So, what do I actually need to do in order to go to heaven? Of course you wouldn’t be the first one to ask the question. Countless sermons must have been preached and shelves full of books written all trying to give the answer. Jesus turns every thing upside down. The man who asked him the critical question, recorded for us by Luke, (10:25-37), was not satisfied with Jesus’ very simple, very clear and very traditional answer. “Love God and love your neighbour” is extremely simple. But, the man was not going to settle for that. He wanted to know who is the neighbour that he is to love. Of course what he was actually asking was the question, “who is deserving of my love? Who is fit to be my neighbour?”
Sometimes when people ask these sorts of questions they are really asking a question. But at other times people ask these questions trying to justify not doing something that God has commanded. The text is very clear that this is really what the man asking the question was trying to do. He was trying to justify ignoring those who were not deserving. Do we sometimes speak of, or think about, “The deserving poor.” The issue shifts from caring for the poor, one of the most straightforward commandments in both the Old and New Testaments, to, who is deserving of receiving care.
Jesus answered the man with a story, as he so often did. Of course the story is very familiar. Don’t worry about judging the Priest and Levite. For better or worse they did what they did. Don’t be too concerned with the man who was robbed. His needs were met.
Think about what the good man, the Samaritan, did. First and foremost he interrupted his journey to care for the man who was in trouble. Next, he did everything that was required for the wounded man. Finally he followed it all up with a commitment to the inn-keeper to ensure that the care could continue until it was no longer needed.
This is really a story about the love of God. God loves without any care or concern for who is deserving. In Jesus, God interrupts the normal business of being God and becomes a human being for our sake. God is suddenly personal, immediate and right in the mess with us. It is as if we are the wounded ones beside the road, and God leaves the road to be present with us as one of us. God also did whatever was required. This is the message of the cross. Jesus loved us enough to die for us. Finally the Resurrection assures us that this love is forever and ever.
If Jesus had not given himself fully to heal our woundedness, the story of the Good Samaritan would not make any sense to us. But, because he did, the story feels true. It is the truth in which we are all invited to live.
Yours in Christ
David G. Vale