Last Sunday I mentioned that Jeff preached a sermon on the Good Samaritan and that with his permission, I would write a post about it based on his sermon notes. This is that post. (The text in block quotes is taken directly from Jeff’s sermon last Sunday.)
“Isn’t it kind of amazing that a song that was made popular in the 1940’s would still be so well known that it could be the source of a joke for a t-shirt company in 2011? It seems like most of us can remember a time when “You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out…” I guess it’s all that repetition; there’s nothing new, so we don’t have too much trouble going through the motions.
I think the same thing happens with certain Bible stories. We hear them, and we’re sure we know what their all about, so we smile and go through the motions. Part of the trouble may be that so many of these stories have a good moral on the surface, and we get so used to hearing the moral, that we don’t look to see if something more is there. The story we’re looking at today has great potential for this.”
At the beginning of this parable, a teacher of the law, a man who has devoted his life to learning and observing Jewish law, asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I think it’s safe to assume that this guy wasn’t asking Jesus this question because he didn’t know. He was asking Jesus this question to test him. To see if Jesus’s answer lined up with what he thought he already understood.
In response to this question, Jesus asks him a question: “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
To which the lawyer responds: “‘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, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Think about that last line: “Do this and you will live”. By making this statement to the teacher of the law, Jesus is essentially telling him that he’s not currently loving God and loving his neighbor. He’s telling him he may know the the greatest commandment, but he’s not keeping it. As I read this passage, I’m thinking that this guy is pretty put out with Jesus. Who does this guy think he is telling me I’m not living right?
“Now the expert in the law is troubled. He wants to justify himself—literally, he wants to be declared righteous by his actions. So, he asks Jesus to clarify the parameters of measurement. “Define what you mean by ‘neighbor,’ and I’ll confirm that I’ve shown love to them, thus meeting your qualifications.”
Jesus could have given the lawyer a short answer. But every good teacher knows that it’s far better to guide someone to discover the answer for themselves—it just “sticks” in a much more powerful way. And Jesus is the Master teacher…”
Jesus begins to tell the story of the Good Samaritan:
“One particular stretch was ideal for an ambush, and was actually referred to as the “Way of Blood,” because of the number of people who were robbed and killed there. Having a character fall victim to robbers was really a pretty realistic scenario.
So as the man lies bleeding and half dead, a priest comes along, and at some point after him, a Levite does too. Again, this was a realistic scenario. They were both travelling the same way as the man who got robbed, which meant they were likely on their way home from working at the temple, which was in Jerusalem. Jericho was sort of a “bedroom community” of Jerusalem and many of the priests and Levites lived there.
For some reason, neither of these men stopped to help the victim. It’s easy for us to call these guys names and write them off as callous, uncaring, pompous hypocrites. But before we do, let me ask you: have you ever passed by an opportunity to show compassion to someone else?
Not just that person on I-10 with a flat. Maybe a co-worker who you know has had a horrible day (or week or month). You can tell they really need someone, but you’re just so tired. Or you’ve got to get to that meeting. Or you just have to get home. Remember: this trip was about 17 miles, and probably took around 5+ hours to walk.
How about at home? You know that your husband, or wife, or kiddo really wants to talk, or play that game with you, or go do that thing with you that they’ve been telling you about for days or weeks. But you just got home. Or you really wanted to go work out tonight. Or you’re wiped and you just want a little down time.
I can hear the priest and the Levite: “What if he’s already dead? And look at that blood! Either way, I touch him and I’m ritualistically unclean, which means I might not be able to fulfill my next obligation at the temple. I can’t risk that- I have an obligation!” Or, “I’ve got so far to go, and my family is waiting for me. They are my priority- Honestly, I don’t even know this guy! What if this is a trap? Whether he’s hurt or not, if I stop I could get jumped and end up just like him…
I mean, maybe these guys aren’t rotten. Maybe they’re just… human.”
At this point in the story, along comes a Samaritan man. By the time of this parable, the Jews considered the Samaritan nation completely impure and lower than dogs. And yet, Jesus chooses a Samaritan to be the hero of the story.
But the actions of the Samaritan in this story can teach us three important lessons about extending grace:
I. First, the Samaritan was PROACTIVE.
As soon as he saw the victimized man, the Samaritan felt pity and went to him. He engaged the man where he was, without hesitation.
II. Second, the Samaritan got MESSY.
He jumped right into the ugliness of the man’s situation. People didn’t carry around first aid kits, so I imagine that he had to tear up some of his own clothing for bandages. As he began to bandage the man’s wounds, the wine and the oil that was poured out would have mixed with the dirt and the blood and it would have been messy.
III. Finally, the Samaritan GAVE of HIMSELF.
He placed the man on his donkey and walked the rest of the 17 mile journey. He took the man to an inn, and cared for
him that night. As he prepared to leave the next day, he didn’t surrender his involvement. Instead, he gave the innkeeper two silver coins—two Denari—which would have covered the victims care for about three weeks. And he assured him that if there were more costs involved in the man’s recovery, he would pay for them upon his return.
After telling the parable, Jesus finishes the discussion with the lawyer:
36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
I can just hear the lawyer as he grits his teeth and answers the question. He can’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan!” So he tells Jesus that the neighbor was “the one who had mercy on him.”
So what can we learn from this parable today?
I think a lot of people would say that this story teaches us how to love our neighbor, right? Well, the Samaritan is certainly an amazing example of that very thing. But we’ll miss the big point unless we remember one very important thing: The lawyer’s original question.
He asked Jesus, “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer wanted Jesus to tell him exactly who his neighbor was because he was trying to be made righteous by his own actions. In response, Jesus tells him that essentially, his “neighbor” is EVERYONE.
Don’t move on too quickly from this idea, because it’s not as clear and tidy as we sometimes want to make it. Think of actually responding to EVERYONE the way the Samaritan responded to the victim.
You must be proactive with every single person in your life! Everyone you meet must be a grade A, number 1, top priority for you.
You must jump into the mess of EVERYONE you know. Bandaging their wounds, addressing their hurts. You must be committed to their complete and total healing.
Finally, you must give of yourself sacrificially to EVERYBODY. Physically, emotionally financially, you give until it hurts. To every single person you come in contact with.
You can almost hear the lawyer walking away saying, “That’s impossible!”
And I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Yes it is.”
1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Now THAT’S what it’s all about.
Looking at this parable with a new perspective completely blew me away. How many times have you heard or read this story? The obvious lesson is to love your neighbor, to give sacrificially, etc.
But there is a deeper message that I took away from this sermon, and it is this:
I’m not the teacher of the law in this story.
I’m certainly not Jesus
I’m not the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan
and I’m guessing you’re not any of them either…
Who am I?
I’m the man left for dead on the Road to Jericho…
and time after time in my life…
Jesus is The Good Samaritan.