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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preaching the Parable of the Good Samaritan pt. 3

What do you do when the point of the passage is obscured by what people think it means? This week I've been looking at how to preach an incredibly familiar passage like the parable of the Good Samaritan. One step is to break through the blinders of familiarity and let people see the passage afresh.

People think that the Good Samaritan story is all about how we should show mercy to those who are in need. We should be like the Samaritan and, in fact, that's what Jesus says at the end. We should go and do likewise. But the expert in the law wasn't asking about showing mercy, he was asking the identity of his neighbor. More than that, the rest of the chapter (Luke 10) doesn't have much to do with being merciful. But, there is a common thread woven through the chapter that might give a clue.

The first part of the chapter details Jesus sending out the 72 to prepare the way for him. They are to go out without sandals, a cloak or a purse -- no coat, no shoes and no wallet. Most places today would refuse them service immediately just because of their appearance. They were going out in complete weakness and dependence. Jesus' missionary strategy was to send out homeless beggars.

Then, after the parable, we get the story of Mary and Martha where Martha is mad that Mary is not doing any of the work. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen well and it won't be taken from her. Jesus tells Martha that effort doesn't necessarily make him happy, but relationship does.

I think the two threads of weakness and relationship come together in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The way the story is set up and the way that Jesus questions the law-expert make the Samaritan the neighbor to the person who was robbed. In answering the question of the law-expert ("Who is my neighbor?") Jesus makes him admit that it's the Samaritan.

Loving your neighbor, true relationship and with it true evangelism, come not from a position of power, but from one of weakness. We show love to our neighbor when we are willing to receive help from them. We engage in true relationship when we put people over tasks and things and we share the good news by being weak and relying on the kindness of others.

Is this a fair interpretation of the parable? Why is this interpretation often avoided or ignored?

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