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Good Samaritan

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Luke 10:25-37
(14-7-13)

The story starts with a religious expert asking Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” This man knew all about God’s law so he didn’t really need to ask the question but he wanted to trap Jesus.

Jesus had been mixing with the sort of people not normally associated with Godly things. The man wants Jesus to give a correct answer in the hopes that it will then show Jesus in a bad light. If Jesus knew how to live in a Godly way then He shouldn’t be mixing with ‘unGodly’ people as it looked as if He was approving of their ways of life. i.e. Jesus had lost the plot and had lowered His standards.

Because Jesus knows everything Jesus knew what the man was up to so He asks him a question instead. ‘What does the law of Moses say?’ Now apart from the 10 commandments there are over 600 laws in the Old Testament so Jesus just wanted the man to sum them all up. And the man did it brilliantly (because he used an answer similar to one that Jesus had given someone else).

So Jesus gives him a ‘high-five’ and tells him he is right. He then says go and do it then. The exert who had tried to put Jesus on the spot is now the one who is challenged about what he has to do if he wants to gain eternal life.

The man had wanted to point out that Jesus shouldn’t be mixing with riff-raff. So Jesus is now trying to make him think about what it means to actually keep these two commands: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself?

If we stop and think have we done enough then we might feel a bit uncomfortable and so did this man. He might be an expert on religious laws but . . . had he been doing it right? He has to try and justify himself. Who has ever loved God or his neighbour enough? Who might his neighbour be anyway?

So Jesus tells the story (parable) by way of a reply. The story is well known but let’s quickly run through it.

The Jew is the victim, attacked by robbers and left for dead. This man in need was not helped by his fellow Jews, not even the religious leaders, who passed by on the other side of the road, but by someone who the Jews considered to be their enemy. Jews and Samaritans were historic and ethnic enemies. But the Samaritan is the hero who helps the needy man despite what would have been deep seated hostility towards each other.

So, Jesus asks, “who acted like a neighbour?” He was not lowering standards he was raising them. In this story Jesus shows us a problem in our hearts. Do we go out of our way to meet the needs of others as readily as our own? Taking it seriously makes it seem like an impossibly high standard to achieve. How can anyone achieve it?

Jesus shows us the way of true neighbourliness in the Samaritan. He crossed the road, cutting through great religious and cultural divides to reach out.

He came out of his comfort zone, took the risk and used his own money to take care of someone in need. This was a whole lot more than dialling 999 and handing him over to professionals.

This story is not just about big crisis situations we only meet now and again, it’s really about everyday life. Needy people we see every day and how we respond to them.

We’re all clever at finding good reasons for not helping people.

We say something like: they are not in extreme conditions, they don’t really need help. They don’t deserve help. We don’t know enough about them. I could be attacked if I help them. They didn’t ask. They brought it on themselves. I’ve got nothing to spare.

If that’s true then give nothing, but we should be prepared to give to others even though it causes us hardship. How else can we bear one another’s burdens unless it burdens us?

How do we change and become more Christ-like about these things?

1) Martin Luther King said the change takes place when we change the question from: If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" to: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?

2) When it comes to loving our neighbour we’ll only succeed when we are led by the Spirit rather than by a written code. Those priests who passed by were, in actual fact, doing what their religious laws told them to do. They were not to touch blood and become ‘dirty’ or they couldn’t be holy. But those laws pre-date Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus shows us a new way and the Spirit often leads into daring and challenging areas. Let’s look now though, at the way the Early Church interpreted this story. They saw it as an allegory.

The Jew is us, all beaten up by our sin and unable to help ourselves. Unable to respond to God’s call as He wants us to. Religious rules and regulations could not help us, they passed by as they were not allowed to defile themselves by touching a dead body or blood.

But God sent his Son to rescue us. Jesus is the good Samaritan who stepped across the universe to come to our side. He came not at the risk of his life but at the cost of his life. He heals us not with oil and wine but with his own lifeblood. He carries us to a place of healing and pays our debts so that we can make a full recovery. He speaks words of power into our being, saying, “go and do likewise.” He pours out His holy Spirit so we can live a new life.

If we recognise that Christ has reached out and rescued us then we too must do as He did.

And not just in the way that this story usually points us – helping someone in some physical type of need. Worthy as that is Jesus is telling this so that the ‘religious’ people listening to Him knew that their being rescued didn’t just consist of their attending to their holy rituals but in their being helped by the one they had become estranged from. God, in Jesus.

Go and love people enough to want them to be saved unto eternal life too. It is about rescuing those in spiritual need too. Let’s hope and pray that we may do likewise too. Amen

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