Everyone is going to Jerusalem today: The young lawyer, Jesus, the priest, the Levite and the Good Samaritan; the man lying beside the roadway, robbed, beaten and half-dead and, of course, you and I. Everyone is going to Jerusalem today: Three to do well and two to do good. The jury is still out for the one left half dead and, of course, for you and me.
The lawyer who asks the questions and, in Jesus‚Äô story, the priest and the Levite, are going to Jerusalem to do well. They are going to Jerusalem to win. By virtue of birth and wealth and social status, they are already winners in First Century Judean society and they know it. They play by the rules, they color inside the lines, they know the commandments, and they live their lives deliberately and carefully. When they get to Jerusalem, they intend to do well, to excel at their profession, to ‚Äėmake it,‚ÄĚ maybe even ‚Äėmake it big.‚Äô They are winners and they‚Äôre going to Jerusalem to be big winners in the estimation of God and in the esteem of society. Their number one question is ‚Äúwhat must I do?‚ÄĚ and when they get their answer, they‚Äôll do whatever it takes. They are driven. Their motto, in today‚Äôs parlance is ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all about me.‚ÄĚ
Jesus and, in Jesus‚Äô story, the Samaritan, are going to Jerusalem to do good. They are going to Jerusalem to lose. By virtue of birth and wealth and social status, they are already losers in First Century Judean society. They know something the priest and the Levite do not know; something that Jesus is trying to teach the young lawyer and us. They know, in the words of Janis Joplin, that ‚Äúfreedom‚Äôs just another word for nothing left to lose;‚ÄĚ and they are prepared to be distracted along their way: the Samaritan by a robbed, beaten, half-dead traveler left on the side of the road and Jesus, by the young lawyer and by weeping widows, dead sons, demon-possessed loners, virtually everyone else on the margins of society and, lest we forget, all of us. When the Samaritan gets to Jerusalem, she‚Äôs going to find herself kept from the Temple, shunned by society, and at best, grudgingly allowed to do business. When Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he‚Äôs going to die. Losers, perfectly free to offer everything, even their life, for weepi9ng widows, dead sons, demon-possessed loners, virtually everyone else on the margins as well as robbed, beaten and half-dead fellow travelers including you and me.
Virtually everyone knows Jesus‚Äô story of the Good Samaritan and virtually everyone gets its punch line, ‚ÄúGo and do likewise,‚ÄĚ absolutely wrong. Virtually everyone takes this Gospel and turns it, quite effectively, into law because virtually everyone takes Jesus‚Äô words, ‚Äúgo and do likewise,‚ÄĚ as the answer to the lawyer‚Äôs question ‚Äúwhat must I do to be saved?‚ÄĚ and substitutes being nice to strangers for keeping the commandments, rules and mores demanded by a righteous God and self-righteous, polite society. Jesus‚Äô parable of the Good Samaritan is not a blueprint for winners to win and do well and live; it is an invitation to everyone ‚ÄĒ lawyers, losers, least, last and lost to die, to be free and then to do good.
Christianity, sisters and brothers, is not about me; it is not about doing well and it is not about winning.
Christianity is about losing, about dying. Christianity is about being completely free.
Christianity is about trusting that, even when you have given your all, even when you have been robbed and beaten and lost your life, even when you have nothing left to lose, there is always One who will bind up your wounds,
give you safe lodging, provide you with nourishment, and accompany you on your way to that Jerusalem where none are marginalized, all are welcome, all are home and all are free.
Everyone is going to Jerusalem, today, tomorrow and every day. Free to help us on our way, Jesus is traveling lightly. ‚ÄúGo,‚ÄĚ he says, ‚Äúand do likewise.‚ÄĚ Go and be completely free.