What were you taught about parables? Earthly stories with heavenly meanings? True enough I guess. But why would Jesus speak in parables? Why didn’t he just give us a clear cut list of what He wanted us to do? Jesus himself answers that question when he say, “….so that you can know the mysteries of the kingdom”.
According to one of my favorite teachers Bill Cwirla,
‘He will hide the kingdom of God in earthly stories…and you won’t ‘get it’ until you get Jesus…..these parables are a crisis of faith and unbelief and you will not ‘get them’ until you get Jesus and who He is and why He came. “
Lutherans cut right to the chase when interpreting the scriptures. Where is Jesus in this parable? Jesus said ‘these are the scriptures that testify about me,’ so they look for Him—-relentlessly. I was always taught to look for myself in the parable. I was taught that they are little proverbs or stories of advice on how I should live. So the parable of the Good Samaritan would be translated something like,
“You should be a Good Samaritan too and help your neighbor. So what kind of a neighbor are you?”
Is this how you were taught to interpret parables? Inserting yourself into them at every turn?
The story of the good samaritan can be paraphrased as follows.
A lawyer (expert in the Torah) asks Jesus what he must DO to inherit eternal life. (Although we’re already in trouble because isn’t an inheritance a gift). Then Jesus asks him what he thinks he must do.He says, “Love God and love my neighbor”.Jesus says “Yes, do this and you will live”.Jesus knows the lawyer can’t DO that but Jesus is a gentleman and will let us live by ‘the law’ if we choose.The lawyer ‘wanting to justify himself’ says “Well who is my neighbor?”.And then Jesus tells the parable: A priest and a Levite,on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, pass a nearly dead man who has been robbed and beaten and left to die. They pass him by for various reasons (per Jewish law they would have been rendered unclean for priestly duties) and he’s helped by a Samaritan (not bound by Jewish law) who puts him on his own donkey, bandages his wounds, takes him to an inn and pays his bill. (paraphrased from Luke 10:25)
Imagine my surprise when I hear a wonderful gospel interpretation of the parable that goes like this.
Christ is our good Samaritan. He has found us along the road of life, beaten and robbed and desperate. He rescues us, bandages us, saves us and takes us to the inn (the church) and pays our debt. Pastor Cwirla even takes the terms of the parable in an allegorical way to say: Think of Jesus as our good Samaritan. He literally becomes our neighbor in the incarnation. He takes on our flesh and is bloodied by our sin. The punch line of the parable is that he frees us from the law. The hero of the parable is Jesus. And because the Samaritan is not bound by the law, as are the lawyer and the priest and the Levite, he is free to serve. In other words, Christ became my good Samaritan and died to save and ransom me—-to free me from the law—-so that I am now free to serve others.
You can listen to this teaching here.
Is this a new interpretation for you? Does your heart sing for joy at the thought of Christ being your good Samaritan? I’m wowed. Again. Thank you Pastor Cwirla and thank you to Issues.
That’s pretty much the way I’ve always heard it. Everyone is our neighbor, Christ is the Good Samaritan. But I thought it was interesting that you spoke about Parables today because I was, literally, just reading Matthew and some of the parables.
Yes, and it even reminds me of a verse in Isaiah 61:10 which says
“I greatly delight in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”
Thank you for sharing!
Alex and Jill says
We just studied about The Good Samaritan on Wed night in homegroup. I love studying the different parables.
Thanks for sharing!
I’ve never heard it put that way before. It made me start thinking about some other parables and incorporating Jesus into them. Wow! Very cool… One that’s sticking with me is the parable of the talents – if Jesus represents the talents, what are we doing with the talents? Hiding them under a rock, or investing Him in others? Thanks for the post! Really got me thinking!
Delurking here…I have NEVER looked at it that way before, and I’ve been in church my whole life! Now I want to go read all the parables, looking for Jesus.
By the way, I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks, and I really appreciate seeing how Lutheranism has affected your faith. I was raised Baptist, and my husband Lutheran. Neither of us has tried to “convert” the other, but we have simply laid ourselves in front of the scriptures, putting aside our own traditions. That being said, simply being exposed to Lutheran teaching has been such an eye-opener for me. I find myself nodding in agreement when you talk about your world being turned upside down by real, actual truth, instead of a watered-down “seeker” message.
Didn’t mean to write a novel. Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate being able to take a look inside your journey! Keep on bloggin’!
I’ve always saw it that way too, but I also think that others might have been taught differently depending on their beliefs, or how it was interpreted for them.
Jesus should always be the center of everything. He is the only reason why we have a way to heaven!!
Lara Jane says
That is exactly how I’ve always heard it! I’m glad you’ve been shown to see it in a non-half-threatening way now! (that gives me the creeps!)
Glad you enjoyed the show. I actually spoke about the parable in two ways. The first is what the parable actually teaches, namely, that your neighbor is anyone whom God places in your path at any time under any circumstances. So, to “love your neighbor as yourself” means to do precisely as the Samaritan did.
But why didn’t the priest and Levite? Because the Law itself boxed them in. They were literally damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t. If the man were dead (and he sure looked it), they would have rendered themselves “unclean” and unable to serve as priest and Levite.
Here’s the clincher: Only the Samaritan who is free from the law (in the sense of the priest and Levite) can do the law, that is, be neighbor to the man in the ditch.
The Question: How does one become as free as a Samaritan?
The Answer: Jesus. Now this isn’t an “interpretation” of the parable but a jumping off point. Jesus becomes neighbor to us in the Incarnation, gets down in our ditch, takes us to the inn, etc. This isn’t an interpretation of the parable but an answer to the parable’s dilemma, namely, that we cannot do what we need to do to inherit eternal life by our love of our neighbor.
Allegory is not interpretation of the parable, but using the elements of the parable as an excuse to proclaim Jesus.
Hope that clarifies. Thanks for listening.
Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam says
Wow – too neat to have your pastor comment. So glad that you are in a Lutheran church that is truly preaching the solid word of God – what a blessing. I am still trying to get past chuckling about your post about getting a new job – yep, the life of a home school mom. UGH!
Sandy Toes says
I’m fascinated to be learning about the Lutheran church. I must confess, it is one of those denominations that I know little about, but just generalized it by mentally lumping it together with several others. Your commentaries are so interesting, and I am eager to learn more.
In fact, there is a Lutheran church at the end of my neighborhood, so I may just visit it some Sunday:-)
Dreams of a Country Girl says
do you feel liek there are different season is your life that you need different things ….or do you feel like you are always either need to be ffed or need to feed?????
Hey, I have a present for you over at my blog. Come check it out.
beautiful post, and that’s the way we teach our kids. love the parables – essential!
Thank you Pastor Cwirla for the clarifying points. (He is not my pastor BTW–but speaks on my favorite radio show often).
And CG, I think certainly there are different seasons of life….but not where ‘feeding’ is concerned. I think we are always in need of being fed—God’s Word and His precious body and blood in the sacrament. When we are fed by him, we are free to serve others. He always does the ‘feeding’ though. We recklessly sow the seed and he gives the increase.
Hope you are feeling better!