Pentecost 5 C 2022 The Good Samaritan
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a familiar story. Children learn it at an early age. Adults refer to those who help others as “Good Samaritans.” Today we have countless organizations that call themselves “Good Samaritans.”
We have Good Samaritan Hospitals, Good Samaritan Ministries, Good Samaritan Assisted Living facilities, Good Samaritan Career Centers, and many other organizations that refer to themselves as “Good Samaritans.”
The two words “Good” and “Samaritan” seem to fit together nicely in our world today.
But did you know that the two words “Good” and “Samaritan” did not fit nicely together 2000 years ago. And that the Jews thought of the Samaritans as we might consider terrorists groups today that seek to destroy our way of life here in North America.
We see an example of this attitude when in the ninth chapter of Luke a Samaritan Village refuses to welcome Jesus and James and John ask Jesus “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them.” Luke 9:51-56 As you can see, Jews and Samaritans did not get along. And they stayed away from each other as much as possible.
By the way… When Jesus was asked if He wanted fire to come down from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village, Jesus rebuked James and John and said to them “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” and then He led His disciples away from the area to another village. Luke 9:55
I find it interesting that some translations do not include this saying from Jesus. While the King James translation does include this saying, the Newly Revised Standard translation of the Bible does not include it and simply states “Jesus rebuked them and then they went on to another village.”
My friends, I think it makes no difference whether Jesus said it or not because His greatest commandment states “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37
We are to love God and our neighbors. The subject is not up for debate or discussion. But the lawyer in our Gospel reading today did want to discuss it. And so, He asked “Who is my neighbor?”
Wanting to justify himself using his wisdom and wanting to hold onto his hatred of people not like him, the Lawyer questioned Jesus.
In response, Jesus set the stage for His answer. “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 way, leaving him half dead. (vs.30)
Along came a priest, and then a Levite, good religious men, the kind who always talked about good works and how to achieve eternal life. But when these two religious folks saw the man in need, they “passed by on the other side.” (vs. 31)
These men, like the lawyer, were good with words, but had no actions to back up their words.
Now, to be fair, I am sure that they had good excuses. Stopping to help would have made them ritually unclean, and quite possibly even late for a worship service or a Bible study class. They might even have been afraid to help for their own safety.
When one stops and thinks about it, there are always plenty of excuses not to help someone in need.
Before the Lawyer could speak, Jesus continued His parable. He said “But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity on him. He went to him and wrapped his wounds. He took him to an inn and took care of him.”
The next day he took out two silver coins (2 days wages) and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” the Samaritan told the innkeeper. “And when I return, I will reimburse you for any expense you may have.”
When Jesus had said these words, He asked the Lawyer “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” And the Lawyer responded: “The one who showed him mercy.”
Unable to even say the word “Samaritan” because of His contempt for Samaritans, the Lawyer simply referred to the man as the “one who showed mercy.” And yet the Lawyer did realize that this despised Samaritan was better at loving his neighbors than the religious leaders.
And the point Jesus was making hit home. One cannot earn eternal life by his or her works. And that we all have fallen short of loving God and our neighbors. Even so, today we can give God thanks and praise because in His great mercy, God has given His son to die for us, and for His sake, God has bestowed upon us the gift of Eternal Life
Yes: Jesus is our Good Samaritan, the One who was/is despised and rejected by the world who comes to us where we are, has compassion for us, and does everything it takes to give us the care and healing that we need. And as He does so, He teaches us how to love God and love our neighbors.
Let us pray: Almighty God, you have taught us through Christ that love fulfills the law. May we love you with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and may we love our neighbors as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.