The Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37)

Here are the notes from David’s sermon:

A very familiar parable – maybe the best known of all! Repeated over and over in Sunday Schools across the land…all over the world.

I read, one Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was beaten, robbed and left for dead.

She described the situation in vivid detail so her students would catch the drama. Then, she asked the class, “If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?”

A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, “I think I’d throw up.”

Who was the Good Samaritan?

I was driving along the M25 from the airport the other day, I asked my passenger who doesn’t have any significant Bible education: Who was the Good Samaritan?

His first answer was: “Someone who helps old ladies across the road.”

I pressed the question: “OK but where does all this “Good Samaritan” thing come from?”

He came up with a suggestion:

“Maybe he comes from a place called Samaritania… could be in Eastern Europe… where everyone always helps old ladies across the road…. It’s a dreadful place because the traffic is always badly congested… cars can’t get through…’cause of all the old ladies being helped across the roads…. ”

What he knew was that, in common usage, the word Samaritan, or Good Samaritan, means someone who helps somebody in trouble, or sick, or less able. It’s now virtually a universal concept…. Not just in Christian countries and cultures…. You’ll find the idea of a “Good Samaritan” in most countries of the world, even China and Japan which have very different cultural histories from the west.

Did you know, many countries have “Good Samaritan” laws. They vary in character:

In the USA and Canada, they’re mainly to protect from blame those who choose to help others who are injured or ill. ‘Cause in America…the priest and the Levite wouldn’t stop to help because they’d be afraid of a law suit?…….

That says something about litigation and the “Blame” culture that’s growing even here in Britain…. Which to us is quite ludicrous…

Good Samaritan laws are slightly different In France where there is actually a legal obligation to help people in distress, unless it puts you at risk.

(Paris police considered applying these laws to prosecute the photographers who took pictures at the scene of the accident that killed Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed.)

In Germany it’s an offense to neglect one’s duty to provide first aid to an injured person. All drivers have to know first aid to get a license.

Now… all over the world… there are Hospitals, Hospices, Foundations, Charities, Crisis Centres, Nursing Homes, Churches and… of course… pubs called: Good Samaritan. On Thursday, I drove past a Samaritan hospital.

It’s a universal concept that originates with a little story told by Jesus in answer to… what was, basically, a trick question:

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b]”
28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

And Jesus told this parable.
And as parables go, it’s pretty straightforward. Anyone would get it, wouldn’t they?
Someone is lying injured by the side of the road. Two men walk right by but the third stops to help… clearly he’s the hero… he’s the good man…. He’s the neighbour! The Law says….
Love your neighbour….
Therefore we have to love people who do good deeds…or help others in need… or rescue you when you’re injured?
That would be a bit too easy, wouldn’t it… it might satisfy a lot of the world… but somehow it doesn’t really seem like that’s quite what Jesus intended to say.
No, that doesn’t work at all. Maybe it’s the other way round. When Jesus says “go and do likewise” he means be a neighbour to the one in distress… show love like the Samaritan. That’s a bit more likely, but is that all there is to this story?
If only passersby always showed kindness like the Samaritan.
Have you ever been rescued by a good Samaritan???
(describe experience)
Another time….
I was on a bus once, in Serbia, it was hot and sticky and I felt faint and a bit sick. We told the driver and he stopped the bus straight away, by the side of the road. If this was an English bus we’d have had to get off and wait for another… but we got out and so did some of the other passengers…offering help… one offered me some milk (milk!) … the bus driver waited patiently… there was lots of concern about me… none at all about the bus meeting its schedule… But that’s normal in Serbia.
I was just some foreigner… and these good Samaritans stopped to help. If that was all it was about, this parable would be pretty good.
But I wonder if maybe it’s not so simple….. after all… We’ve identified it as one of God’s riddles…. And maybe there’s a bit more of a puzzle than it seems at first reading.
Let’s look a bit deeper…
One thing we probably should be aware of is who are these three potential rescuers, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan? The first two are leaders among Jewish society. They’re respected, educated, upright believers in the Law of Moses. They know word for word what it says in Leviticus 19:18
‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.
The third is a Samaritan. To put it mildly, Jews didn’t like Samaritans…. the Jews were not all that concerned about political correctness. They didn’t have anti-discrimination laws to worry about – so they discriminated gleefully….they openly hated Samaritans. As far as the Jews are concerned…Samaritans were dogs. Not fit to be in the same house or the same room as a Jew… not fit to eat at the same table… worse than dogs because they wouldn’t throw a Samaritan the scraps from their table
Now the story seems to take on some depth. This isn’t just about an act of kindness…it’s kindness flying in the face of prejudice, injustice and intolerance. Now it’s about mercy, grace and forgiveness. Now who is the neighbour? He’s the one who is detested and hated and discriminated against. The one who is despised, rejected and persecuted… and yet…. shows mercy
The Law says….Love your neighbour.
To the expert in the law that Jesus was speaking to, this parable was rather like telling Iraqi Sunnis to love their Shiite neighbours (I live in fear of that word… getting it wrong),
despite generations of oppression, persecution and mistrust…
now it’s a much tougher lesson than it first appeared.

much more challenging… but is that all?

Rather like the parable of the persistent friend that Ben was talking about last week, this is how far the standard sermon about The Good Samaritan usually gets. The lesson that preachers have brought to congregations over the generations… and a brilliant lesson it is….

Show love and mercy to your neighbour even when you are despised, rejected and persecuted by him.

Preachers might dwell on this point…. They might remind us that the Samaritan’s love isn’t some kind of cushy-mushy, namby-pamby, cuddly warm feeling he has for the man he rescues. It’s tough practical love… doing what is right, despite whatever feelings he might have towards the guy and his race.

That’s could be where the sermon ends.

But is there more…. ?

This Samaritan… the despised…. Rejected…persecuted… who does that remind you of.

Jesus, of course….

Not a Samaritan though. A Jew like those around him…. At the start… admired and respected as a teacher… a man of miracles and healing…. but at the end…. As we know…. The crowd turned on him… the mob, inspired by people like this “expert in the law” who was questioning him now. They began to despise him “who is this King of the Jews”…. They rejected him in favour of a known murderer….”Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!”

They persecuted him… “Crucify him! Crucify him!” the crowd shouted.

They crucified him.

Yet still he loved them:

“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

And even as Jesus, despised, rejected, persecuted, crucified… even as he hung on the cross he reached out to rescue one who hung beside him.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In the parable of The Good Samaritan… is Jesus, then, describing himself?

Is Jesus really the Good Samaritan… the alien, despised, rejected and persecuted who still shows love and compassion for society’s victims.

What do you think?

But is there more?…. Is there another way of looking at this?

We’ve been talking mostly about the three passersby… the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. What about the victim. Who’s he??

They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

Who is he…. Is that you or me lying broken by the road…in need of love…in need of rescuing…?

OR could it be that man who is Jesus? Lying broken and beaten, half dead at the roadside. Is he calling to us to reach out and love him? Is this Jesus putting himself at the mercy of the people he came to save? Making himself dependent on the mercy of someone who cares… someone who will stop and tend his wounds… Someone who will love him?

What do you think?

Who’s who in this story? The Traveller… The Samaritan…

And which one are you?
Love your neighbour

I’m going to leave you with another, slightly different twist. From an alternative viewpoint…. There’s other characters in this story… the muggers.
Any social workers here today?………………………….
Two social workers were walking through a rough part of the city one night. They heard moans and muted cries for help from a back lane. There, they found a semi-conscious man in a pool of blood. “Help me, I’ve been mugged and viciously beaten” he pleaded.
The two social workers turned and walked away. One remarked to her colleague: “You know the person that did this really needs help.”
That may be a joke, but it’s no less true… the one who did this bad thing, no matter what he may have done, he too is in need of a good neighbour…one who will pick him up, care for him, look after his needs, help him to overcome whatever led to this …

People stumble and fall by the wayside for all kinds of reasons. Our traveler just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…and got mugged… Some might say it was his own fault….wandering around on a dangerous road, what does he expect. … maybe, like me you’ve sometimes been in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing… and maybe it was your own fault.

How do we react, when someone is in some kind of trouble, and we think it’s somehow their own fault? Do we give them a wide berth, like the Priest and the Levite? Pass by on the other side, glad that we’re better people… we’d never do such a thing.

Is that too, when someone needs a true friend and neighbour? A good Samaritan.

Love your neighbour.


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