Anyone else sick of the whole ‘Christ in the OT’ debate? Man… some people just go on and on.
I’m announcing a new hobby horse – Christ in the NT. In fact I think this is where you really see a preacher’s Christ-centredness. We’ve had the rule drummed into us by now – Thou shalt ‘bridge to Christ’ at the end of an Old Testament sermon. But does this ‘bridge’ come from convictions regarding Jesus the Word or is it simply a preaching convention that we slavishly follow?
Well you can probably guess at the answer by listening to a preacher’s New Testament sermons. Now I fail at this all the time but I think the challenge for all of us is this: Is Jesus the Hero of the sermon on the mount or Mark 13 or the gifts passages or James? And the issue for this mini-series – what about the parables?
Last time I looked at Matthew 13:44-46. Who the man? Jesus the Man. He seeks and finds us and in His joy He purchases us. All praise to Him. As Piper likes to say ‘the Giver gets the glory’ and in this parable (contra Piper’s own interpretation of it) Jesus’ glory is on show as He gives up all for His treasured possession – the church.
In this post we’ll look briefly at the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37
First notice this: the teacher of the law asks ‘Who is my neighbour?’ This prompts the story. At the end of the story Jesus asks Who was neighbour to the guy left for dead? (v36). So now, think about this: With whom is Jesus asking us to identify? The priest? Levite? Samaritan? No. Not first of all. First of all we are asked to see ourselves as the man left for dead. And from his perspective we are to assess who is a good neighbour. Here’s the first clue – we’re meant to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man.
Why do I say ‘fallen’? Well the man’s fallenness is triply-underlined in v30. He “goes down“ from Jerusalem (this earthly counterpart of the heavenly Zion). He’s heading towards the outskirts of the land (Jericho) which is due east of this mountain sanctuary (echoes of Eden). This would involve a physical descent of about a thousand metres in the space of just 23 miles. If that wasn’t bad enough, the man “falls” among robbers. He’s stripped, plagued (literally that’s the greek word), abandoned and half-dead. That’s the man’s precidament and Jesus wants us to see it as our predicament. So what hope do we have?
The priest? Nope. The Levite? No chance. What about a ‘certain Samaritan’ (mirroring the ‘certain man’ of v30)? He’s not at all like the religious. In fact the one who ‘comes to where the man is’ happens to be someone who’d equally have been shunned by the priest and Levite!
Yet this Samaritan ‘had compassion’ (v33). In the New Testament this verb, which could be translated ‘he was moved in his bowels with pity’, is used only of Jesus. (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Lk. 7:13; 10:33; 15:20) In every narrative passage Jesus is the subject of the verb and the three parables in which it’s used are the merciful King of Matthew 18 (v27), here and the father in the Two Sons (Lk 15:20). More about that in the next post.
Well this Good Samaritan comes across the man left for dead and for emphasis we are twice told about him ‘coming’ to the man (v33 and 34). The Outsider identifies with the spurned and wretched.
Now remember whose shoes we are in as Jesus tells this story. We are meant to imagine ourselves as this brutalized man. Now read v34:
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,’ he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Now I don’t have to tell you what these things mean. You’ve got blueletterbible – you can do your own biblical theology of oil, wine, etc. But remember you’re meant to be putting yourself in the position of this fallen man, left for dead, unaided by religion, healed by an extraordinary stranger and awaiting his return. Are you there? Have you felt those depths and appreciated those heights? Well then, now:
You go and do likewise. (v37)
Don’t first conjure up the character of the good samaritan. First be the fallen man. First experience the healing of this Beautiful Stranger. Then go and do likewise.
Or… leave Jesus out of it. Spin it as a morality tale and end with “Who was that masked man? No matter – just go and do likewise.”
See how important ‘Jesus in the NT’ is?