted as neighbour (action).

Again, "Go and do likewise" would have had the law expert spluttering with indignation!  To be thus humiliated in front of other people!

It's helpful, too, with every parable, to ask, "Where are we?"  We'd like to think that we're not like the priest or Levite, and rather like the Good Samaritan.  Of course, first and foremost we are the poor wretch who is left half-dead on the road.  It is only when we understand this Law message that we can appreciate the gospel, and the gospel imperative to bear fruit in doing good - by going and doing likewise.



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