Go and Do Likewise
Luke 10: 25-37
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He 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.’ 28And 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?’ 30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He 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. 35The 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.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
How many folks here have seen Disney’s The Lion King?
Like most of the Disney animated movies it follows a particular pattern.
The “Hero’s Journey”.
Simply put the hero’s journey looks like this:
A character living an ordinary life suddenly goes on an adventure, encounters a crisis, secures a victory and then finally comes home changed and transformed by the lesson learned on the journey.
That certainly is The Lion King, right?
Simba has his adventure, his crisis, his lesson and his transformation and his return.
Remember who you are. You are … the one true King. Remember who you are.
So, Simba goes home and becomes king.
But now what?
What is he supposed to do next?
What does he do next?
We don’t know.
Do he and Nala live out the lesson that transformed Simba?
Does he teach the lesson to his son?
We don’t know.
We don’t see the rest of Simba’s life.
We don’t see how the lesson was lived out.
We don’t see what kind of king Simba ultimately is.
We don’t see how Simba rules over the Serengeti while having to deal with rebellious hyenas and carefree meerkats all causing endless headaches and requiring tough decisions.
And basically, we are OK with that, because, well, it’s just a story.
We like the ending and that’s enough.
In Luke’s telling of Jesus encounter with the lawyer that includes the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we see a kind of hero’s journey there as well.
Who is the hero?
Actually, the lawyer.
The lawyer is living his ordinary life when he hears about this man named Jesus.
He embarks on a journey to meet Jesus and “test” him.
There is a crisis when he and Jesus battle over an interpretation of Torah.
The lawyer wants to know what he has to do to inherit eternal life.
What does he learn?
Remember what Torah says.
Love God and love neighbor.
To love God and love neighbor, you must show mercy.
Mercy to those who need it, even when you despise them.
Then Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise”.
If this were a Disney film, the lawyer would go back to his people transformed by the lesson.
But what does the lawyer do?
Like the story of Simba, we don’t know.
We don’t see how the lawyer shows mercy.
How does the lawyer show mercy to those in need when his own people will call him unclean if he shows it to the despised?
When I thought about this, I was reminded of something learned when I went to Malaysia several years ago to visit several Christian communities there.
Some things you need to know about Malaysia.
Malaysia a Muslim nation.
Islam is the constitutionally recognized national religion.
It is illegal to try to convert someone from Islam to any other religion.
Doing so will land you in jail.
While there, I met the president of Sabah Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Thu En Yu.
The seminary is East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo in the city of Kota Kinabalu.
Dr. Thu told us this story.
Back in the 1960’s there were 30 missionary pastors and 30 nurses who traveled around the tribal lands of Borneo visiting local communities, providing health care, education and also some teaching about Jesus.
The Muslim Malaysian government expelled all the foreign Christian missionaries because they were being a bit too successful in creating Christians in the animistic tribes of Borneo.
Now the local pastors, of which there were few, had to take over for the missionaries.
As one of those pastors, Dr. Thu walked to tribal villages every Sunday.
But there were too many villages.
They needed more pastors.
So, he started a Bible School in the early 1980s.
Lay people were taught the Bible and sent back to their communities to teach the new Christians in the villages.
Over time, the Bible School grads wanted more training, more education, and to become ordained pastors.
So, Dr. Thu proposed expanding the Bible school into a seminary.
And the local Muslim community did not like it.
The newspapers opposed it.
The local state officials tried to stop it.
Dr. Thu was harassed by the police.
The Muslim community accused the Christian community of a large-scale attempt to convert Muslims.
They wanted the school closed and Dr. Thu jailed.
He was finally summoned to meet with the Governor of East Malaysia.
Dr. Thu assumed it was a publicity stunt during which he was going to be arrested and the school closed.
When he met the Governor, he was shown 3,000 signatures of people who said they were “Muslims” and who claimed they been approached by Thu’s students who tried to convert them.
Dr. Thu was waiting for the handcuffs.
But then the Governor told Dr. Thu his own story.
The Governor had been educated in a Christian Mission School as a boy and had been treated well by the missionaries even though he was Muslim.
He was never asked to convert, though he was taught about Christianity.
He had observed how much good the Christian Church was doing by providing education and health services to those without access to it and where the government could not provide it.
The Governor not only approved the Seminary but proclaimed it a constitutionally protected activity and then gave the seminary 6 acres of land across the street from the Governor’s palace.
When the seminary building was finished, the Prime Minster attended the dedication and as a dedication gift, paid off the remaining debt incurred for the building of the seminary.
The government has since given the seminary 3 more acres of land to build new classrooms and facilities so the seminary can become a Christian University – in a Muslim country!
So, if we apply the concept of the hero’s journey to this story, who is the hero?
It would be easy to say it was Dr. Thu.
But if we look at our text, we see that it actually is the Governor.
The Governor is going about his ordinary life as a child in Borneo.
He embarks on an educational journey in which he learns about what it means to receive mercy from infidel Christians who seek not to convert but to care for and educate.
The lesson is the same as the lesson of the Good Samaritan.
Love God, love neighbor, show mercy.
He is transformed by the experience.
Later he becomes governor of East Malaysia.
Here is where we get a bit more from this story than we get from the Lion King and our text.
We see how the Governor lives out his lesson.
A Christian seminary is proposed but the Muslim community wants to shut it down and jail its leaders.
The Governor decides to support the Seminary with legal status, land and money based on the lessons he learned as a boy.
He stands up to his own Muslim community and the Muslim community backs down.
Dr. Thu explained that he learned a lesson, too.
It is necessary for the church to proclaim its message by living the Gospel out in the community and demonstrating how Christian living benefits the community as a whole.
Not to force conversion.
But to show mercy.
They showed mercy to those who were in need.
They loved their neighbors.
And in return, they received mercy.
They were loved by at least one of their neighbors.
Someone like the Samaritan in the parable.
Both followed Jesus’ challenge.
Go and do likewise.
But here is a subtle part of the lesson.
Neither the Christian missionaries who taught and cared for the Governor, nor the Governor who allowed the building of the seminary, did those things expecting something in return.
This was not a quid pro quo.
It was showing mercy.
It was loving neighbor.
We see that in the parable.
The Samaritan, stops, helps, transports, houses and finances the recovery of the man in the ditch.
In Jesus’ telling of the story, the Samaritan has no expectation that he will receive anything in return for his troubles.
So why does he do it?
To be a good neighbor, certainly.
But why be a good neighbor?
Because being a good neighbor creates a community.
A community that is based on mutual care and connection.
A community with no boundaries.
Not a community of religious or cultural clones.
A community where mercy is practiced in a way that all can live together as neighbors despite their differences.
A community that models the Kingdom of God.
This is what Jesus means at the end of his lesson when he tells the lawyer, and us, to go and do likewise.
We need to love God and love neighbor.
With no expectation of a return.
We need to practice mercy.
We need to go and create a community where mercy is practiced to all so that all can live together as neighbors despite their differences.
When we do that, we live in God’s Kingdom.
This is our hero’s journey.
We are living our ordinary lives as children.
We begin a journey of faith, like Nora here, when we are baptized.
We encounter a crisis, perhaps many, and learn a lesson when someone shows us mercy.
Someone we don’t know and might not look much like us, and at a time we really don’t deserve it.
That is our lesson.
And it should change us and transform us.
That is what we have promised to help Nora with.
But there is another reason we are called to go and do likewise.
An underlying theme of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Who is the Christ figure in the parable?
Like Jesus, the Samaritan shows mercy to one who needs it, without regard to merit.
Jesus gave his life as an act of mercy to we who need it, without regard to merit.
That is why Jesus tells us to go and do likewise.
It is the Jesus way.