God Calls Us to Restore What is Broken
14 July 2019 –– Proper 10, Lectionary 15
A member of the religious establishment, a lawyer, approaches Jesus with hostile intentions. He asks a question concerning eternal life, but this question . . . intends to uncover evidence that Jesus’ teaching is in some way suspect. Jesus doesn’t answer the question but instead asks for the lawyer’s verdict. The lawyer replies with a summary of the law that both Matthew (22:37–39) and Mark (12:29–31) attribute to Jesus. Jesus agrees and tells him to do so and live. The lawyer, still looking to draw Jesus into a dispute, asks for a definition of who is a neighbor.
Jesus replies with the story of the Good Samaritan, suggesting that it is not possible to identify anyone who is not a neighbor. This simple tale features traditional storytelling. For example, there are three main characters. The first two, possessing positive status in the culture, are contrasted with the third, who lacks such status. The behavior of this third character is noteworthy and, in this story, profoundly challenging, evoking many significant themes from Jesus’ teaching, such as compassion, service and love of enemies. The third character, a hated Samaritan, is the one who acts as neighbor to the man in need. The lawyer’s short response suggests resistance to any teachable moment. Jesus instructs the lawyer to go and do likewise. –– Aaron J. Couch
When the people turn to God and obey the law, God will restore them. Verse 14 asserts that it is not too difficult to obey the commandments, since they are within reach.
Some Christians may feel uneasy about Deuteronomy’s straightforward assertion that the law is not too difficult to obey, and that God delights to bless the people who are obedient. They may wonder whether these affirmations conflict with Paul’s claim that the law is unable to give life (e.g., Galatians 3:21) and that it is not possible for any person to so fully obey the law so as to gain favor with God.
The preacher will want to make it clear that Deuteronomy is not concerned with the question of gaining salvation, but of how to live within the salvation God has already given. Deuteronomy does not state that Israel will earn covenant relationship with God by obedience to the law. Instead, Israel receives the covenant as a gift. The law is given as a further gift to guide Israel in faithful living with God. –– Aaron J. Couch
The author mentions Epaphras, evidently a person known to the Colossians as a companion of Paul, who has brought a good report, indicating that the congregation is thriving in mutual love. Having received this good news, the author describes ceaseless prayer for the believers in Colossae, asking God to grant them knowledge, that they may lead worthy lives, and that they may be made strong so that they may endure with patience. Readers are reminded to give thanks to God, since God is the source of their hope and has made them citizens of the reign of Christ. –– Aaron J. Couch
Aaron J. Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Homily Service 40, no. 8 (2007): 21-30