Come Meet Jesus: Redrawing the Boundary Lines Cherie Johnson May 10, 2015

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1 Come Meet Jesus: Redrawing the Boundary Lines Cherie Johnson May 10, 2015 Luke 10:25-42 (NRSV) 25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 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." 28 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 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. 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.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." 38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." 41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." Come Meet Jesus: Redrawing the Boundary Lines Today, we have two stories that illustrate the stripped down explanation of what we need to inherit eternal life. A summary of the lawyer s answer is, love God and love neighbor. Those are the main things we need to focus on, loving God and loving neighbor. We start off with the very familiar story of the Good Samaritan. Now, we associate Samaritans with goodness. That is not how the Jews in Jesus day regarded them. Samaritans were rivals, impure, not Holy. Samaritans did not particularly mind because they regarded Jews the same way.

2 2 They both thought that they were worshiping God the correct way. It stems back 100s of years to the end of the Babylonian Exile. The Samaritans were the people who remained in the land while the political elite were carried off the Babylon. When the exiles returned, 70 years later, they saw that the people who remained had intermarried with other groups and considered them impure. Basically, a family feud ensued, and that can be the bitterest of conflicts. There is an aspect of this that remains in the Middle East. You cannot take that road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is blocked. So, a lawyer begins asking Jesus questions. Are they legitimate? The first one? Perhaps, not, after all Luke 10:25 says that it is to test Jesus. Trying to trip him up, but Jesus turns it around. Effectively, he says, You re a lawyer. Why are you asking me? What is written in the Law? The second question, And who is my neighbor? might be another story. The text says the lawyer was wanting to justify himself. Instead of presuming that lawyer is out to get Jesus, he wants to know precisely what is required, and precision is something that I appreciate in a lawyer. What Jesus does in his parable is change the perspective of what it means to be a neighbor. Before the parable, the lawyer may have thought he was being a good neighbor because he only regarded Jews as his neighbors. Jesus is moving the boundary line much further out. Not only that, but not only Jews could be good neighbors. In the story, put your self in the victim s shoes, or rather, laying in the victim s ditch. You are lying there, wondering if anyone will come by to help before you die. And there he is, a priest. Surely, he will help, but no. He goes to the other side of the road. If only I could call out to him, but no, he s gone around the bend, and he s gone. No, wait! Here comes someone else, a Levite, finally. I m sure he will help, but no, he s avoiding me, too. Surely, I will die here, on this road, if no one will help me. God, please send someone, anyone, to help me! What is that I hear, the clip-clop of a donkey on the path? Who s coming now? Oh, a merchant. Good, maybe he ll have a drink of water, but it s it s why did it have to be a Samaritan? Maybe, he won t notice me. I don t have anything left to steal. What will he do to me? Lord, I asked for your help, and you delivered me into the hands of a Samaritan.

3 3 When we are most vulnerable, it can be quite scary to be approached by someone outside our group. It is just as scary for them too. Have you ever had a fall or suffered an injury and tried to bluff your way through it because you didn t want to appear weak or vulnerable in front of others? It is one thing to be a good neighbor. It is another to allow someone else (especially someone from another group) to be a good neighbor to you. What would have happened if the victim had refused the Samaritan s help? He probably would have died. Instead, he probably received better care than if it had been his own mother. The lawyer is looking for the minimum requirement while Jesus is demonstrating that God s grace is not limited to a small group but for the whole world. When God tells us to love our neighbor, he wants us to realize that the world is our neighbor. As we move to the story of Mary and Martha, we move from the very public square to a very domestic scene. They don t necessarily seem related, but if we remember the lawyer s answer to the question of inheriting eternal life, we have our answer. There are two things: Love God and love neighbor. We have seen who our neighbor is, and what our example of behavior is. Now, we are moving to the other, Love God. At first glance, this may not look like a story about loving God. It looks like a domestic dispute where Jesus is brought in the middle. Martha invites Jesus into her home, and we have to presume that this means his disciples and other members of his entourage. She has a full house. They are all going to expect dinner. Martha s working her fingers to the bone, and where is Mary? Is she helping? Does she ever help? I can t believe it! She s in there with the men listening to Jesus! We have got two problems right there. Martha feels she needs help to fulfill the household s responsibility of being proper hosts. Then there is the scandal, yes, I said scandal, of Mary hanging out in a room with a bunch of men. That just was not done. Even today, in many Middle Eastern cultures men and women do not hang out together. Before, we start feeling superior or more enlightened of anything, what happens at most gatherings here with men and women? Usually, the men congregate in one area while the women gather in another. So then, not only is Mary in there with the men, but she is sitting at the feet of Jesus!

4 4 That is not meant to imply a subservient role, except in so far as it was a student role. She was sitting at the feet of her rabbi, and you would only do that if you wanted to be a rabbi. Moreover, Jesus is permitting it. Martha s main focus was to provide hospitality, but all that goes out the window. She breaks all the rules as she addresses the problem, not with Mary, but with Jesus, her guest of honor! This is the part where I feel the sorriest for Martha. How many of us have felt overwhelmed and upset when we feel we are doing far more than our fair share? Have you ever been to a restaurant, and your waiter or waitress has seven tables. They are running themselves ragged. You are not getting good service because your waiter had too many tables, but you understand. Then, you notice, the cluster of wait staff standing around laughing and talking. The reason you notice is that they are laughing so hard. That is when I get a little perturbed (to put it mildly). I am not upset with my waiter, but with all the rest who are allowing it to happen. I equate Martha with that waiter. She is at her wits end, and then it sounds like Jesus chastises her and compares her with her sister. Who doesn t love that, Why can t you act more like your sister? But, what if Jesus isn t criticizing Martha? I like the way they have this passage in the New Living Translation Bible. My Dear Martha, you are so upset over these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it. This doesn t sound like criticism. It is more like an invitation. There is only one thing worth being concerned about, and that is Jesus. The problem was not that Martha wanted to provide hospitality. It is that she forgot about the reason for her hospitality and was distracted and focused on the details. She is not able to focus on the main thing, Jesus. After all, as Elizabeth Johnson says, There is no greater hospitality than listening to your guest. In the case of Mary and Martha, it may even loving God by loving neighbor, literally. That by keeping those things firmly in focus, we can prioritize our lives in a way that glorifies God. There are so many rules! How do we know which ones to follow and when? We have the priest and the Levite moving to the other side of the road out of fear instead of helping a brother in need. We have Martha so distracted by the details of hospitality, which is very important, that she was missing out of being in the presence of Jesus.

5 5 Where is fear or distraction holding us back? Fear of interacting with our neighbor, literally our next-door neighbor? I ve never met anyone like her before. I ve heard about those people. They don t mix with outsiders. Why should I even bother? What is they don t like me or reject me? The thing to remember is that they were made in the image of God, just as you were. And, Jesus came to save them, too! What can we do? Don t let the distractions and busyness of our lives prevent us from focusing on the people around us. Focus on God. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Love God; love neighbor. As Paul said in Galatians 3:28, There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male of female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus. What is the one thing that you can do this week? A chance to talk to a neighbor? A chance to give one of our Bags of Hope to someone you see on the street? A chance to set aside just five minutes to focus your undivided attention on Jesus? How can you keep your focus on the main thing? Amen!

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