On Sunday, I will preach from Luke 10:25-37. You might know it better as the story of the Good Samaritan. It is one of the more recognizable parables in Scripture. The story tells us much about Jesus’ love for all people and the calling of those who seek to live by his example.
With any parable, the key is to find how we (as individuals and the church) relate to the story. I think that is one of the reasons why this parable is famous. We can relate to each character and the legal expert with whom Jesus interacts with.
The legal expert came to Jesus wanting to be honored in the Lord’s presence. He wanted to be affirmed for his knowledge of Scripture. (As an expert of the law he would have known the Torah and what it meant for the people). He goes to Jesus wanting the “seal of approval” for his actions and faith.
Sound familiar? Often our devotional life with the Lord is similar to the legal expert’s encounter with Jesus. We read Scripture wanting our values to be approved or validated. We pray for our agendas to be accepted as holy in God’s eyes. What we want is for Jesus to look at us and say, “Wow, you’ve got it right.”
This can hinder our faith. Instead of wanting to grow in Christ’s love we instead only want to grow in our definition of self and what we believe it means to follow Christ. The legal expert needed to be stretched in his understanding of faith and serving others. We often need to be stretched, as well.
The injured person was the one who needed help. He had been robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. It is likely he was in a serious amount of pain and needed immediate attention. Jesus doesn’t say it, but we can imagine he was screaming for help.
We all need help from time to time. Each of us will experience trials, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, that will test us. In these trials and difficult moments, we are reminded we cannot go through life alone. One of the most vulnerable moments in our lives is when we admit we are in need of help. It is a recognition that we need the community and we are allowing the community to care for us. In a culture that prides itself on individuality, we have to be taught how to depend on others and even how to ask for help.
The injured person reminds us that it is OK to ask for help and assistance from others. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of faith and trust in God’s ability to provide for our needs through the gifts and love of others.
What about the priest and the Levite? Both had opportunities to help the injured person and, yet, for whatever reason they decide not to. Some have argued that it was because of the ceremonial rules of the day. They did not what to be considered unclean and, thus, unable to attend worship services. Regardless, the two people saw there was a need and perhaps had the means to provide some level of help.
One thing we don’t want to admit is that we can relate to the priest and Levite. Situations will come where we will see a need and for whatever reason decide not to help. The reasons could be as understandable as those of the priest and Levite. The parable invites us to think about those situations when we have moved to the other side of the road to avoid helping someone.
That can be a painful experience of remembrance. The parable also reminds us of God’s grace. We are going to get things wrong and will miss opportunities to serve. God’s grace is there in those moments and helps us to grow in such ways that, hopefully, we will be more like the Samaritan than the priest and Levite.
This brings us, of course, to the Samaritan. The person who offered help to the injured person was the least likely to do so. He was a member of an “outcast” group. This was because of their beliefs about where to worship and how to live out God’s desires. None of that matters here. The Samaritan finds a way to help when he sees the injured person. In fact, the Samaritan goes the extra mile and pays for the cost of the injured person’s recovery.
We want to follow the Samaritan’s example. We want to be able to reach out and provide care and love when we know of needs in our communities. The Samaritan’s example reminds us that no matter who we we can offer help to our neighbors. Keep in mind, for Jesus the idea of neighbor extends beyond those who are close to us and includes all of humanity.
Perhaps the best way we can follow the Samaritan’s example is by actively finding opportunities to care for others. In big and small ways, we can help our neighbors in need by sharing the love of God in appropriate ways. That should be the mission of our churches and each of us.
The Good Samaritan is a classic parable. While we often focus on the Samaritan, hopefully we will see that Jesus was speaking and teaching us through each character.