From the What in the world was he thinking? File comes a link that Bryan Cross shared a little over a month ago on his blog, but I didn't have a chance to re-share it until now. The link is to a January 2014 blog post by Tullian Tchividjian, who teaches at Reformed Seminary (and is Billy Graham's grandson). In his post, Tullian "interprets" the parable of the Good Samaritan - that famous parable from Luke 10:29-37 where Jesus teaches us what it means to 'love our neighbor'. This is pretty straightforward stuff, and yet, astonishingly, Tullian ends up turning the simple lesson of Jesus on it's head.
Here are some key excerpts (see the main article for the full story) from Tullian's article:
This parable is perhaps the best known story Jesus ever told after the parable of The Prodigal Son. It is, however, also the most misunderstood.
Jesus tells the story to answer a lawyer’s question about who his neighbor is. . . . Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He was asked a vertical question (a question about a person’s relationship to God) rather than a horizontal one. The lawyer was, after all, seeking to “justify” himself. This parable must, therefore, be interpreted vertically. It’s about justification, not sanctification.
What Jesus is saying in the parable of The Good Samaritan is that, to inherit eternal life, you must keep God’s law perfectly—which includes loving your neighbor as yourself. No wiggle room. . . . “Go and do likewise” is, therefore, not a word of invitation to be nice. It’s a word of condemnation in answer to the laywer’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Far from telling the story to help us become like The Good Samaritan, Jesus tells this story to show us how far from being like The Good Samaritan we actually are! Jesus’ parable destroys our efforts to justify ourselves.
Jesus intends the parable itself to leave us beaten and bloodied, lying in a ditch, like the man in the story. . . . But then Jesus comes. Unlike the Priest and Levite, He doesn’t avoid us. He crosses the street—from heaven to earth—comes into our mess, gets his hands dirty. At great cost to himself on the cross, he heals our wounds, covers our nakedness, and loves us with a no-strings-attached love. He brings us to the Father and promises that his “help” is not simply a one time gift—rather, it’s a gift that will forever cover “the charges” we incur.
Yes, Jesus and Jesus alone is the Good Samaritan.
Just like Martin Luther, this pastor comes along and tells the Church we've all been reading the Bible completely wrong all these centuries. It turns out the story isn't a lesson in Christian living at all, but just the opposite: how a Christian is not really able to love their neighbor. And yet despite his theological 'haughtiness' of sorts, Tullian's argument makes sense in it's own way.
The truth is, Protestants have historically had trouble with the teachings and parables of Jesus in the Gospels because many of these teachings directly contradict key Protestant teachings - particularly their doctrine of justification by faith alone. As a result, Protestants have tended to generally ignore the Gospels or twist the teachings contained in them in order to subconsciously "protect" their erroneous teachings. And this example is no exception: Jesus is talking about attaining eternal life by Christian living rather than by faith alone, so Tullian (understandably) sees the need to get around this. And as is plain to everyone, his "solution" is so absurd that it's obvious that the real problem must be with his Protestant theology on how man is saved.
With that said, there is a strong tradition in the Catholic Church of recognizing a second-level meaning of this passage: some of the Church Fathers saw that Jesus was indeed the Good Samaritan par excellence, and we sinners are the ones laying in a ditch half dead in need of His help - a help which the Old Covenant (signified by the Priest and Levite who pass by) couldn't provide us. Tullian did not invent this 'allegorical' interpretation. What Tullian did do though, which Catholic tradition never has or would do, is make the parable mean the exact opposite of what Jesus intended to teach. And there is nothing mutually exclusive about Jesus being the Good Samaritan and us being called to be Good Samaritans ourselves: "Go and do likewise" is plainly referring to the duty of all Christians to model after the Good Samaritan.
Lastly, I don't think Tullian was correct to say that when the Samaritan brought the man to the Inn (Lk 10:35), the Innkeeper is God the Father. Rather, some of those same Church Fathers noted the Inn represents the Church, and thus the Innkeeper most logically represents Peter, whom Jesus leaves in charge while He is "away" (i.e. until the Second Coming). Admittedly, in looking this up the best I could, I wasn't able to find any Church Fathers who really paid attention to the innkeeper detail, except St Augustine who viewed the innkeeper as Paul because Paul went above and beyond his talents, cf 1 Cor 9:14-15. I don't think that makes the most sense though because Peter was put in charge in a very clear way throughout the Gospels, and given the keys and told to feed Christ's sheep. And I believe Peter fits best in other parables, such as the Chief-Steward that Jesus leaves in charge of His estate. Given that there's no substantial patristic testimony on this innkeeper point (that I was able to find), I feel I've come to the most reasonable conclusion, as have other Catholics. Interestingly, the Greek word for "take care of" appears only in this parable (Lk 10:35) and only in 1 Timothy 3:5, speaking of a bishop's duty of "taking care of the Church," in which Peter would be the head bishop. As for the two coins given to the innkeeper, from what I've found they can represent many things: two Sacraments of healing and sustenance, namely Eucharist and Confession (or Baptism); the Old & New Testament Scriptures; grace and the Holy Spirit; etc. Take your pick.