The Good Samaritan – Luke Ch10v25–37

The Good Samaritan – Luke Ch10v25–37

(0:00 – 1:58)

One occasion, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the law, he replied, and how do you read it? He answered, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 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. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, and who is my neighbor? In reply, Jesus said, a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine, and then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. Look after him, he said, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.

(2:01 – 6:32)

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, the one who had mercy on him. Jesus told him, go and do likewise. Amen, and this is the Word of God.

Last week, Colin started us on a new series, looking at the parables contained within the gospel of Luke. Colin asked us if parables were like light switches or puzzles, before settling on the idea that parables were like stained glass windows. They reward the curious.

If you come inside and look at them, they are clear and glorious. So before you get comfortable this morning, I want to ask you a question. Are you curious? I’m kind of guessing that you must be curious to be either sitting there this morning or to be watching online.

Either that or you’re just appeasing somebody by coming along with them. The interesting thing about this parable is it was spoken primarily to those who are not yet following Jesus. They were on the outside looking at the stained glass, but not seeing it clearly from the inside.

The lawyer who has his own ideas about getting to heaven, and those from Capernaum who had rejected Jesus. People who think they have a better route to heaven. So I want to ask you today, are you asking the right questions? When thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, you may already have formed in your head that you know what it is all about.

So widely known or popular as this particular parable, that the term Good Samaritan or even Samaritan is part of our normal language and understanding. You can even find Good Samaritan in the dictionary. It is a charitable or a helpful person, someone who helps a stranger.

We have probably all heard of the Samaritan’s helpline, a crisis helpline answering a call every 10 seconds to people who are contemplating suicide. Although not a religious organization, the Samaritans was formed by a vicar named Chad Varad just over 70 years ago in 1953 as a man willing to listen with a bass and an emergency telephone. Samaritan was also the name of Sylvester Stallone’s recent movie, which probably none of you have watched, but there we are.

He plays a superhero coaxed out of obscurity to save a city rife with crime. From hospitals to movies, charities to common phrases, it seems like the Samaritan or the Good Samaritan is well known to us. However, I want us to look at this story afresh.

In my opinion, the parable itself is not the big take home point. No, the context, the setting is the big take home point. Notice in the text that we read today, there are a series of questions and these are all really key.

(6:33 – 8:19)

What must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the law and how do you read it? Who is my neighbor? And which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? We see in this text, verse 25, that the lawyer is asking questions of Jesus, or to put it more accurately, a man steeped in Jewish religious laws seeks to catch Jesus out. He stands up to test Jesus. It’s not abundantly clear whether or not he actually wanted to hear the answer, or if he was trying to trip Jesus up, or if he just wanted to intellectually spar with this great teacher.

However, he does ask a great question. So can I ask you today, what brings you to church? Genuinely, what questions do you have? This man, knowledgeable in religious law, asks a great question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? The lawyer is ultimately looking for a set of rules to follow in order to earn eternal life.

(8:23 – 8:50)

We just sung a song, no list of sins I have not done, no list of virtues I pursue. No list of those I am not like can earn my place, myself a place with you. The lawyer was looking for a set of rules to follow in order to earn eternal life.

(8:50 – 9:36)

And rather than giving him an answer, Jesus replies with questions of his own. He puts the lawyer onto his mastermind’s subject of choice. What is written in the law? And how do you, Mr. Lawyer, read it? The lawyer answers, well, he combines Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 5 and Leviticus 19 verse 18 in his answer.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. The combination of two laws known together as the greatest commandment.

(9:36 – 10:13)

However, there’s a problem here, as the lawyer by his questioning was saying, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And by his answer, going straight to Old Testament laws, are this man’s attempt to earn his way into heaven. This was a very Jewish, very pharisaical approach. As the uber strict Jews, the Pharisees had lots and lots of extra laws, over 600 in fact.

(10:14 – 10:43)

And now you would think that that would make things harder to get into heaven. But effectively, it made it easier to achieve because there are many amendments within these laws, so that outwardly, you could at least be seen to be ticking all the right boxes. And this is the approach in our world as well, and to many world religions.

(10:44 – 11:11)

Think about it. We reward good effort for performance all the time. Kids go to the dentist, and they get a sticker.

Some kids at football are on a fiver for a goal. The parents in Zach’s football team think I’m really mean because I don’t give them any money for scoring a goal. Surely it’s just the joy of scoring a goal.

(11:13 – 12:26)

Muslims have to pray five times a day and fast for a month to be a good Muslim. And I could go on. Scratch at the surface a bit, and most people have a set of standards that set them apart as a good or a bad person.

This is most notably seen at funerals where people talk about those who have passed away, looking down on us as they were a good man or a good woman. Despite the fact that at no point in their life did they ever claim to have faith, or believe in God. The lawyer bases his answers on things that he can do, completely missing the point at the beginning of the Ten Commandments.

Have you seen this? In Exodus 20, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of slavery. God wasn’t rewarding the Israelites for anything that they had done. God did this out of grace.

(12:28 – 13:04)

Because of His grace and love shown to the Israelites, the Ten Commandments are now how they are to live. It starts with grace. So although the lawyer is climbing the achievement ladder, and in terms of his answer, he is correct.

Jesus says it. As Jesus says, do this and you will live. But Jesus knows that this is an impossible standard, and that He needs grace.

(13:05 – 15:30)

And the lawyer too realized that the standard is too high. Instead of seeing God’s grace in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, he immediately jumps to how can I make those laws, that answer that I’ve just given you, Jesus, to love you more than anything else, and to love my neighbor as myself. How can I make that more attainable? How can I achieve this law? And he comes back with, who is my neighbor? You see, the lawyer is trying to exclude people in the response he’s looking from Jesus.

He is looking to exclude non-neighbors from the requirement of fulfilling the law. One of the Jewish books of wisdom at that time told readers not to help a sinner. For the lawyer to attain, to achieve eternal life under his own steam, surely Jesus means that you just need to be a good neighbor to other fellow Jews who are nice to you so that I can tick that box and earn eternal life.

The lawyers want to say, Douglas is a good guy. I’ll be his neighbor. But Chris, I don’t like him.

I won’t be his neighbor. The lawyer is seeking to make divisions. The lawyer isn’t understanding the exacting standards of his own answer.

To love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength, and with all of your mind is total devotion, not mere list-ticking. And all of this context is really important for this parable. So, what should we learn from this parable? Jesus is addressing the suggestion of having non-neighbors in the parable.

(15:31 – 22:04)

Now, personally, I don’t think we should teach this parable in terms of allegory, that it is a puzzle, as one of the things that Colin was also rejecting last week, that all the different parts have different meanings. If we were using allegory for the Good Samaritan, and that all the different parts had different meanings, we could easily say that the victim is the human race, that the robbers are bad spirits or even original sin, that the priest and the Levite were the law and the prophets, that the Samaritan is Jesus, the rejected one, the oil and wine are the sacraments, communion and baptism, and the inn is the church. Sounds almost plausible.

And Catholics would have you believe that the innkeeper could even be the Pope. But is this really all in this parable? Personally, I don’t see it. I’m not ruling out the use of allegory in interpreting the Scripture, but it does have its issues, because its limits are your imagination.

And I think that Scripture has to be far more obvious. So let’s look at what Jesus does say. The road that this man was walking on alone, and perhaps he should have heeded the words of the cop, you’ll never walk alone, as this was a notoriously bad road.

It was 17 miles long, dropping 3,000 feet, going over rocky terrain, where it was easy for robbers to hide. This was the equivalent of an out-of-towner walking through some of the roughest areas of Glasgow or Liverpool in a high crime area with poor lighting and gangs loitering on the streets. The man is stripped and beaten and left half dead.

And who comes along the road? A priest, a good guy. Surely he’ll help him, the crowd are probably thinking. This is the right neighborly thing to do.

But the priest, maybe scared for his own safety, maybe worried about becoming unclean because he touches a dead body, Leviticus 21, or perhaps he just didn’t care, walks by on the other side. Next up, the Levite from the tribe of the Levites, who work for the priests, another great example of somebody who should be ready to help. But he walks by on the other side.

Now, the priest and the Levite might have remained pure in terms of the law in Leviticus 21, if this person had indeed be dead. But did they really keep the heart of the law by passing by on the other side? They were a bit like all those during lockdown seeking to exploit holes and hastily arrange legislation by following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. And you probably all had those conversations during COVID, but can I do this? And not doing what was actually right.

The crowd seeing the progression down the Jewish religious pecking order, expect the next person to be a normal Jew. And hopefully they will get it right. Hopefully they will be the neighbor.

But no, the next person along the road is a Samaritan. And this is properly provocative. This is like an Irish Republican, almost dead at the side of the road, and a Protestant Orangeman comes along and helps during the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

This is like this week, an Israeli soldier lying almost dead, and a Hamas fighter comes along and saves him. The crowd would never have seen this one coming, this particular story. The Samaritans were half breeds.

They were half Jewish, half Gentile, hated by Jews, hated by Gentiles alike, known as traitors. The Jews would take massive detours so as not to have to pass through the area of Samaria for fear of coming themselves, becoming unclean. And this good Samaritan, ridiculous.

How could any Samaritan be good? Well, in fact, he was. And he does absolutely everything in his power to help this Jewish stranger. He takes pity on him.

He pours oil and wine known for healing and cleansing. He puts a man on his donkey, meaning that he has to walk. He takes him to an inn and doesn’t just leave him there, he cares for him.

He then pays, and the scholars are debating this one, between two weeks and two months worth of wages to initially ensure that this man is cared for. And he promises to return and settle any outstanding debt. To say that he goes above and beyond is probably a wee bit of an understatement.

But Jesus is making a big point. The lawyer wants to be a neighbor to a select and an easy few. But the call from Jesus is, be a neighbor to those who are in need.

(22:05 – 24:32)

Don’t limit those who you act as a neighbor to. For as we serve, you too will be blessed. For a number of years, we opened up our home to a single mom and her son, and it was a blessing to be in a position to care and demonstrate love.

Are we willing to give of ourselves? Do we have an attitude of whatever is mine is God’s? As we seek to love, honor, and help others by using the gifts that God has given us. Jesus then asks another question. Which of these three do you think is a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The answer clearly stuck in the throat, as did you notice the lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say that it was the Samaritan? Instead, he says the man who had mercy on him.

Jesus says to the lawyer, go and do likewise. So what’s the application for us this morning? I see that there’s three big application points. Firstly, we don’t earn our way into heaven.

The clue was in the lawyer’s initial question, and I don’t even think he realized. What must I do to inherit eternal life? His focus was on the do, whereas his focus should have been on inherit. What must I do to inherit eternal life? We don’t do anything to inherit.

We inherit because we are family, because we’re a son or a daughter. It’s not about doing. Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged that God is keeping a tally, that those above a certain score get in.

Romans chapter 3, verse 20 says, therefore, no one will be declared righteous. No one will be declared right in God’s sight by works of the law. Rather, through the law, we become conscious of our sin.

(24:33 – 25:24)

If there were a pass mark, the pass mark would be perfection, and no one can achieve that. Hence, the lawyer, the rule keeper, the list ticker, practically begs Jesus, but surely not everyone is my neighbor. And Jesus shares the parable, which brings us to our second point of application.

Jesus turns the question from who is my neighbor to how can I be a neighbor? Failure to keep the commandment comes from a lack of love, not a lack of information. It is not more knowledge that the lawyer needed, but a renewed heart. The lawyer needed to be looking at the stained glass window from the inside, not from the outside.

(25:25 – 27:38)

It’s not your activities that matter, but it’s your attitude. We are called to show love, not just to our friends, not just to people who can repay our kindness with kindness of their own, but we are called to reach out and show kindness to the hardest of people, to the boss who’s a bully, from the person at school who no one likes, from the person at work who is openly gay, to the person who has gossiped about us. One of the things that I find ironic about equality, diversity, and inclusion at work is that Christians are often given a bad press because we speak up for the truth and what we believe in.

But at the same time, Christians, to do what is right, we should be showing love and kindness, even in our differences. It doesn’t mean we have to agree, but we do need to be loving and respectful. The Deuteronomy, love with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength in this passage is great as it takes eyes and ears to see and hear the needs of people.

And then this needs to be backed up by a compassionate heart. So is that something that you’re willing to do today? To see the needs of others and to meet them. And the final point of application is that as we’re not earning, in our not earning salvation, we are called to show kindness, but it also means that we aren’t to be so busy because we’re trying to do all things to all people.

(27:40 – 28:35)

I was personally struck by the thorns in the parable of the sower that Colin said last week. The challenge that came from him, that if your life is too full for Christ, then your life is too full. And I say that as somebody who is busy myself.

But notice again, the context of where this parable sits. It is of no surprise to me that the very next story is that of Mary and Martha. Jesus goes to visit their house.

Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens. Meanwhile, Martha is too distracted by being busy. Be a good neighbour, see need, respond in love.

(28:38 – 29:23)

Whilst at the same time, making sure that you have time in your life for God. I want you to get that balance today. I don’t want you going away from here today thinking, I’ve got to do so much.

Yes, we do need to be good neighbours and we do have a lot to do. But we need to find that balance and we need to realise the context of where this passage sits. Jesus shares the Good Samaritan story immediately before Mary and Martha, as it is important for us to learn to prioritise the value of simply coming to listen to the Word of God being spoken.

(29:25 – 29:44)

So please, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time here or watching online, please keep coming back. Come with questions of these parables. Come inside, be curious.

(29:45 – 29:59)

And hopefully as we go through this provocative series, we can see just how God is speaking to us and what he is saying from inside the stained glass windows. Amen.