Summary: A communion meditation for April 2, 2006 and the fourth sermon in a 2006 Lenten Series
Dramatic Introduction: ‘The Road to Jericho’ written by Arden and Peter Mead and published by the Creative Communications for the Parish, © 2004
In their comments on our main text, Arden and Peter Mead ask the question, ‘Where do you picture yourself in the story of the Good Samaritan? With what character (or characters) in that story do you identify?’ (1)
(2) Do you see yourself as…
The priest or Levite?
(3) What about….
(4) This morning we walk ‘The Road to Jericho’ as we continue in our Lenten series, ‘The Lenten Road.’ We have asked the question of each road that we have traveled so far, (5) ‘What kind of a road is this road?’
(6) Most certainly because of situation the victim experiences we can say that this is a road of conflict. (6A) And there are three kinds of conflict here – there is the actual physical conflict in the robbery and battery of the hapless victim on the road. The second conflict is implied in the use of the Samaritan because the audience who hears this conversation knows that the Jews and the Samaritans do not like each other. But there is also another level of conflict here as well and it is one that Jesus brings out in His use of the Samaritan to make a very important spiritual point. It is tied into the second conflict, it is about our attitude toward those who we consider ‘different.’
Let’s examine this story from the start by going back to verse 25. We read, ‘One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This story of conflict and mercy begins with a question. In fact all good stories begin with some kind of question. The question that prompts this story is about the conditions for ‘eternal life.’ ‘What must I do to receive eternal life?’
As He often does, Jesus comes back with a question that forces the questioner to look at his ‘Bible,’ his sacred writings which in this case is ‘the Law of Moses.’ ‘What does the law of Moses say?’ asks Jesus.
Well, the questioner, who already knows what it says, cites what we now call ‘the Great Commandment.’ ‘The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus goes on to affirm His answer by telling him “Right! Do this and you will live!”
Now, we know from Luke’s words at the beginning of our text, ‘an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus,’ that he had an agenda with his question and would be looking for an opening in which to trap him or get a ‘dig’ into to him.
In my mind’s eye, I see a slow smile come across his face as he gets prepared to try and justify himself (as Luke states in verse 29) as he springs the trap. ‘Who is my neighbor?’
Could there have been a snarl in his voice? Perhaps. Could there have been a slyness to it? Maybe.
But he asks the question and Jesus begins to tell the story of a ‘scab’ who shows mercy. (‘Scabs’ I would remind us is the term that is used for non-union workers used to fill jobs by usually striking union workers.) I wonder what Jesus’ tone of voice was in telling this story. Did He tell it with a straight face? Was He laughing internally at this ‘religious expert?’
Or was His tone of voice somewhat somber and sober? Or did He tell it with the proper emphasis at the proper time?
We don’t know how Jesus told the story but we do note that Jesus made His point because we can almost see the ‘tester’s’ facial expression changing before our eyes as Jesus, through His story, points out the failure of not one but two colleagues (the priest and the Levite) to show mercy when the Law required it and then has someone considered a ‘scab’ be an example of mercy.
Jesus did a lot with ‘scabs.’ He loved them, He called them to repentance and change, but He cared for them. They were just as capable of mercy as the ‘religious professionals.’
Who are the ‘scabs’ of our day? Who are those people that we have written off as unacceptable? Those who come from a different county, culture, and language and live next door? Those who see marriage in a different way than we do? Those who are of a different political persuasion than ours? (By the way, I would have us remember that Christians are considered by others to be ‘scabs.’)