This morning I preached at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church in Dagenham.
I realise that in the 20 plus years I have been preaching I have never spoken on “The Good Samaritan”.
Earlier in the children’s talk we looked at “Heroes and Heroines” looking at the many examples we can find in the Bible. And in a way the Good Samaritan was a hero given that he came to the rescue of a man who had been assaulted and robbed. How did he know it was safe? that the robbers weren’t waiting to attack any unsuspecting person who came along?
There are many facets to this parable and we concentrated on just a few.
Luke 10:25 – 37
25 On 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?” 27 He 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’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Do you ever find people you don’t like?
Maybe its because of what they do, like playing loud music into the middle of the night or they drive so erratically and so slowly that a milk float with the motor switched off could over take them.
Often it’s a cultural thing. As I grew up in the 60’s there were the Mods on their motor scooters and the Rockers on their motor bikes. The cultures collided at bank holiday weekends on the seafront.
Later it was “punks” and “skin heads”.
We usually dislike folk because they are different. They are not like us!
Some folks from East London don’t like people from South of the water!
Or if you are a Spurs supporter what do you think of West Ham or Arsenal?
Jonathan Swift in “Gulliver’s Travels” wrote about two arguing, warring factions: The “little enders” and the “big enders”. That was all to do with which end of a boiled egg you opened. The small or the large end!
I heard recently of a church that told a young lady she wasn’t the sort of person they welcomed into their church as her arms were covered with cuts and scars. She was a self harmer.
Many years ago I was brought up in the Church of England. Our rector described the catholic church on the other side of the road as the Bishop of Rome’s mission to Upminster. The catholic priest called the rector “That man over there!” And of course good Catholics were forbidden to set foot in another church because it wasn’t a proper church. I dread to think what that priest would have said about the Baptists.
So here we come to a very familiar story, “The Good Samaritan.”
People love stories and jokes particularly if they are at the expense of another cultural group. Inevitably in this country we have the Englishman, the Scotsman and the Irish man, with the Irish often (but not always) being the butt of the joke.
An Englishman a Scotsman and an Irish man go into a pub. A broad Scottish voice proclaims “I’m buying!”. The next day the newspaper headline reads “Irate Scotsman attacks English ventriloquist”.
I understand that in Canada those from Newfoundland come in the same category. So “why do Newfoundland dogs have flat faces – they keep chasing parked cars”.
In first century Palestine there were several factions in the Jewish nation and they often tried to get one over on each other.
The priests and the Levites were related. The priests were descended from Aaron who was from the tribe of Levi. The priests were needed in the Temple to make the sacrifices laid down in the books of the law, the first five books of the Bible.
The Levites were to assist the priests and to over see the running of the Temple as well as providing the musicians and the choir.
The Pharisees or teachers of the law, thought they were better than anyone else. They didn’t like some of the establishment cooperating with the Romans.The Priests and the Levites were the religious establishment.
the Pharisees knew God’s law and applied in very accurately. So they would tithe even the herbs they grew on the kitchen window sill! The Pharisees may know the law of God and try hard to follow it, but they didn’t know the love of God.
Then there were the hated neighbours, the Samaritans. They were the neighbours from hell, or certainly the ones clearly destined for hell!
The Samaritans were the descendants of people brought to that part of Israel after the Assyrians had conquered Israel and taken away into exile most of the 10 northern tribes who had lived there. The Samaritans had adopted some of the aspects of the Jewish faith, but they didn’t go to the Temple in Jerusalem as all good Jews were expected to do.
As far as many of the Jews were concerned, there were foreigners, who were bad enough, and then there were the Samaritans! Many Jews would take lengthy detours on their journeys to avoid going through Samaritan territory.
Perhaps you can recall the story in John 4 where Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. The woman is surprised that a Jewish man would talk with a woman, and even worse a Samaritan woman with a terrible home life.
So those are some of the characters we are going to meet as we look at the passage.
A teacher of the law, a Pharisee, asks Jesus “”what must I do to inherit eternal life?” You get the feeling that he knows the answer but wants to test Jesus. People were always doing that, trying to catch him out.
The Pharisee then gives a concise version of the 10 commandments “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 neighbour as yourself.’”
Jesus commends the man on his answer saying “”You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
The Pharisee however wants to know “Who is my neighbour?” Maybe he hopes that Jesus will say its those Priests and Levites or perhaps just other Jews.
Jesus then tells a story to answer the question.
The crowd listening will know that the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho could be risky and that there was always the problems of robbery. Then as now people wanted something for nothing and robbery was one way of making a living.
This poor man is robbed and left for dead.
The Priest and the Levite both steer clear of the man. They are men with a mission. On their way to the Temple in Jerusalem to play their parts in the worship services there. They have to be ceremonially clean otherwise they can’t do their jobs. It is vital that the sacrifices are made at the correct time of day, that the lamps in the Temple remain lit. These men must be there on time.
So the rules say that they must not come into contact with a dead body. Even if their human nature is to go to the man’s help, their calling as Priests and Levites take priority.
So they walk on by.
Incidentally a Sunday School teacher once taught her class this story and asked why didn’t the priest go over to the injured man? A young boy replied “Because the priest saw the man had been mugged already!”
And now as in most good stories a third character appears to resolve the problem or indeed to be in the punch line of the joke.
The Pharisee probably expects the story to go something like this: A third man comes down the road, a Pharisee a true man of God. He stops, tends to the man’s wounds, puts the man on his own donkey and takes him to an inn where he can be care for.
But…. Jesus doesn’t give the expected resolution to the story.
Who is the hero who comes selflessly to the man’s rescue?
Its not a decent law abiding, religious observing Jew. Oh no! It’s a Samaritan!! They are awful dreadful people, probably sell their own grandmothers and worse. How can he be the hero?
But he is the hero. The Samaritan gives the man first aid and takes him somewhere safe, and also pays for his care at the inn.
It is interesting that the Samaritan doesn’t say anything about I’m not helping him because he’s a Jew. No he just sees the man as someone in need.
At the end of the story Jesus says to the Pharisee “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
I think that the Pharisee was not pleased with the way the story had worked out. You can almost hear the teeth grinding as he replies “”The one who had mercy on him.” He just can’t bring himself to say the word Samaritan such is his prejudice.
And even worse is how Jesus then says “Go and do likewise.”
The question we have to ask ourselves today is “Who is my neighbour?”
Is it the people I like and get on with? Or is it people like me?
I think that Jesus is saying that our neighbour is anyone who is in need, regardless of whether we like them or not.
The Good news of Jesus Christ is for every one. God longs for everyone to come into the kingdom.
Paul writing to the early church in Galatia puts it this way in Galatians 3: 26 – 29 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Sue Millar in her series of sermons from Acts has brought out that Jesus is for everyone not just for the Jews.
The only ones who won’t be in the Kingdom are those who chose to stay out. Those who don’t respond to Jesus’ invitation because they do not want to change and do not repent of their sins.
But that doesn’t stop us being a neighbour to them.
There is a modern hymn that talks about this, and I quote the first verse:
When I needed a neighbour
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour
Were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won’t matter
Were you there?