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The Good Samaritan — A Persuasion Parable

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” might be a good test question for instruction class–as the Christian pastor leads a soul to the arms of Jesus–but the expert in Jewish legalities who asked it was more interested in challenging Jesus’ theology than in searching for the way of salvation. It has not been revealed to us whether Jesus succeeded in making this lawyer wise unto salvation, so we deduce that the colloquy recorded by Luke (10:25-37) is written for our learning to touch us where we live and to bring to us the inheritance of eternal life.

We get the drift rather quickly that Jesus was working to rescue a soul from being stuck in earthly doldrums and to pilot him to safe harbor in the heavenlies. One step at a time, this man needed to be brought to the threshold of realizing that he would never get to heaven by anything less than a miracle of personal spiritual perfection (ready and waiting in the person of Jesus).

How could Jesus get that message across to a theology professor whose life was dedicated to the proposition that good deeds pay off, that he expected God’s eternal reward for his skill at the “doing-good-deeds” program of his life?

Well, first get the fellow to recognize that the standards set by God as specified in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 are impossible of mortal attainment: a one-hundred percent perfect attitude toward God and toward everybody else in concert with a flawless performance 100% of the time, with no shortfall in any respect!!

Well, the fellow realized that there had to be a loophole somewhere, or he was sunk. Could it be that the term “neighbor” did not include people on the Northside, or foreigners, or irreligious people?

It is at this point that Jesus pulled the loophole shut with the short story usually entitled “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

We know it well; in it we note His exposure of the hypocrisy of the “religiously right” citizens in contrast to the “religiously left” foreigner, who turned out to be the premier example of godly love and compassion. In addition, we relish the deft way Jesus redirected his–and our–attention away from “Who is neighbor to me?” to “When am I being a good neighbor?” The message becomes obvious: God expects me to be a good neighbor by my supplying self-sacrificing love for anyone in need of my help. As to whether anyone can in actuality DO SO, 100% of the time, with his every thought, word, and deed–you and I and every child of God know it is an axiom: NO WAY!

Have A Safe Voyage!

Permit a similar scenario. It’s like being asked by a novice (who considers himself an expert in nautical affiars): “What will I have to do in order to successfully circumnavigate the globe in my cast-iron bathtub?” Judging from his preparations and the glint in his eye, we see that he intends to prove he can do it. Sober people already know that he in his tub will not survive even the launching–let alone sail over the high seas–so what can one say to such a ridiculous project but: “Well, go ahead, then, and see how far you get!”

That’s how Jesus was proceeding with this “expert” in celestial navigation, who had to be confronted with the hard fact that the tub he had chosen for his voyage was never intended as a self-righting flotation device. Although the Law-tub is suited to be a sturdy home-use vessel reminding sinners that dirt must be washed off and flushed away, it was certainly not engineered to be a Titanic for the high seas. We are left to wonder if the man caught on.

We catch on, probably because we are the beneficiaries of further great revelations from the counsel of God on this subject. For one thing, we gratefully understand the storm warning posted by Jesus in Mt. 5:20: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” And we recognize with rejoicing the harbor lights shining in Romans ch. 3: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned (this is what sinks the Law-tub) and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” {NIV Bible}

Have a safe voyage on the HMS Redemption, with Jesus at the helm, the only vessel certified seaworthy by God himself, against which no Satanic storm may prevail, provisioned with His fresh waters of Life and the Bread of His Word, and with a berth registered in your name! All aboard and bon voyage!

–Prof. Em. Paul Koch