Monday, January 30, 2012

Luke 10:29-37 - The Good Samaritan

Scripture Luke 10:29-37

[29] But he (a lawyer), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

[30] Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
[31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
[32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
[33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,
[34] and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
[35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'
[36] Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
[37] He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

When we hear about the story of the Good Samaritan we think it is wonderful parable, it is about the moral life, it is about taking care of those who are suffering, even those who are our natural opponents or enemies.

Certainly, that story does have that moralising sense but the Church Fathers saw something and it is reflected in the Chartre Cathedral window in France which shows the story of the Good Samaritan and the story of the Fall of Man intertwined. They saw something at a deeper level and which is evocative of the great story of Christian faith. What I mean by that, is the story of our fall and of our redemption.

True hero of the parable of the Good Samaritan is Christ, symbolised by this outsider who had compassion.

Let us look at this story in light of this interpretive key.

How’s it begin?

A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

In the literal sense, even today people will tell you that the road to Jericho literally goes down and of course Jerusalem is built on Mount Zion but it is a dangerous twisting road.

In Jesus day it was full of robbers and threats.

Now lets read it spiritually.

This man goes down from Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in the Bible stands for heaven, peace, reconciliation with God. It is the City of the Lord, the Holy City.

He went down from there to Jericho. This is a spiritual symbol of our fall from Grace.

Jerusalem stands for our union with God on the Holy Mountain.

Jericho is the place of perdition, the place of sin.

This wanderer is everyone, all of us who have fallen from grace to sin.

Isn’t it wonderful too – he fell victim to robbers.

Christians, when we walk the path of sin, when we go from Jerusalem to Jericho we are robbed of our spiritual powers, our peace, our sense of purpose, our centeredness. When we walk the path of sin we are robbed of the life that God wants us to have.

More to the point, we are beaten up and left half dead, as this man was.

That is a wonderful spiritual symbol.

What has sin done to us?

It hasn’t killed us spiritually. We haven’t lost our image of God.

We haven’t lost our spiritual powers but we have lost the likeness unto God.

That is to say, we have lost our friendship with God.

Sin has literally beaten us up and left us half dead, unable to save ourselves.

Think of sin here, as a kind of quagmire.

A condition we have fallen into and we can not extricate ourselves from it.

In fact the more you struggle to get out of the quagmire or quicksand, the quicker you go under.

So this is a picture of us, all of us.

Spiritually lost, unable to save ourselves.

Beaten up and left half dead.

What happens next in the parable?

A priest happens to be going down that road and when he saw him he past by on the opposite side.

Likewise, a Levite came by and when he saw him he past by on the opposite side.

The priest and the Levite.

Two officials. Two representatives of the religious establishment of the time.

Important figures. Powerful figures.

Those who embodied for the Jews of Jesus time all that was best in their own tradition.

And they can’t save him!

I want to put the stress on can’t rather than won’t.

I think at the heart of this story is the claim that they can’t save him.

Christians, when we are caught in the grip of sin, we are in the quagmire of our spiritual dysfunction.

What can save us?

Nothing or nobody who is in the same quagmire with us.

If we were up to our neck in quicksand, the one person who can’t help you is the person right next to you who is up to their neck in the quicksand.

A basic intuition of the Bible is we all have sinned.

Saint Paul say that, we all have sinned and fall and short of the glory of God. There is no one righteous. Not one.

That means, we are all caught in the web, in the quagmire of this dysfunction.

I don’t care how exalted a poet you are.

I don’t care how insightful a scientist you are.

I don’t care how bold a social reformer you are.

You can’t save anyone from sin.

GK Chesterton said “we are all in the same boat and we are all sea sick.”

That is the human condition. We are all caught in it.

The fact that the priest and the Levite can’t save this man is symbolic of this fact.

Now is this all bad news?

The fact that the priest and the Levite can’t save this man is symbolic of this fact.

Now is this all bad news?

No, because now comes the saviour.

A Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

This outsider, this half breed.

Of course, the Samaritans were the descendents of those Jews that stayed behind during the exile and intermarried with non Jews.

So they were seen by Jews as second rate, as half breeds.

And this is the one who has compassion and gets down off his beast of burden and cares for the man who is left half dead.

Who is the only who can save us?

No one in the quagmire.

But listen now.

Only someone who is humble enough to into the quagmire with us and yet powerful enough to draw us out of it.

In other words, only that half breed, who is both human and divine.

Low enough to reach us, strong enough to rescue us.

Christians, this is the heart of our faith.

We are all in sin.

No one can save themselves.

We can’t save each other, but yet one comes who is both weak and strong enough, both low and high enough to save us.

And this is symbolised beautifully in this Good Samaritan, this half breed, this outsider.

He is the one who has compassion on him.

All of us are caught in the web of sin. We are all a kind of dysfunctional family. Nobody from within a dysfunctional family can save the family from the dysfunction because they are all too tainted by it. It is only when someone comes from outside of the dysfunctional family that there is a real possibility of resolution. So in our spiritual dysfunction of sin, we need an outsider - Christ, who is both divine and human.

He poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.

That’s terrific.

Oil and wine symbolises the whole sacramental life of the Church.

Oil that is used at Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders

Oil is the sacramental life of the Church, which is a participation in the being and power of Christ.

He pours wine into his wounds. That is the wine of the Eucharist.

When we drink the blood of Christ and we take His life into us.

The sacramental life of the Church is our way of participating in the salvation that Christ offers us.

Isn’t it wonderful how it heals us of our wounds?

What are the wounds of sin?

The darkening of the mind – we don’t see things right.

A weakening of the will – we choose all the wrong things.

Selfishness, violence, hatred.

They are all the wounds of sin.

What do the sacraments of the Church do?

They heal us. Christ pours these in and then He bandages the wounds.

You want to be healed.

Then He lifted him up on his own animal.

That’s a great detail.

He lifts him up and places him on his own beast of burden.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

What does Christ do?

He bears our burden.

Sin is a kind of burden. It weighs us down.

It keeps us from being fully alive.

We can’t lift it off our own shoulders.

We can’t save ourselves.

But the good news is, this one who is weak and strong enough has lifted us up onto his own beast of burden.

Christ bears our sin.

He bears the weight of our dysfunction and thereby saves us.

He takes away the sin of the world.

There is a wonderful final detail in the story.

Finally, he took out two silver coins and he pays the inn keeper to care for this man.

We speak of Jesus as Saviour.

We also speak of Him as the Redeemer – which comes from a Latin word which means “to buy back”.

Sin is a quagmire. Sin is a sickness. Sin is being wounded. Sin is also “being held for ransom”.

The ransom was paid.

We were imprisoned in sin but now in and through Christ that ransom has been paid.

We have been redeemed.

Bought back. Paid for.

And so in this story He took out two silver coins and He pays the innkeeper, liberating us from sin.

Christians, what sets up this story?

Remember it is the man who asks who is my neighbour?

Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself.

Well who is my neighbour?

In response to that question Jesus tells this story.
In light of this interpretation which I have given, which is a very old one, the neighbour is Christ.

He is the one who has emptied himself out of love for us.

He is the one who put us on His own beast of burden. Who paid us back.

Who emptied Himself that we might have life.

The whole point of the Christian life is to be a neighbour to others as Christ is a neighbour to us.

Everything else is commentary.

God bless you.

Source: Fr Robert Barron audio sermons

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