Tag Archive: Good Samaritan


Sharing the eyes of God

I have always puzzled over Jesus’ high command to the lawyer in Luke 10.  Jesus instructs him,”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 neighbour as yourself.”  What does it look like to love God with our heart?  How does the soul love?  With what strength – biceps and triceps(?) – are we to love God?  What happens in the mind when it loves?

Of course, part of  the significance of Jesus’ answer to the lawyer  is it’s capturing of the essence of the 10 Commandments, to love God and love neighbor.  Jesus is also quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, a command that would have been familiar to the lawyer and other Jews of the day.  (Isn’t it strange how we often think of Jesus as purely original, as if he was the first to say such profound, true, and meaningful things?)

I wonder if Jesus meant – in a frank, down-home, charming way – we’re to “love God with all we got?”  With whatever energy we can muster. With whatever sensibilities we can direct to God and neighbor.  With all the thoughts and passions we can cultivate in glory to God.  We’re to love God with any gift God has given, at any time we can, and in any place we can.

So…what about the gift of our body…or our senses…

Seeing as God sees

The story of Samuel’s search for a king is telling of God’s vision.  God has grown weary of Saul as king, and sends Samuel to Jesse’s house in search of a new king (1 Sam. 16:1-13).  As Jesse’s sons trot out before the search committee, Samuel is sure he will be able to spot the new king.  He assumes the new king will be tall, good-looking, and commanding.

But as the first son approaches, the words of the Lord come to Samuel: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature.”  Several more sons pass before Samuel, but they are not chosen either.  The Lord’s instruction to Samuel remains steadfast: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on outward appearances, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

“For the Lord sees not at man sees.”  How amazing.  How wonderful.  How much better is God’s vision than our vision.  While God’s eyes penetrate beyond the surface, our purview captures only fleeting glances of other persons.  Part of our vision problem is time.  We are hurried; we are busy.  We catch only a glimpse or snapshot of someone and believe we’ve seen the whole picture.  We fail to plumb the depths of persons’ hearts and convictions, joys and concerns.

God’s vision seems so grand compared to our pithy eyesight.  God’s scan of the world captures all, bringing all people into God’s line of sight.  When Jesus entered one synagogue he saw a woman who had been bent over for 18 years.  How long had she been coming to the synagogue seeking help, longing for someone to notice her?  While the others’ eyes passed over her (for what seems like quite a long time), Jesus noticed her, laid his hands on her, and sent her away standing upright.

Jesus has, how shall we say it, universal vision.  The eyes of God, of Jesus, see all.  Jesus’ vision captures those who go unnoticed, those on the margins.  Jesus sees the invisible people in a crowded world.

I remember several years ago my church celebrated a Hanging of the Greens service.  During the service, children processed into the sanctuary with chrismons, stars, ivy, and poinsettias.   Many children participated in the service, cutely prancing down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary.   Despite all the kids, however, I waited to see just one, my cousin.  I had eyes for her only.  While all the children beautifully participated in the service my eyes were locked in to see only one person.  I was concerned with laying my eyes upon my cousin, delighting in how precious and cute she was in her role.

We have, how shall we say it, selective vision.  We have tunnel vision.  Our eyes see those things that we choose to see, those persons that are convenient and attractive to us.  God’s vision is much grander, much more encompassing, much broader.  Unlike our eyes, the wide scope of God’s vision captures all, looking not upon outward appearances.

Those who have eyes let them see.

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The Good Samaritan by Vincent van Gogh (1890)

Following worship this past Sunday I greeted all the worshipers as they left the sanctuary.  I’m still curious when and where this seemingly obligatory ritual began?!  Nevertheless, the occasion always provides for interesting conversation.  Some use the moment to remind me of an upcoming event or offer an invitation to visit them.  Others instruct me to have a good week.

It’s always an anxious moment, however, when someone pauses to comment on the sermon.  Someone usually offers the standard, ‘Good job preacher.”  Or the slightly more intriguing, “I needed to hear that today.”  Some claim to have received a blessing for the message.  Still others pose insightful questions that beg for a response.  The problem with such questions comes when an answer cannot be offered before the next person in line grows impatient.

One such question came this week.  After preaching on the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37)someone asked, “Is the story true…you know…the whole story about Jesus, the lawyer, the robbers and priest and Samaritan?”

Is the story true?

My already weary mind began working overtime to decipher what was really being asked.  Did my parishioner want to know if Jesus really told this story to a real lawyer on a real historical date?  Was he asking if there really was a road from Jerusalem to Jericho?  Was there a moment when robbers attacked a man, and priest and Levites ignored him?   Were there really despised Samaritans?

Is the story true?

My frazzled mind sent the words to my mouth, “Well, the parable Jesus tells – the characters, events, and details – is a fictional story.  There is no evidence that a “parable,” or story, happened the way Jesus told it.”  The man’s eyebrows and mouth turned downward; I could tell he was disappointed.  “So, it’s not true?” he muttered. Before our conversation could continue his wife was summoning him to the car.

Is the story true?

What is it that creates our desire for the biblical stories to be “true?”  Is anything changed by the historicity of Jesus’ stories.  Weren’t Jesus parables meant to be just that, stories?  It seems we’ve lost our fascination and appreciation of stories.  It makes me ask, “Where have all the storytellers gone?”

Even if the parables are fictional, are they any less true?  So what if there may never have been an episode with a good Samaritan?  What if there was never a free-spending son who returned home?  Or one sheep that wandered away from 99?  Or a mustard seed or lost coin?  Does the fictional nature of these stories make them any less true?  Are not the images of love and grace still present?  We find “truth” about life, our world, or ourselves in Hollywood productions that aren’t often historical or realistic.  Why be surprised by  truth in Jesus’ stories?

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