Parable of Good Samaritan

We come to a passage this morning that is likely one of the most well known passages in Scripture. It is also one of those passages that is one of the most misinterpreted and most ill used.

It is a simple enough passages. Two exchanges between Jesus and a Religious Lawyer at the time. I believe that the exchange was adversarial between the two. In other words I believe the the intent of the Lawyer in questioning Jesus was not benign. I advance this because of the word “test” in the passage.  The Lawyer “stands up” which was a sign of respect in the culture and asks a question to “test Jesus.”

We see this “testing of Jesus” frequently by his detractors.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. (Mt. 16)

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Mt. 19)

They said this to test Him, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.  (John 8)

The fact that this is an adversarial setting is important to keep in mind because in such situations Jesus seldom gives a straight answer to questions but instead often answers their questions with questions. What happens here is no different. The Lawyer asks questions and Jesus deflects the questions with questions of His own to drive the conversation Jesus desires.

Well, back to how the text is misused. Time does not allow us to go as fully in depth in dismissing these errant readings as I would like. I want to raise them. Try to dismiss them. Then move on to the correct reading of the Parable.

I.) Mis-reading #1 — The Good Samaritan Parable Was Given In Order to Support Amnesty Legislation for Illegal Immigrants in the West.

I can’t tell you how much material I’ve run across in preparation this week which appeals to the Parable of the Good Samaritan as the template that all Christians must use in order to demand that amnesty for illegal immigrants be put in place.

The Good Samaritan has been made the tool of Social Justice Warriors everywhere and by it we are being taught that in order to inherit eternal life we must disinherit ourselves and our children so that the alien and the stranger can inherit the here and the now. This is an exceptionally un-neighborly thing to do to our Children and our descendants. According to this interpretation the teaching of the Good Samaritan means that we must treat our children and our people as Aliens and Stranger in order to treat Aliens and Stranger like our children and our people.

The failure with this interpretation lies in the attempt to universalize a particular obligation. Jesus is teaching here in a very specific and particular situation.  The Lord Christ was not laying down policy for 21st century Nation States to take up. He was not creating new policy for Magistrates of all time everywhere to pursue. He was speaking to a religious Lawyer in order to crack his smug confidence that he indeed was a good person.

Jesus is giving ethical instruction, I believe, to the end that the Lawyer would see that he is not an ethical person.

The thinking that insists that the parable of the Good Samaritan is about immigration and amnesty policy, if taken literally, would mean the disappearance of borders and nations and peoples. It is a world where we can

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do

Upon giving this Parable, Jesus was not setting National or International Policy. He was not teaching on the Universal brotherhood of all man. He was not negating the reality of ever widening concentric circles whereby we first have to look out for our own who are of the household of faith. Jesus was not negating the prioritizing of them who are of the household of faith in terms of our care and affection.

He is simply teaching that in the course of our daily living, as we walk through life, when we come upon a real live human being in desperate need of care we have a duty and privilege to care for the least of these.

Some will retort that by seeing this passage as individual and personal that I am not loving my neighbor. Some will insist that by not championing that the Government open up the borders that I am not loving my neighbor. But what of my next door neighbor who can’t find work? How loving is it to that neighbor to glut the market with cheap labor so he will never find work? What of the minority communities in this country who’s unemployment rate is 25-30% in some quarters? Is it neighbor love to them to insist on an amnesty which will cement their unemployment? Is it neighbor love to fellow Christians to invite in a global population that is hostile to Biblical Christianity? Is it neighbor love to Christian women to open the borders to those from misogynistic cultures?

Those who want to use the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the end of pursuing the Cultural Marxist agenda of Social Justice have only incompletely thought through the matter. In many instances the misuse of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is just a means to advance a liberal humanist non Christian agenda.

Much more could be said but time wanes.

II.) Mis-reading #2 — The Good Samaritan Parable Was Given In Order That We Might Be Able to Inherit Eternal Life

One of the curios of this passage is that many people don’t bother to spend the time to point out that Jesus is not here pointing out how it is that someone can go about inheriting eternal life.

What the Lord Christ is doing here is showing the folly of the premise of the Lawyer. You want to inherit eternal life? Fine … go to the law and fulfill all that it requires you will inherit eternal life?

What does it mean to fulfill the law to love God and neighbor? Well, let me tell you a story. Now, you go on loving God and neighbor in just this way and you will indeed inherit eternal life.

The “Go and do likewise” we find at the end of the passage was NOT good news.  The impact of the “go and do likewise” at the end of the passage would have been punctuated by the sound of wind being sucked through the collective audience’s teeth as they doubtless asked themselves “who then can be saved.”

The impact of this teaching, I am convinced, is to bring the man to the end of himself. The necessity of loving God with all my heart, soul and mind and my neighbor as myself as a prerequisite for inheriting Eternal life is not good news for humans this side of heaven. We are a people who are incessantly self centered. In even the most thoroughly converted of us we tend to look to our own interest and not the interests of others. We have problems loving our own kith and kin unselfishly never mind the complete stranger … or worse yet time worn enemies.  What Jesus tells this man he must do to inherit eternal life is not possible for those of us who know ourselves.

Love God and neighbor? Is that all? Well why didn’t you tell me that sooner Jesus? No problem. Is that the way we would really have God’s people think about this passage? As ministers do we want our people leaving service thinking that they can indeed do something to inherit eternal life?

So, why does Jesus play along with the Lawyer here? Why not just say … “Only legal heirs inherit eternal life, there is no doing unto Eternal life?”

Likely the answer to that is that Jesus desired the Lawyer to come to that conclusion by lifting the requirement bar for doing that would bring inheritance so high that the Lawyer would conclude, “Who then can be saved.”

Jesus speaks this way from time to time. When he says that “ye must be perfect even as your heavenly father is perfect,” He raises the behavior standard so high for inheritance of heaven that it is seen as impossible.  When Jesus gives the behavioral standard for a rich man to get into heaven He is met with the exclamation … “who then can be saved.” When Jesus speaks this way the intent is to both esteem the Law AND to bring people to an end of themselves in terms of thinking of themselves in terms of doing the law in order to inherit eternal life.

So, this parable is not here so that people can love God and neighbor so well that they can inherit eternal life. The passage is not here to stoke confidence in the self which is exactly what the Lawyer is seeking to accomplish. We know this because the text tells us of the Lawyer,

29 But he, desiring to justify himself  …

Benson in his commentary offers,

(He asks this), to show he had done this, and was blameless, even with respect to the duties which are least liable to be counterfeited … ”

The Lawyer wanted it to be clearly seen that he indeed had fulfilled the law in terms of loving God and neighbor and had earned his inheritance of Eternal life. Jesus tells the parable, I’m convinced, in order to dissuade this Lawyer and everybody else of this conviction.

So, the Good Samaritan Parable Was not Given In Order That We Might Be Able to convince ourselves that we are the excellent doers, who, because of our doing, will inherit eternal life.

So, what is the proper reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If these are improper readings what is the proper reading of this text.

III.) The Proper Reading of This Text Examined

A.) A proper reading of the parable reminds us that the function of the law is both a street light to show us our sin and a guide to life.

Jesus goes to the Law, thus demonstrating He is not antinomian.

But the Law has more than one purpose. As I have said earlier the purpose here is to cut out the legs from underneath this self righteous lawyer’s misinterpretation and smugness.

However, this does not mean that the law does not have the purpose as a guide to life. It should be our intent to be a people who help others in need as we have opportunity and means.

And so a proper reading of this text esteems the law, as rightly interpreted.

B.) A proper reading of the parable casts us upon Christ.

Our tendency in reading the Scriptures is always to make the Scripture about ourselves. This text is no different. Often we leave the text examining ourselves to see if we have been Good Samaritans in our lives. And there is nothing automatically wrong with that. Scripture calls for self examination.

However before we make the passage subjective as about us we should pause to ask if the passage is about someone else being a good Samaritan.

Examined closely the parable of the good Samaritan is not teaching us about what our immigration policy should be. After all, this parable was not given in order for the Magistrate to set policy but it was given that men might see Christ and their own individual duty. The parable is not teaching us that we can earn eternal life. After all, if loving God and neighbor perfectly is the standard who can earn eternal life? The parable is only about us after it is about Christ. Christ is the good Samaritan who found us as beaten by the fall and stripped of any hope. The Priest and the Levite, representatives of the Law, passed by, unable and unwilling to do us any good. It is Lord Christ, who was, just as the Samaritan was, one who was not received by the institutional religious community and it is the Lord Christ, just as the Good Samaritan, who stops and binds up our wounds and gives us the medicinal oil and wine of the Gospel … who has compassion upon us as completely unable to help ourselves … who took it upon Himself to do all the doing that we as beaten sinners could not do.

You see, we are not so much the Good Samaritans of the account here. We are the unidentified chap robbed, beat up, and left for dead. The Good Samaritan is Christ who has bound up our wounds and treated us with the oblation of Himself.

Here is the picture of inheriting eternal life. We were left for dead and someone came along and did all the doing.

If we have any hope to be Good Samaritans ourselves it is only in light of the reality that Christ was first our own Good Samaritan. He had pity on us as beaten and stripped sinners and provided our healing and paid all our costs.

The parable thus shows that Eternal life is not a matter of us fulfilling all the law and so being worthy of life as inheritance. The parable demonstrates the Gospel of Christ as doing what we can’t do for ourselves.

________________________

Conclusion

1.) Many people want to use this parable to show that Jesus was sharply attacking communal or racial prejudices. I don’t see that in the text. The chap beaten up was unidentifiable. The Priest and the Levite do not pass by because they know the victim is Gentile or Samaritan or Jew. There is no communal or racial prejudice connected with their passing by.  They pass by in keeping with their teaching from the book of Ecclesiasticus,

12 When you do a good deed, make sure you know who is benefiting from it; then what you do will not be wasted.[a] You will be repaid for any kindness you show to a devout person. If he doesn’t repay you, the Most High will. No good ever comes to a person who gives comfort to the wicked; it is not a righteous act.[b] Give to religious people, but don’t help sinners. Do good to humble people, but don’t give anything to those who are not devout. Don’t give them food, or they will use your kindness against you. Every good thing you do for such people will bring you twice as much trouble in return. The Most High himself hates sinners, and he will punish them. Give to good people, but do not help sinners.

They pass by because of concerns about becoming ceremonially unclean.

If Jesus is sharply attacking anything He is sharply attacking what He constantly attacks in Scripture and that is the damnable hypocrisy of the Religious leadership.

Jesus introduces the Samaritan in order to demonstrate that those thought to be religiously and racially vile are more righteous than the supposed religious good guys.

The Samaritan likewise knows nothing about the victim. The point isn’t that he is rising above his racial prejudices. The point is that the hated Samaritan enemy is more of a lawkeeper than the righteous.

2.) We live in an age, as one writer has put it, of pornographic compassion. We bleed over the sensationalism made by the news media of the suffering in Rawanda, or Afghanistan, or Syria, all the while we turn a blind eye to the needs that Jesus has brought to our own feet found among our family and neighbors. We rush past the stripped and beaten of our own circle of influence so that we can feel good about ourselves by how big a check we cut for the stripped and beaten 4000 miles away.

In the words of Thomas Fleming,

“We have been plagued … by the cynical sentimentalism that raises trillions of dollars to help strangers while poisoning us against the needs of family, neighbors, and friends.”

Ask the Pastor…. “But Christians Aren’t Under the Law?”

 

Dear Pastor,

Scripture says that we (Christians) are no longer under law. Can you explain to me why you teach that Christians are obliged to walk by God’s Law-Word?

Patrick
Colon, Michigan

Dear Patrick,

Let’s look at the passage that you reference

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Paul is using the word “law” here to designate that which must be fulfilled as a required precursor to acceptance with God. The Christian has been delivered from being under law as a means of find peace with God. As such, when St. Paul says here that we are not “under law” he is not suggesting that God’s law is no longer relevant to the Christian. Paul is saying that the Christian is not under law as a systematic program to escape condemnation.

If Christians did yet remain under the law as a totalistic program for righteousness then sin would continue to have dominion over the Christian since the law, as a program for righteousness, cannot deliver but can only accuse. Because the Christian is under the reign of grace as God’s means of righteousness the Christian can refuse to let sin reign in their mortal bodies. “Under the reign of Grace” provides a power source for dealing with sin that “Under the reign of Law” could never provide, dead as we were in Adam.

Note also, though that at the Apostle repeatedly talks about “sin.” This implies a necessity for the concept of law because there is no way to even know what sin is apart from a standard (God’s Law) by which sin can be defined and identified. If we were to be done with the law, as many Christians advocate, then we would also be done with any concept of sin. It does me no good to encourage me to say no to sin or to lust if at the same time there is no law that standardizes what sin is.  How could we possibly know what behavior, thinking, attitudes please our great Liege-Lord apart from His Law-Word?

Christ did not redeem us so that we might walk contrary to His Law-Word. The Law’s intent is not so that by the keeping of it we can be saved. We can’t keep it as it is needed to be kept. That is why Christ came as our covenant head. Our Lord Christ fulfilled the law in our stead and because of the righteousness accounted to us we are counted Law keepers. Similarly, our covenant head, the Lord Christ, bore our penalty in our place on the Cross that our indebtedness to the Law is fulfilled as we are united to Christ.

BUT now that the law has been fulfilled for us in Christ’s law keeping and penalty bearing we now walk in terms of God’s law. We delight in God’s law now, not as means of gaining something we do not have. We delight in God’s law now, as a consequence of being given something, via imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that we could not earn or merit.

As WCF IX:18 notes, “Law and grace do doth sweetly comply (agree).” We can not posit Grace against law for the Christian. God’s law for the Christian is gracious and God’s grace unto the Christian was due to its honoring all that the law required.

So, now we study God’s law in order to more fully delight in God’s grace.

Some will contend that we have been delivered from the law and so interpret that to mean that we have nothing to do with the law. This is an unfortunate error in interpreting and thinking. The aspect of the law that we have been delivered from is the condemning aspect of the law. Because we are in Christ we are delivered from the law’s condemnation. There is, after all, therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, deliverance from the law’s condemnation is not equal to the idea of no longer having anything to do with the law. This is why the inspired Apostle can say that; “The law is Holy, Righteous, and Good.”

Praise God for His kindness to usward as expressed by giving us His Law-Word. Praise God that the Lord Christ was and remains the embodiment and incarnation of God’s Law. To properly love God’s law is to love Christ. Correspondingly a lack of love for God’s Law-Word is a lack of love for Christ.

Meandering Thoughts On The One and The Many

Diversity absolutized would end in the uniformity of absolute diversity.  In point of fact absolute diversity is impossible since sameness must exist in order to identify diversity. In a world of absolute diversity one could not recognize diversity because in order to measure diversity there has to be a corresponding idea of sameness in order to measure diversity. Hence absolute diversity leads to uniformity. If everything is different than nothing can be different because no continuity would exist between the differentiated things in order to know recognize and identify differentiation. If diversity is absolutized so that uniformity is allegedly eclipsed than the consequence is a absolute uniformity of differentiation where everything is the same because nothing is the same.

In the same way Uniformity absolutized is the end of uniformity. If there is no determinative way or manner in which uniformity can be distinguished from differentiation then how could we possibly know if there is uniformity? Uniformity requires the reality of differentiation in order to be able to identify uniformity. If everything is the same nothing is the same. If everything is Macaroni and Cheese than how can we know what Macaroni and Cheese is if there nothing to differentiate it from anything else?

Uniformity and diversity need each other because without each other neither can exist or find meaning as Uniformity nor as diversity.

Of course the denial of Uniformity and diversity is a denial of the God of the Bible and without the God of the Bible no meaning can be located anywhere. God is the Transcendent One and Many which gives meaning to all the Immanent One and Many’s.

I Corinthians 4:4 … The God of this age (world).

The god of this age (world) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I Corinthians 4:4

When Scripture teaches that “Satan is the God of this world,” what one needs to understand is that Paul is using “world” in a technical fashion. “World” here means “as this world lies in Adam.” It is a truism that as this world lies in Adam Satan is the God of that world. However, what it does not mean is that Satan is over planet earth. To not see that distinction would give us a contradiction with Scripture that teaches that the Lord Christ is in possession of “all authority” in heaven and on earth as well as those passages that teach that the “Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Obviously St. Paul is not introducing some kind of Manichean dualism by positing two competing Gods … one over things not of this world and one over this world.

St. John quotes Christ as saying, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” In the work of the Cross Satan was driven out. He has no power except to those who are of their Father the Devil, but even then, just as with Job, Satan is a permission seeking being in terms of his designs and intent. The Devil is merely God’s attack dog on a long leash.

So, dear Christian, there is no room for surrendering anything in the Cosmos to Satan as if he has right of authority because he is “the god of this world.” Satan is the god of the dung heap, of falsity, of fiat non-reality. He has no hold over this world because in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God has and intends to continue to redeem the whole Cosmos so that it is even more than Eden ever was.

The age to come has come in Christ and is rolling back this present wicked age that has the prince of the power of the air as its Captain. This mopping up exercise is fait accompli. The “God of this age” is a grifter and the only weapons he has are smoke, delusion, and intimidation. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

Satan as “God of this world?” Only in the sense that a rebellious three year old thinks he is the “God of his bedroom,” in defiance of his parents placing him there for discipline.

Thanksgiving Homily 2015

I Thess. 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Thanksgiving is a Holiday. The idea of the word Holiday literally comes from Holy Day. A Holy Day, is a day set apart and distinct from the days that are common. Actually as Christians we have 52 Holidays every year though we seldom think like that anymore. Those 52 days of course are our Lord’s days.

So, we see in the whole idea of Holidays, Thanksgiving included, the idea of distinction. We distinguish this day from the others and we do so by celebration and festivity with kith and kin. On Thanksgiving when giving thanks  we are thankful for the particulars in our lives. When we give thanks for family we give thanks for our family and the families of those we know and love in our Church and community. When we give thanks for blessings we give thanks for the blessings that God has been pleased to pour upon us. When we are thankful for the Church we have particularly in mind our Church. When we give thanks we thanks to the God of the Bible and not the pagan false deities that festoon our culture. Not only is the day a day of distinction but the Thanks we offer up are for peculiar and particular blessings.

We could pray, “Thank you Father for the Human Race and Thank you for every blessing you’ve given everybody ever” but that would make our giving of thanks brief, and abstractly universal and esoteric. This would be non-incarnated gratitude. Thanking God for the particular is incarnating our gratitude. Thank you Father for this wife, for this family, for these fellow saints. Thank you Father for this food, this table, and this roof over our head. Thank you Father for this Church, these musicians, and these leaders.

I merely note this to reinforce the pleasure we should have in the particular. We live in a culture that is at war with the particular and with distinctions. At this Thanksgiving time we should pause to Thank the Triune God for the distinct and peculiar blessings with which He has blessed us.

Knowing the Triune God is for us we can even particularize our Thanksgiving in terms of our struggles as they have been providentially assigned to us as means to our sanctification. These particulars burdens are to us increased Christlikeness and  our character formation.

Samuel Rutherford could write, in what has become  quote I return to repeatedly,

“Oh, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace of my Lord Jesus! who hath now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is, that goeth through His mill, and His oven, to be made bread for His own table. Grace tried is better than grace, and it is more than grace; it is glory in its infancy.”

We can easily be Thankful when the Bank account is full, when there is no sickness, when personal resistance to us in the politics of the workplace are minimal but can we be Thankful when the thorn in the flesh is gouging more than usual? Can we be Thankful when when disappointments becomes a familiar companion?

Another thing we might note here is that Christian Thanks giving is a an act that communicates satisfaction with both the past and present indicating a confidence in the future. The person shriveled with animosity regarding the past will not find it in his soul to give thanks. The person not content with the present will not give thanks. And the person convinced that the future is bleak will hardly be a candidate for the giving of thanks. Christian Thanks giving then is a supremely worshipful act communicating volumes regarding one’s disposition towards the past, the present, and the future.”
I posted this thought online and a non-Calvinist who is a very sharp chap took exception with it saying,

Gratitude and reality can co-exist. We have lost much over the last several decades, we are currently in a struggle to the death with forces that are turning our lives into a sewer in the present, and the future, outside some miracle of God, is indeed likely to be bleak before I die. I am indeed grateful that God has seen me and my family through the events of the years we have lived in, and pray that He will give us the resources to survive what’s ahead. But my gratitude is tempered by sadness and loss.

I don’t believe that what we’re experiencing is necessarily what God has ordained or desires for us.

It is easy to appreciate this insight but we have to keep in mind that this is the exact present that God has ordained for us and if that is true we can be thankful. This is not to say we can not have regrets in regards to our failures in paying heed to God’s will of precept. It is to suggest though that we can be Thankful because what has been past, present, and future is what God ordained for us in keeping with decreed will.

Now we are not pollyannas and we do continue to lean against the Darkness but we do it as a people thankful for the file, the hammer, and the furnace.

But having said all this we note that life is not always file, hammer, and furnace and we are thankful for that as well. We are thankful for when we are led so as to lie down in green pastures. We are thankful when he leads us besides still waters and so restores our souls. We are thankful for the wise Mentors he has placed in our lives and the wisdom of the generations he has kept for us in books seldom read. We are thankful for the generations gone behind who have given us such a rich inheritance and we are thankful for the rising of the generations we are seeing coming behind us. We are thankful for cousins, and Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents. We are thankful for Elders.

And we are thankful that no matter how dark it gets outside there is always light to be found by those who are lovers of Truth.