Saturday, April 13, 2019

Jesus Drains the Swamp

I teach a Bible Study on Wednesday nights.
Y'all are invited. We serve coffee.
We've been studying Luke. For a long time.
We're in no rush, we look at every word and discuss them among ourselves.
Bounce the impressions off each other.

In preparing for Luke 10, I noticed something so striking, I wanted to share it with you.

Some background:
Jesus is God and was sent by the Father to become the summation of the promise to Abraham.
All things Jewish in the Old Testament pointed to the Messiah, which was Jesus.
All the laws were to show the will of God and demonstrate man's inability to satisfy His will.
God had set up a system of worship which was to guide people to him and instead that system became a rigid bureaucracy that hindered rather than promoted God's purpose.
The priest class (the tribe of Levi) was to facilitate the execution of the Law and accept the fines (sacrifice) for the breaking of the Law.
Then they got into legalism. What the meaning of "is" is.
Jesus challenged that bureaucracy and the thinking behind it.

Luke 10:25 And behold, a certain [a]lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

I like that this guy asked what he had to do to "inherit" not earn, eternal life. But, as a Jew, I would think he thought he was in on the inheritance, so I think he was asking how to avoid being disinherited or disqualified.
Jesus, being a Jew, answered a question with a question:
Luke 10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
I believe the lawyer had heard Jesus before, as he answered Jesus in a way that Jesus had been teaching.
He didn't say "Keep all the commandments". He said:  ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’
Jesus basically said "Good job! Do this and live!"
But the lawyer couldn't stop there. He was a lawyer.
The Bible says he spoke in an attempt to justify himself.
I think that meant to prove he was a lawyer.
He asked Jesus to define "neighbor".

Lawyers in that day were supposed to know the Law, the religious code God had given through Moses.
Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
Summary: Two guys of the religious cast, members of the religious bureaucracy, a priest and a Levite,  each pass a body lying on the side of the road in an area traveled regularly from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jericho had become a bedroom community for the priest class. This road was not infrequently traveled.

They knew the Law.
Did they know this part of the law?:
Deuteronomy 22:4 “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.

Wouldn't someone lying on the side of the road be more important than a donkey or ox?

Perhaps they thought he was dead.

The Law said that if you touched a dead body, you were ceremonially unclean. You had to refrain from certain activities and associations (social activities included) until a certain time had passed and the correct sacrifice offered.

Numbers 19:11 ‘He who touches the dead [d]body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean. 13 Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.

So it's hard to be a priest if you can't go to church. Maybe they thought that was more important than checking on this guy.

Maybe they thought it was a trap. A decoy to lure them into an ambush.

Whatever, the two guys who in the story represented the ruling bureaucracy passed by without offering to help. The guys whose job it was to help the people. The guys whose income was derived from a tax on the people. They passed him by.

Now the third guy in the story (fourth if you count the guy in the ditch) stops.
What do we know about him? He is technically not a Jew. He's a Samaritan.
Samaritans were anathema to Jews. They lived in an area that had it's own separate religion. But they lived in Judea. You might even think of them as Palestinians in Israel today.

So this guy, who was in Judea, but not in Samaria at the moment, who does not have the Law of Moses to guide him, does exactly what the two guys who represented that Law did not do.
He did Deuteronomy 22:4! And more! If you recall, he took the victim to an inn, told the innkeeper to take care of him and put it on his own tab.

The lawyer had asked Jesus to define "neighbor".
Jesus now asks him who he thinks it is.
The lawyer says "he who showed mercy".
That means the neighbor wasn't the victim, it was the Samaritan!
So this lawyer had just been led to admit that he was to love this Samaritan as himself!
And that the Samaritan was more righteous than the priest and Levite.

The subtext of this passage in Luke is also that the bureaucracy was not willing to help.
That it was actually opposed to the will of God.

Jesus was the one chosen to be King of Israel and the very bureaucracy that was supposed to help him was fighting him.

They were the Swamp. And they tried to kill the King. And they did.

In a few days we celebrate that death that was a sacrifice to pay our debt to God.

And a few days after that, we celebrate his victory over death, the Resurrection.

A victory he offers to those of of us willing to join Him. To be His neighbor.

Who's side will you be on?
Or the swamp?


  1. Very well done; excellent exposition. Thank you, sir.

  2. tried to post to facebook was blocked

    1. i know! I can't either, so I copies and pasted the content and it flew. Find me and friend me. :)

  3. Interesting discussion, and many DON'T understand the true meaning of neighbor...

  4. Interesting discussion.
    It leads me to discussions I have had with neighbors about co-dependency and how Christ would have handled that.
    I KNOW how the Apostle Paul would have handled it.
    And therein lies the rub.
    I'm more like Paul.

  5. Excellent![i]You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’[/i]Was Jesus describing the new covenant law of love here?

  6. Good explanation, Ed. I enjoyed it. It reminds me of a time when working in downtown Atlanta, a group of us walked several blocks to CNN Center for lunch. Coming back, we passed a number of homeless men soliciting money. We had walked about three blocks when I missed a young woman. She was about a block in back of us talking to one of the homeless men. I went back to make sure all was OK, and saw her passing some money to the mam. I was critical of her dropping out of the safety of the group, and giving money to drunks. On the way to the office, she explained that she always stopped when she could to give the homeless money, and a testimony. After talking with her for some time about this, it was one of those things that changed my life. The parable of the Good Samaritan was exemplified with what she did. I no longer run people away when they ask for money. I am not the one to judge everybody. A lie or subterfuge is on them, and all I do is carry out Jesus' instructions.

    1. Thanks Bob.
      I don't think the Samaritan had to worry whether the guy in the ditch was gonna spend the money on drugs or alcohol :)
      I understand your point, though.

  7. I don't know if you ran across this experiment:

    As process engineers we would say that the control variable is "busyness". Satan would have us fill our day with "noise".

    The other comment I want to make is that the allegorical interpretation used to be more common.

    I don't think the two interpretations are mutually exclusive. Jesus was economical that way.

    1. It;s true that Jesus' parables have multiple levels, but they most often seem to point to the emergence and inclusion of the gentiles.
      I like both those links.
      I like being salary so that if need be, I can stop and help someone without being penalized.

  8. tried to post on facebook could not . apparently Jesus is offensive to 'some'.

    1. Thanks, Deb. I'm really upset that I can't post any links to my blog on FB! And all the links I had posted before are now blocked!
      FB is not responding to my complaints.
      Greybeard's PitchPull blog is in the same position.

      Fell free to cut and paste like I did.
      That works
      You could also friend me. Since my dad died, I'm the only Ed Bonderenka I know and the only one on FB. :)