Theme: The Good Samaritan Today
Bible Reading: Luke 10:25-37
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s preaching is on one of the famous parables of the Lord Jesus Christ – The Parable of the Good Samaritan recorded in Luke chapter 10. As we know, the Great Teacher that he was known to be, Jesus used every opportunity to teach about godly living and the Kingdom of God. Such instances created an avenue for religious leaders of the day like the Pharisees and the Sadducees to openly challenge and question his teaching and authority.
Even though the setting of this parable is not clear in Luke’s Gospel, Matthew and Mark give us a clue that this event took place in the Temple in Jerusalem where the chief priests and the elders questioned Jesus about the source of his authority after cursing the Fig Tree (Matt. 21and 22).
The same day, some Sadducees came to question him about the resurrection of the dead. And when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they also decided to question him and to probably make up for the defeat of the Sadducees. So, one of them, a lawyer, stood up and asked him a question considered so difficult to test Jesus and to flaw him. ‘Teacher’, he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Of course, Jesus knew the motive of the lawyer. To put him to the test, and to see whether he would dishonour the Law of Moses. But Jesus pointed him back to Moses and the Law and said to him, “What is written in the Law? What do you read there?”
The lawyer 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”. Jesus was very much pleased with the answer given by the lawyer – “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live” he said!
What else can Jesus say after the lawyer quoted verbatim the Great Commandments that God charged Moses to teach the people of Israel to observe in the Promised Land? First, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). Second, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
But as we know, it is obvious that people don’t stop at anything until they achieve their desired goal. And so, even though Jesus closed the case of the lawyer by his own learned and genuine answer, because he couldn’t justify himself by putting Jesus on the spot, he went on to ask him another perceived difficult question, “And who is my neighbour?” Again, Jesus knew the mind of the Jewish lawyer that his neighbour could only be his fellow Jew and so told this parable about the travelers on the road.
In this parable, a man was traveling down the road that goes from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him. They took everything he had and nearly killed him. While he was lying there alone, a priest who was taking the same road came along. He looked at the man but walked past him on the other side of the road. The next traveler was a Levite one of those officials who assisted the priest in the temple. He did the same. Then came a Samaritan riding a donkey. When he saw the wounded man, he went to him. He gave him first aid, using oil and wine, and tearing some cloth to make bandages for the wounds. Then he put him on his donkey and took him to an inn, and sat with him until the next morning. The Samaritan has to continue his journey, therefore, he gave the innkeeper some money and asked him to take care of the wounded man. He promised that if there were any further expenses he would pay them when he traveled that way again.
Brothers and sisters, we cannot simply say that the priest and the Levite did badly and the Samaritan did well. Several reasons can be given for the refusal of the priest and the Levite to attend to the dying man; fear of attack by the robbers who may be hiding somewhere in the bush; observance of the Jewish law of purity thinking the man was already dead if they were on their way to perform a religious duty. For example, according to Numbers 19:11-13, anyone who touches a dead body was unclean for seven days. This may have prevented them from taking part in religious services. Or, they simply don’t know who was lying there; he just doesn’t look like someone they knew. But the truth is that neither the priest nor the Levite got closer to see if the man was alive or not. On his part, the Samaritan took a high risk. And even though he had his own fears and doubts, he chose to make a great sacrifice.
Brothers and sisters, surely, to love means to sacrifice. Therefore, no matter the justification for the priest and the Levite for their inability to do the needful at that crucial moment, what is clear is that they did not show love to the dying man.
At the end of this parable, Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three men; the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?
He knew that this was really a hard question for the lawyer to answer because, as a Jew, the lawyer was taught to know that Jews were neighbours to fellow Jews and not to Samaritans. We know from the story of the Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4 that Jews and Samaritans were such bitter enemies that they did not even speak to each other as Samaritans were considered unclean and not chosen by God. But after hearing this story, the lawyer had to admit to Jesus that the one who showed mercy to the wounded man was his neighbour. And Jesus commended him for a good answer and admonished him to go and do likewise and he would earn eternal life.
The Golden Rule says that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If the table were to be turned and it happened that it was the priest or the Levite who fell into the hand of the robbers; would they not expect help from someone like the man who was the victim of the robbery on that day? We may not always play the hero; we may sometimes play the victim; when you become the victim, how do you want to be treated? Do you know who would be a neighbour or a Good Samaritan to you in time of need? It may be a person least expected that will provide help in time of need.
As pointed out in the All-Age-Talk, nothing is more important to God than showing love by prioritising the sanctity of life over everything else; be it religious, social or political. It takes a little courage and sacrifice to be there for one another as children of God. And even though we may interpret the Levite to mean today’s Christian and the priest as the minister of the gospel, it is important to note that in today’s society, people hardly draw a line between ministers and Christians because; we are all called to be God’s instruments of love in this world; indeed, we are called to bandage the wounds of others with love.
And let us not forget that we are judged not only by what we do but also, by what we failed to do. Both the priest and the Levite did not think they did anything wrong. And it is true that they did not steal from the wounded man or harm him in any way. But they failed to take care of him and this was as bad as what the robbers did to him in the sight of God. Yes, it is easy to ask yourself what wrong have I done? But you hardly ask yourself; did I fail to do something right? Was there a word of encouragement or support I should have given someone but did not? Love for our neighbour must, therefore, be the fruit of a living relationship with God.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a major threat to our faith, and everyone is trying very hard to be “as wise as the serpent” as Jesus admonishes his disciples in Matthew 10:16. Yes, it is true, we need to be wise. But we also need to learn to be ready to serve others in unexpected and new ways. In fact, these three people in this parable maybe you or me. Many times one becomes either the Priest or the Levite or the Samaritan. Each of these times God gives us the wisdom to choose wisely. And when we make the right choice, then we are sharing in the kind of life that is worthy in the sight of God.
I know that if we are confronted with such a scene today in our context, our first action and reaction will be to call 999. Sure, that is also doing the same job as the Good Samaritan in a different way. But sadly, we still have the “Priest” and the “Levite” in our societies today who may prefer only to leave the scene with excuses – probably they are saving their calling credit or airtime to cut cost or to use it for something more important to them. What can be more important to us than saving the life of a human being?
But I see many Good Samaritans today, even at St. George’s who devote themselves as volunteers in helping the poor, the elderly, the homeless, the orphans, the sick, and those in need. Others make donations to charities towards the upkeep of such vulnerable people in society.
There is no doubt that our inner propensity to give ourselves selflessly to others can be hindered by our own particular priorities. I, therefore, pray that the Holy Spirit will empower each and every one of us to follow the example of the Good Samaritan by showing mercy, love, care, and compassion to those in need - “Go and do likewise.” Jesus says.
Rev. Confidence Bansah (Ph. D.)
Minister of St. George’s and Christ Church