Lessons: Amos 7:7-17, Psalm 82, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37
Text: Luke 10:25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan
Theme: The Command to love one’s Neighbor
INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE
The Parable of the Good Samaritan was told by the Lord Jesus Christ in answer to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” Our Lord’s reply through this parable brings home the command to show compassion, love and kindness to everyone, not just to people of our own race, culture, or religion.
From the time of Origen, this parable has been allegorized in different ways, and a poem from the Vespers of the fifth week of the Great Lent of the Orthodox Church shows how this parable has been viewed in terms of Christ’s great act of redemption:
I fell among thieves by my reasonings,
I was robbed by my wretched mind.
Greatly stricken and wounded in soul,
Naked of grace, I lie upon the road of life.
The priest saw my hopeless wounds and passed me by,
The Levite knew my disease and turned away.
But in Thy love for man Thou wast pleased
To stoop down to me, O Christ God,
Not by the Road of Samaria,
But from the flesh of Mary.
Grant me healing by pouring out on me Thy great mercy.
Profound truths about the Lord’s great acts of salvation lie in this interpretation, but our Lord’s purpose in telling this parable was not to provide in story form an account of how he would provide redemption for mankind and atonement with God. His purpose was rather to show that the question, “Who is my neighbor?” should be answered by the insight that anyone in need is one’s neighbor. The implication is that we should not set limits on the kinds of people we are willing to help. John Calvin expressed this truth as follows: “The general truth conveyed is, that the greatest stranger is our neighbour, because God has bound all men together, for the purpose of assisting each other….But here, as I have said, the chief design is to show that the neighborhood, which lays us under obligation to mutual offices of kindness, is not confined to friends or relatives, but extends to the whole human race.”
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN: LUKE 10:23-37
In the course of life, misfortunes happen, as happened to the man who took the road down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Bandits attacked him, stripped him of his clothes, wounded him and left him lying on the road, half dead. Our Lord Jesus probably based this event in the parable on the common knowledge that halfway down the descent from Jerusalem to Jericho was the deep gorge of the Wady Kelt with its many caves for robbers to hide in.
The first two travelers, the priest and the Levite, did nothing for the wounded man, but passed by, leaving him lying there. Now at the time, there was a Sadducean rule that forbade a priest to defile himself by touching a dead person. The priest and the Levite thought the wounded man was dead, and so avoided contact with him for ritual reasons (compare Lev. 21:1).
THE THIRD CHARACTER: THE GOOD SAMARITAN
The crowd was no doubt surprised when they heard our Lord Jesus introduce the Samaritan into the parable, since relations between the Jews and Samaritans were bad, partly for religious reasons, and partly for racial and cultural ones.
The Samaritan’s actions contrast deeply to those of the priest and Levite. He came to where the wounded man was, and when he saw him, showed his compassion and went to him, binding up his wounds, and pouring on oil and wine. Oil and wine were often mixed and used as a healing ointment for wounds. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and looked after him. The next day when he left the inn, he gave the inn-keeper two denarii (two days’ wages for a soldier or a laborer at the time) for the care of the wounded man. The Samaritan even offered to pay him more on returning that way, if he spent more money in caring for him. Clearly, the Samaritan not only showed mercy to the wounded man, but went above and beyond the kindness of providing immediate help. This was greatly surprising in view of the hostility between Samaritans and Jews.
The lawyer’s reply, “The one who showed mercy on him,” shows he has understood the importance of being a neighbor to anyone in need. Neighborly love knows no limits, in terms of our Lord’s interpretation of the second of the Two Great Commandments.
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM MY LIFE
Sometimes people think that they cannot possibly help others in desperate circumstances, as they do not have the means or the ability. But you might have the ability to help in some way.
Years ago I was seated next to my father in his car and he was driving along a winding road near Knysna in South Africa. It had been raining slightly, and the road was slippery. It was a mountainous area, with a steep precipice to the left of the road. All of a sudden, my father had to brake suddenly, and the car skidded off the road onto the top of the precipice. If it had skidded any further, the car would have hurtled into the valley below. When my father tried to drive back onto the road, he couldn’t, because the wheels skidded in the mud. We thought we would have to call for a tow truck, but soon after this, a truck came round the bend, and the driver, seeing our predicament, stopped. Six strong African men got off the truck, and, singing as they did so, all together lifted our car back onto the road. How thankful we were for their help! They were indeed good neighbors to us!
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
The moral of the parable is summed up tersely by the Lord, when he commands the lawyer, “Go, and do thou likewise.” So often, we find excuses not to help others, and sometimes these excuses look like good excuses, such as the priest and the Levite had. Because we want to fulfill the Two Great Commandments, we should be a neighbor to those who need our help. Do you help those in need whom you can help? Do you show to others the kind of neighborly love the Samaritan showed to the wounded man lying half dead by the wayside?