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Steve Mickel: The Samaritan Problem, Luke 10:33-36

March 20, 2023

Audio Recording

When the Samaritans reject Jesus, the disciples ask permission to call down fire on them. Jesus rebukes them, and then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Like the disciples, our bias towards violence is broken by a God of mercy.

Encounters Along The Way
Steve Mickel: The Samaritan Problem, Luke 10:33-36
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Hi everybody. My name's Steve Michael, I'm one of the senior pastors here. I wanna welcome those that are online as well. We're gonna be taking communion at the end of our service, and so if you, have any kind of elements there, bread, juice, wine, whatever you have there, that would be great. you can join us at the end. like Dave, I've been sensing this message, today has, something of the breath of God on it. And, you might be thinking, well, doesn't all your messages no ? And actually not, no, they don't. but this one does, and, it's really, I've been having just this heavy sense of God's presence that this is something we really need to hear. It's something he wants to say, and it's not going to be easy to hear it. especially if you're like me and you grew up in the church, this is gonna be a hard message to, to kind of take in.

00:54 what's really kind of funny though, is that, Evan was supposed to preach, in this service, and I was gonna be in the bilingual, but I don't preach again until Easter. And so he was gracious and like, Hey, Steve, you wanna preach in the, in the, in the sanctuary? I'm like, sure. You know, and so this is mostly his message. I mean, I've improved on it quite a bit actually, but, but it's mostly his . But it's, it is just fascinating how God works in this collaborative environment that we have here at West Side. And, and so would you just take a moment and maybe close your eyes and, would you open your hearts, and your minds and your spirit to receive what the Lord has for you?

01:39 Like even posture yourself in a way that says, Jesus, I want to, I want to hear your word and be transformed by it. I don't want this moment to pass by without me being changed to be more like you. Jesus. Amen. Well, we are launching a new series today called Encounters. And we're gonna be walking with Jesus through much of the gospel of Luke, towards the end of Luke as he makes, Jesus makes his way, towards Jerusalem and the crucifixion. And as we get closer to Easter, we wanna spend some time in the disciples shoes and the anxiety that they were feeling with the uncertainty and things that Jesus was saying that they didn't quite understand. And, and we're gonna kind of live in these, in this moment with the disciples over these next few weeks. And, and in Jesus's encounters that we're gonna look at, there's going to, you're gonna see this underlying tension, that's in the air.

02:40 It's really a confrontation that Jesus has over and over with religious people. And it's a confrontation, though that's not just with religious people who lived 2000 plus years ago. What you're gonna find, especially today, it's a confrontation with you and with me because we've, if growing up in the West, we have, we have a particular perspective about the world that sometimes doesn't align with the way of Jesus. And Jesus shows us throughout the Book of Luke, that, that with the, all the different encounters, that he has a way of mercy that toward a hurting humanity, that challenges the way we think about the world, the way we think about God, the way that we think about ourselves, and especially the way we think about others. So in Luke chapter 10, Jesus tells the story of a man, who takes the road from Jerusalem to, from Jerusalem to Jericho.

03:45 And it was known in those days when Jesus is telling this story about what happened on this particular road, it was known that this road was quite dangerous. it many people, you, you just don't travel this road at night kind of thing. And Jesus tells this story of a man who was on this road and, and he is robbed, beaten, and left for dead. And in the story, Jesus says that there's three people that come by this man. The first two, the first one was, was a, was a priest. and then the second was a Levi. Now, these two men in particular, because of their roles in society, were considered very respectable, to the audience that Jesus was telling the story to. And they were, if, I mean, if anyone was like morally obligated to stop and help this man, on this road, it would be these two people.

04:39 and especially in these two roles. and instead of rendering assistance, they pass him by, they ignore him, intentionally. And then the third man that passed by responds quite differently. And let, let's pick up the story in Luke 10, verse 33. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him, going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an N where he took care of him for the Jewish people. Listen, this, this would be just wrong of Jesus to make the hero of the story a Samaritan because for the Jewish people, Samaritans were lesser, was a, they were a lesser class. they, they were certainly never could be the hero of a story that was told by a Jewish rabbi.

05:40 I mean, that, that was unheard of it, it was scandalous. And, and the Samaritan people, according to the Jewish people, by virtue of just simply their ethnicity and culture, were seen as lesser people. They were, they were not accepted. And to have this Samaritan save the wounded traveler at great expense to himself would've challenged the common view held by most of those listening to Jesus teach. And, and then he concluded his teaching with a simple question. Look at verse 36. Now, which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits? And the man replied, the one who showed him mercy. And then Jesus said, yes. Now go and do the same. Now, most people would agree, when Jesus says, love your neighbor, most Jewish people at the time would've said, yes, but my neighbor or people that I like and people that I have community with, my neighbor is certainly not a Samaritan. And Jesus is trying to break this idea in his disciples minds that, that he wanted to expand their thinking about who was their neighbor. And he constantly, Jesus is constantly going further than you want him to go in terms of loving people like Bob Goff said a few years ago when he visited us here at Westside, love everybody always, and start with the ones who creep you out. ,

07:09 Loving your neighbor as yourself means loving those far outside your community, your ethnicity, your culture, your worldview. And yes, even your political tribe. And it's not loving with this pity or a sense of obligation. It is loving them as you love yourself. In other words, as you have compassion for yourself, you show compassion to others. There is no other way to follow Jesus and receive hi his promised eternal life than to love like he loves. But for the disciples, this parable known as many of you might know, the parable known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it would've been more memorable as well because of what happens just one chapter prior, it would've caught the disciples attention because of what happened in Luke chapter nine, which is not a parable, it's not a story, it's an actual thing that took place. Verse 51, as the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

08:28 So Jesus knows where he's going. It's not just to Jerusalem. He knows that the way back to his father is through the cross. He knows that he will die in Jerusalem. And so he resolutely set his mind there and he is on his way. And so he sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. Now, what's unusual about this is that most all Jewish people would not go through Samaria. The quickest way from where Jesus was to Jerusalem was to go through Samaria. But most Jewish people would go around Samaria. That's how much they hated each other. But Jesus sends messengers to, probably some of his disciples, to, this village in Samaria to prepare for his arrival cuz he was gonna go through Samaria and stay the night. But the people of the village, the Samaritans, did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. They were like, we don't, we know you're going to Jerusalem to worship you're God, and we don't want any part of that. So you cannot stay here. And so when James and Johns saw this, they said to Jesus, Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?

09:46 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village, some manuscripts add, this rebuke from Jesus in Luke nine. this, it's a, not all manuscripts have this what I'm about to read to you, but some manuscripts do where Jesus added to this rebuke, you don't realize what your hearts are like for the son of man has not come to destroy people's lives, but to save them. And like you, what just happened a moment ago, and this isn't to make you feel ashamed or anything, but because I'm, I, I've always read this passage and chuckled just a bit at James and John . You know, I mean, come on James and John, you serious? What a bunch of dips. I mean, what are they thinking? Fire from heaven. I mean, come on. But something happened to me this past week as I'm reading this over again. And it just occurred to me they were serious. They were willing to murder an entire village in the name of God because they simply did not receive Jesus into their midst. It's shocking.

10:59 And what we know of Jesus, it's like, it's like, what were they thinking? But in response to this rejection and marginalization by this group of people, the disciples wanted to leverage God's power to bring judgment down on these Samaritans. And Jesus' response speaks volumes about what his mission is all about. And the way in which his followers were were to respond to those that some might call their enemies. And in this post rejection moment, Jesus framed the Samaritan as the hero of a story. Just like if, if they didn't hear the rebuke, I'm gonna, I'm just gonna go a little bit further and tell them the story or the Samaritan, the one, the one that represents the group of, of people, that the disciples were ready to bring fire down upon her is actually the hero of the story. One commentator wrote about this interaction, no saying of our Lord perhaps has been so totally overlooked by the Church of Christ as that which is now before us. Nothing can be imagined more contrary to the will of Christ than the religious wars and purchase persecutions, which disgrace the annals of church history. Thousands and tens of thousands have been put to death for their religion's sake all over the world. Thousands have been burned or shot or hanged or drowned or beheaded in the name of the gospel. And those who have sled them have actually believed that they were doing God's service. Unfortunately, they have only shown their ignorance of the spirit of the gospel and the mind of Christ.

12:50 I mean, when the disciples asked Jesus, when the, when the Samaritans rejected Jesus, and then the disciples asked Jesus to bring fire down on them, it's clear. I mean these, it's clear these Samaritans were not Christians. They rejected Jesus. And they certainly weren't Jewish. But Jesus rebukes these his disciples, and then he tells them this parable, the Good Samaritan. And in doing this, he makes an, a radical statement that I think we often miss is not only how God feels toward people that are outside of our faith and practice, but also that they could actually be the conduits of God's mercy when those who know better miss the moments and encounters where God calls us to love. And instead we hate.

13:40 See, let's not be too quick to judge James and John without first looking at the plank in our own eyes. Think about the world you live in. Think about the people that you know of, even if they're not in relationship with you, that are anti Christ, that are opposed to the gospel and to God's church. How do you feel about them? If you're honest, we might acknowledge that a spirit of retribution exists in us. You know, they got, they're gonna get what's coming to them kind of doctrine that's ingrained into us. And Jesus wants to start breaking that today in you and in me.

14:41 What I see in, many churches around the US and and even here in central Oregon, is a form of tribalism. It's a, it's a communities that are, that are formed not around what they are for, but who they are opposed to what they're against. David Brooks wrote these words, tribalists seek out easy categories in which some people are good and others are bad. They seek out war, political or actual as a way to give life meaning. And Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to do battle with the heavenly principalities and powers. And on his way, the disciples mistake people outside of their tribe as an enemy that Jesus came to fight just like the disciples, we often see outsiders as God's enemies and ours, but in truth, outsiders are the very ones that Jesus came to save and to heal and to restore and to love God so loved the world, the whole thing, everyone in it, you know, I think, as I've thought about this, I've, I've, I've become comfortable and I'm, I I imagine most of you have as well, if you were born in the US and kind of grew up here, we, we become comfortable with the idea of a retributive God who's going to dole out justice to our enemies.

16:21 And and we get uncomfortable, with the idea of a non wrathful God.

16:30 I mean, think about it. How many, how many of us would want God be honest to display his vengeance against tyrants like Hitler, Niro, Saddam Putin. But even more, I mean, think about people actually close to you that you love who have suffered from all kinds of abuse, and you ask, where was God's vengeance for them? And you can feel the anger, you know, you can feel this, this idea of retribution start to kind of rise up in us. One pastor said, and and I don't, I don't disagree with them. In most cases, the offenders have never experienced justice in this world either, either by the wrath of human courts or by the violence of God. This angers me. I want God to commence with his wrath. And if he won't, I would volunteer to be his agent.

17:33 We cry out as David did. Why do the wicked prosper? And so in the face of injustice and evil, we think what response is there other than retaliation? And this is precisely the moment where the gospel of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace in the non-violent lamb, confronts us on our way to Jerusalem. As Jesus intently and resolutely looks forward to Jerusalem, we must remember where he was headed, what he was going to do for you and for me. He was going to the cross and rather than affirming what we want the Bible to say, we must listen to the words of Jesus who said, father, forgive them for they don't know what they're doing.

18:34 And we find ourselves on this road with the disciples and we, and we, we just, we're just feeling this tension of calling down fire and Jesus rebuking us and then going to the cross and forgiving those who put him there. See, we have to let the cross of Christ be the corrective and clarifying lens for our vision, where we allow God in the flesh hanging on a tree to be the defining way that we interpret God and inform our interaction with others. As one pastor said, the cross then becomes our clearest vision of the very nature of God. God unwrapped, non-violent, self-giving, radically forgiving cos suffering love.

19:36 I wanna invite the band back up as we prepare our hearts for communion. And I was thinking about just a story, a powerful story of a, of, of, of nonviolence and grace and truth kind of all mixed together. And, and I was reminded of, of, when apartheid ended in South Africa. My parents were missionaries in South Africa for a few years, and I remember them telling stories. And this was at, you know, decades after apartheid ended. And, and I, several years after, and I remember them telling stories of how there was this sense of peace between the blacks and the whites. And there's like this, like this unusual like sense of there was not this, I mean, it wasn't perfect by any stretch, and those that lived there knew that, but, but there was this sense of like peace around, around what was decades and decades of horrible prejudice and abuse under the apartheid system.

20:32 And, and so when, apartheid ended, many assumed that those who had been, denied justice for all those years would then exact their revenge through violence. They were prepared for it. But instead, president Mandela appointed an Anglican archbishop, Desmond Tutu to chair a commission called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And this commission did a couple of things. It, if anyone who had committed crimes under apart the apartheid system, if they were willing to make a full and public confession before the commission, they could apply for amnesty for their crimes full amnesty. More than 7,000 people confessed and applied for amnesty. Most of them received it. There were some heinous crimes that just couldn't be overlooked. But, but do you know that many of the amnesty trials took place in churches?

21:38 And then another aspect of this commission was the opportunity for victims to tell their story. So they didn't, they weren't just trying to, you know, put it under and not talk about it and just kind of not acknowledge it. They, they gave opportunities for the victims to tell their stories. More than 20,000 victims came forward and told their story on radios and televisions. And, and so what happened, instead of a non-ending system of retribution and revenge and violence, an entire nation experienced what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 85. Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed. See a God of mercy breaks our bias towards violence, vengeance, and retribution against those none like us. By the way, Peter, it would take Peter who was there when James and John called down fire, and he probably wasn't disagreeing with that call. It would take Peter 10 years from that instance, from that encounter with this Samaritan village to be comfortable enough to walk into a Roman soldier's house named Cornelius, an occupier, Speaker 3

23:06 Someone

23:07 Who represented the evil. All right? The ones that, that were, were, were pressing down the Jewish people. And Peter was invited by Cornelius. And it took, it took 10 years for Peter to go. And even then, it was a struggle for Peter. And so I, I recognize that sometimes it, it takes time for our prejudices and biases to fade into the background and the way of Jesus to come into the foreground. But can this be a moment as we take communion together where something begins in you and me, something begins to break of the biases and the prejudices that we hold against those who are not like us. Who those who are even opposed to the work of God in our nation. Can we at this moment, let God break something in us? Maybe we can resolutely keep our eye on Jerusalem and the cross of Christ and our cross as well. This is a moment where I wanna encourage you to repent, to reflect on those times where you would've rather called down fire on some people groups, then actually see them as your neighbor, loved by God and even capable of being used by God to do extraordinary acts of kindness.

24:42 So there's tables scattered around the room, and as we've been doing as our custom the last few weeks, we're gonna stand together in just a moment and all go to these tables and take communion together in a sense. And, and we recognize that there are people who are unable to get out from your seat. And, and we wanna, we want to honor you. And so a couple of our pastors, they're gonna grab some of the individual communion elements. And if that's you and I would just say only, only raise your hand if you really can't get out of your seat, cuz I, I think there's something intentional that we're doing about getting up and moving towards one another and the cross of Christ in taking communion. But if you're not able to do that, go ahead and raise your hand and, Dave and Cliff and others will make sure you have an individual element that you can take with us at your seat. But for the rest of us, there are tables scattered around and you can come and take a cracker and dip it into the cup and go back to your seat and simply let Jesus do what he did here in Luke nine and brought clarity and rebuke and correction to a mindset that that was allowed to kind of exist because of our culture, cuz of the way we were raised, even because of what our religion has said in the past.

26:06 So Jesus, as we come to the table today, we confess, we confess our sin, we confess that yes, we have wanted you to give what we think people deserve. We ask you, Jesus to forgive us of our need for vengeance and retribution.

26:41 Help us Jesus, to walk according to your cross, the love that was expressed by God the Father in sending you to die for us. When he could have doled out retribution at any moment in the way that he wanted to. He chose to send you himself in the flesh to die for our sins, for our brokenness. , we're eternally grateful, Jesus, for your work on the cross. And as we take communion, may, may, your body that was broken in your blood that was spilled for us, be embodied in our own lives and in our own thoughts and in our own, actions towards others. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.