The Parable of the Good Samaritan
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God our rock and our redeemer.
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Here are some headlines:
5 Million people over 60 say they now consider the TV to be their only source of company.
70% of people asked say they wouldn’t recognise their neighbour if they passed them in the street
60% of people asked said they don’t have much in common with their neighbours.
Jesus parables are well known and often preached about. And this Parable, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best known. Jesus told the parable in response to a question from an expert on the Jewish law; the expert asked Jesus what he should do to gain eternal life. Instead of answering Jesus turned the question back as was the rabbinic way. The expert answered as Jesus had answered in Marks Gospel with a quotation from Deuteronomy and a quotation from Leviticus ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And Love your neighbour as yourself.’
The lawyer asked a question to which he already knew the answer but he seemed to want to pin Jesus down, perhaps to put him on the spot so he asked a further question ‘And who is my neighbour?’ This seems like to me like a question that is as pertinent today as it was two thousand years ago. And I think in the parable Jesus answers not only this question but another very pertinent question then and now ‘how do I behave as a neighbour?’
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?
HOW DO I BEHAVE AS A NEIGHBOUR?
So first of all the expert in the law is asking Jesus for a precise definition of who exactly could be counted as a neighbour? He was saying, “Do I have to love EVERYONE? If there is a neighbour that I must love, is there also a non-neighbour I do not need to love? Where should I draw the line Jesus?” Many of the rabbis in Jesus day taught that one’s neighbour was really only a fellow Israelite. And, most Jews followed suit. They never considered that anyone could be a neighbour BUT another Jew.
They had even re-written part of the Sabbath law to say that if a wall should fall on someone on the Sabbath, enough rubble could be cleared away to see if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile. If he were a Jew, he could be rescued—if a Gentile—he must be left there to suffer until the next day. The Pharisees went so far as to exclude any non-PHARISEES from their definition of “neighbour.” The idea of neighbour was exclusive rather than inclusive, designed to keep people out not bring people in.
The parable given in answer is most remarkable. Jesus does not supply the Lawyer with a list of who should or should not be helped he makes it plain that love has no boundaries. Whoever is in need, they are our neighbours. Anyone.
But I don’t think it was just in Jesus time that people have tried to put people in categories of those who are our neighbours and those who are not. Like most of you I have been shocked and horrified by the revelations that have come out about Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, Eddie Waring and others. In fact I don’t know the full details of what Jimmy Saville has been accused of because I stopped listening and reading, his deeds just seemed to awful and disgusting to contemplate. It is tempting to feel that their acts have put them into a category of non-neighbours.
We know that there are those who persecute child abusers, who are violent towards them, deface their houses and we wouldn’t condone that type of behaviour but surely for these most depraved people, those who seem almost inhuman there is a good argument for walking by on the other side of the road. Surely if they were in the ditch we would not be expected to help them, surely no-one could expect that of us.
The lawyer was expecting to hear that only fellow Jews were his neighbour and we too can think that there are some people whose acts have set them apart, people we should have nothing to do with people it would not be sensible to get involved with. Just as it was not sensible for the priest or the Levite to get involved with the man on the Jericho road, he had brought his plight on himself, he was stupid to be there in the first place on the road that was notoriously called ‘the way of blood’, what could he expect and he was nearly dead, if not dead anyway, no one could expect them to have anything to do with him. Just as it was unreasonable to expect help from the Samaritan, the member of the race hated by and who hated the Jews. For a Jew to be helped by a Samaritan was completely ridiculous, unreasonable, almost unbelievable.
WHO IS OUR NEIGHBOUR? ANYONE WHO IS IN NEED SAYS JESUS
But just as this parable made it clear to the lawyer then as makes it clear to us now WHO OUR NEIGHBOUR is it also makes it clear how we are to BEHAVE AS A NEIGHBOUR. The Samaritan didn’t just bandage the man up and leave him there; he didn’t just take him to safety and leave him to get on with it. He patched him up, he put him on his donkey, he took him to a place of safety and care and paid for him to be looked after. He expended his goods, his time and his money helping this man. This is what it takes to be a good neighbour that is what is at the crux of this parable LOVE, sacrificial love.
Because this is a parable about love and love begins with God. This is a story about us lying in the ditch and God coming along. God who created us, who knows what we could be and knows what we are, God who knows all the sins we have committed, the lies we have told, God who knows about our selfishness our greed and our lack of love. We may console ourselves by thinking that we aren’t as bad as some people, but God knows how far short we have fallen and yet Gods love for us is ridiculous, unreasonable, almost unbelievable, it is extravagant and unexpected, endless and everlasting. We are all in the ditch helpless and battered and in desperate need of help and God comes and loves us and saves us. And it is from our position of helplessness that we should reflect upon the question HOW DO I BEHAVE AS A NEIGHBOUR. Then we will know how wide the reach of God’s love is and how wide the reach of neighbour love should extend.
We begin with God’s love for us a love so great that he sacrificed his own son to save us and that is the measure of love. This parable makes it clear that our love for others should be based on God’s love for us.
The expert on the law began with the question, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ The answer for us is that we need do nothing. Jesus has done the work for us, eternal life is not something we can achieve by our good deeds, eternal life is already ours bought and paid for by Jesus death. We love God because he loved us first because he is our saviour and lord and we love our neighbour as a response to Gods love for us because we realise that every human being is Gods own creation, and is loved by God with the excessive extravagant love that he has for us.
So this parable tells us as it told the expert in the law WHO OUR NEIGHBOUR is. Our neighbour is not just other Christians, it is not just people who we like or approve of it is everyone regardless of who they are or what they have done. And this parable also answers the question HOW DO I BEHAVE AS A NEIGHBOUR?
Jesus said to the expert in the law ‘What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbour to the man who encountered thieves?”
And the legal expert replied , “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
And Jesus is saying the same thing to each of us here today Go and do likewise. We know there is great need in our world, loneliness, homelessness, hunger, poverty, the list goes on and on. The headlines I read at the start give us some idea of how alienated and lonely people in our own country of Scotland can feel. Even here on Arran in our own communities there are those who could benefit from our help, families without enough to eat, old people who are lonely and seldom visited. Jesus says don’t do the sensible, reasonable thing, do the stupid, extravagant loving and merciful thing. Being a Good Samaritan is about using our time, our influence, our money and our daily prayers to help everyone who needs it regardless of who they are or what they have done. Not because of what we can get but because of what we have been freely give.
Let Us Pray
You are Love. You are our loving father. You made is in love and you made us for love.
Help us each and every day to live our life to the full by living lives of love.
Teach us Lord thus your steps to trace,
Strong to follow in your grace,
Learning how to love from Thee,
Loving Him Who first loved me.
We now continue our worship with our gifts of money; the offering will be given and received