St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-10-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-10-2016

Go and Do Likewise

Amos 7:7-17, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I mentioned the parable of the Good Samaritan in my rant against condemnation just two weeks ago and, now, here it is in our assigned lectionary reading.

In that sermon, I mentioned that there is no characterization given of the man who fell victim to the robbers. He is not identified as Jewish or Gentile, rich or poor, pious or pagan, not even a local or a foreigner. All we know for certain is that he is a man; traveling to Jericho; he was viciously robbed, and left for dead along the way.

I also said, in that sermon that his characterization didn’t matter. I now have to admit that that was a misstatement, a “half-truth” if you will. It’s not only that his characterization is unimportant to Jesus’ message but, as well, to identify him in any way other than a victim, other than someone in need of neighborly aid, would take away from that message.

The lawyer’s question was, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ story, then, wasn’t about who should or should not be considered a neighbor based on any identifying characteristics, which is what the lawyer was looking for (after all, he was a lawyer; one whose profession is dealing with facts, and details of the law).  But Jesus’ answer was strictly about loving your neighbor as you love yourself without regard to any identifying characteristics. However, Jesus does give identity to all the other characters in the story.

The first of these are the robbers of course; the lawless men that take what is not theirs by brutal force. But they are not otherwise identified by race or creed.

Then there is the priest. In the context the lawyer would automatically understand him to be a man of the temple and one who would know right from wrong in religious matters. But other than that Jesus gives no reason for his passing by the injured man. Many readers have speculated on the possibility that he would be afraid of becoming “unclean” if he came in contact with another man’s blood. But that, too, would take away from the story. There is no excuse for such neglect of someone in desperate need.

And then there is the Levite. He is also of the priestly clan but at a slightly lower level. And, again, Jesus gives us no other information about him and states no reason for his neglect.

You see, by not supplying the reasons for the priest’s and Levite’s inaction, Jesus is making the lawyer and the others present (and us) think about why they just walked on by. In this way, whatever the lawyer might think of as a possible excuse would point directly to his own shortcomings. If he thought about their possible fear of becoming unclean it would point to his same fear. If he thought about them being to busy to stop and render aid, it would point to his own mistaken sense of priority. If he thought about the expense incurred in helping the man, it would point to his own selfishness. And, if he thought about the racial, ethnic or religious identity of the man in the ditch, it would point to his own prejudices.

Then, enter the Samaritan. We call this story the “Parable of the Good Samaritan”, but did you notice Jesus never uses the word “good” in connection with him? That, too, would take away from the message within the story. 

By not labeling the Samaritan “good”, Jesus makes the lawyer search himself. Here he is recognizing that his peers, the Priest and the Levite, have been outdone by a low-down, despicable Samaritan and having to admit that the lowest of the low has acted in a more Godly manner than the highest of the high. And, by being told that the Samaritan was motivated by “pity” for the injured man, the lawyer is forced to search his own heart with the question “where do I stand in this story”? And, again, we are required to ask the same question of ourselves.

There is yet one more character in the story, the innkeeper. At a glance, we might think of him as having no more importance to the story than the cause for an added expense  to the Samaritan, but there is a little more to it than that. The Samaritan had done what he could do for the injured man, now he just needed time to rest and heal, and some food while he did so. The Samaritan does provide for that as well, out of his own pocket, but he also trusts the innkeeper to do what he asks him to do even if the advance compensation isn’t enough.

We might assume that the beaten man does heal and return to life as normal. We like think that the story has a happy ending for everyone: that the innkeeper lives up to his commitment, that the Samaritan does come back to settle any imbalance in the account, and everyone lives happily ever after. But, yet again, Jesus doesn’t provide us with those details. And, again, it’s not because they’re unimportant, rather, to make the lawyer (and us) think it through asking the question, “What would I do if someone handed me an advance and left a half-dead man in my care”?

Now we can see that all of the details that Jesus left out of the story are intentional, his way of making us think and, in doing so, make us look within ourselves for the flaws in our own character revealed by the reasons and excuses we might imagine and insert into the story. But there’s one more major twist that begins at the very beginning of the reading and doesn’t become apparent until the very end.

The lawyer’s first question was “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus doesn’t answer that question, he has the lawyer answer it himself by quoting scripture “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus affirms the answer and adds “…do this and you will live”.

But then, the lawyer asks “And who is my neighbor?” He is looking for a legal definition of who is my neighbor which would then include, on the other side of the coin, who can I not consider to be my neighbor.

In his response, Jesus doesn’t directly address that question. In fact, through the whole parable, we might be expecting the man in the ditch to be the “neighbor”. Instead, Jesus turns the question back on itself, twists the answer from the question “who” is my neighbor to answering the more important question “what” is neighborly love.

In the whole story, the lawyer does not receive the information he asked for, “who do I have to love as a neighbor and who can I exclude”. Instead, he gets a lesson on the action required on behalf of the neighbor. Who the neighbor is comes with no qualifications. What a neighbor does; the action taken, and the aid rendered; is the only important quality in the discussion.


At the end, the lawyer seems to get the message. Jesus asked him, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” and he could only concede, “The one who showed him mercy.” Now the lawyer understands what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”, but there is one thing left; the most important words of the whole reading; the 4 word quote of Christ that puts meaning to the whole story; “Go and do likewise”.

To the lawyer, and to you and me, Christ calls us to be active in our faith saying, “Go and do likewise”. Amen.


Luke 10:25-37
10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
10:27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
10:28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
10:35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’
10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


Colossians 1:1-14
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
1:2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
1:3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1:4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,
1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel
1:6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.
1:7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,
1:8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
1:10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully
1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,
1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.


Amos 7:7-17
7:7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.
7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;
7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
7:10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.
7:11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”
7:12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;
7:13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
7:14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees,
7:15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
7:16 “Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.”
7:17 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”