I’ve been sharing a series here on the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a well known story that we typically think of as a call to be a good person to others. In the first post I shared that I’m not so sure that is what the parable is actually about. In the second I asked us to think about why we don’t stop – why we pass by someone we should help. Today, I want to look at the whole thing completely differently and most likely in a way you’ve never thought about it before. I certainly had never thought about it this way before in my 30 years of knowing and sharing this story.
Many of the early Church Fathers from the first 300 years or so of Christianity saw this story in a different way. They saw it as having something to say about the story of the gospel and Christ.
Many of them saw it in this way:
The man who goes from Jerusalem to Jericho is us – mankind – or Adam if you like. Jerusalem represents Eden where we were created to be with God and live a sinless life. But we decided to go a different direction and therefore left the garden (Jerusalem). We head into the world (Jericho).
The cost of this decision was enormous. Because of our sin and now our vulnerability to the evil one, we are beaten, robbed of who we are supposed to be, stripped of our true calling and humanity, and left for dead with no way to heal ourselves or get to safety. We are dead. It’s a matter of time.
The Priests represents all of the law of the Old Testament. It wasn’t capable of healing us. The Levites represent the prophets of the Old Testament. They also are incapable of healing us.
The Samaritan represents Jesus. Jesus comes from the outside (heaven). He stops on the road. He alone is capable of binding our wounds. He puts us on His own animal – meaning He takes our sin onto Himself and carries us.
The Inn represents the Church which is meant to take in everyone. The inn keeper is the priest or leader of the Church who is charged with the care of of the people until Jesus is to come back – which is represented by the promise of the Samaritan to return.
The first time I read this idea I thought, “Wow, just wow.”
I don’t know that it is what Jesus meant when we shared this story. I do know that Origin writing in the mid 200’s credits the elders for this interpretation. In a way one of the amazing things about most of the parables is that Jesus doesn’t explain them. Or maybe better said, we aren’t privy to an explanation. The disciples may well have been.
I also know that there is a lot that rings true here. And the implications are actually pretty profound. Think about this. For Jesus to use a Samaritan in this story was pretty remarkable. It was a huge leap for those listening to grasp. For the Samaritan to represent the Messiah would have been incredibly vexing to those within earshot of the original telling by Jesus.
It has implications for us today. Probably many. But I’m going to talk about how I think this impacts how we think about ministry in our current context in the next two weeks.