The Good Samaritan
Let’s hear the word of the Lord. It is taken from Luke 10:25-37:
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
This is the word of the Lord.
Two weeks ago we did a retreat for the KSM and we reflected on this theme, serving is living, and last weekend we did a retreat for the English service with this theme, serving is living, and serving is living is a theme for 2017. I hope that every week probably you may reflect on the meaning of serving – our life as a serving – so I hope that kind of theme becomes ingrained in our soul, in our body, in our thinking, in our consciousness… so that we really live this year, with serving as living. And I’m going to reflect on this passage today, and this is a very, very famous story. Not only Christians know this story, but even non-Christians and people from other religions, the whole world knows this story.
Good Samaritan. It is a good story, it is known as a very good story and it is a very important message for humanity. It’s not just for Christians, for any human being, they should live with this message in mind. So they love this story and they like this story and I like it this story too. But somehow it is an important message and yet the meaning of this story is kind of not well understood. They got the wrong message, he’s like, “Be nice to the strangers, be nice to people who’re in trouble or difficulty or in need.” But I don’t think that is the main message of today’s story. So that’s what I’m going to expound with you, explore together, the true meaning of this story. The story started with a question from a lawyer and he asked this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” A very important question. How can I live eternally? How, how can I have eternal life?
The Lawyer’s Question
The very important question is about the eternal life. And hearing that question, somehow though, Jesus sensed that the lawyer already had the answer. You know, there’s some questions you ask because you don’t know and you want to find out, but there are some questions that you know, you have an agenda. You don’t really ask that question, but you want to say something else. So Jesus already knew, “Oh, this guy has an agenda, some kind of agenda.” So he already knows the answer, but he’s asking me this question. So Jesus is a very smart person, hearing one thing and he understands hundreds or thousands of much bigger things. He can see through people. So when he heard that question, he knew that he already knew the answer. So instead of answering him, he responded with another question. “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” At the time, the law was the Old Testament, and Jesus was right – this guy already knew the answer. He gladly and immediately answered. “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” That is a sharp answer, a good answer… it summarizes the whole Old Testament. With just one sentence, he could summarize the whole Old Testament. The lawyer was very sharp, a very smart guy.
Or, he heard this message already before. Because when you read Mark, it was Jesus who gave this answer. It was Jesus who taught this message. So probably in another setting, this lawyer might have heard what Jesus taught. Now he’s answering what Jesus answered maybe, I don’t know. Anyway, it was a very good answer. Jesus was very pleased with his answer. Jesus said, “You have given the right answer. Do this and you will live in others. Do this, you will have eternal life.” But the lawyer’s real question was not there. The lawyer’s real question was in the second question. That’s what he wanted to get at. “Who is my neighbor?” Who is my neighbor? It’s not that he didn’t know the answer this time too. He already knew the answer. Sensing that he already knew the answer, Jesus now finally gave his answer with a story. That’s how the Good Samaritan story came about. He wanted to answer this lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?”
From the beginning, the lawyer came to Jesus with a hostile attitude. When you look at the beginning of the story it says, “Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.” Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. This test is to tempt, it’s not to test anything else but to trap him, to put him in difficulty or difficult situation. The lawyer was probably upset with Jesus. The way Jesus represented, Jesus’ message, Jesus’ actions, Jesus’ life, all these things. He wasn’t really pleased with what Jesus was doing. So he came to challenge Jesus. He came to confront Jesus, he came to prove Jesus wrong. So he asked this question for Jesus to publicly declare that “Who really is my neighbour?” Who are our friends? In the lawyer’s mind, it was very clear. He knew who was his neighbour, who was his friend. His neighbours are fellow Jews who abide by the law. Fellow citizens who are elite, who are doing well. They are the neighbours to this lawyer. Not sinners, not tax collectors, not prostitutes, not the poor, not the sick, not Syrians, not refugees, not Mexicans. The lawyer seemed offended by Jesus’ attitude and teachings.
So Jesus gave this story, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. From Jerusalem to Jericho was 18 miles.” I was there too, but it’s a very dangerous and rough road. So at that time it was known as the way of blood because so many people were robbed and killed on the way. The men fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him, beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. People who are listening to Jesus, they nodded, “Yeah, yeah. That road is very, very dangerous. When you go there on your own, that can happen. Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” So they all identified with what Jesus was saying.
But the story made a quick turn right there, and the story stabbed into the minds of people who were listening like a double edged sword. A priest and Levi passed by, but they didn’t do anything. Your neighbour, your friends, they pass by, but they didn’t do anything. Jesus did not give a reason why they just passed. Probably for their own safety. Or “That guy, I don’t know whether he’s dead or not, but he’s been attacked. Maybe there’s still robbers around.” Or, who knows? Or “This guy may just be pretending that he was attacked. He’s just pretending he’s an innocent victim, maybe he’s a robber. If I go there, he might attack me.”
They wanted to put a distance when on the other side. They were thinking about their own safety. Strikingly, a Samaritan came to help this man who was badly hurt. People who were listening might have shouted in their minds, “Samaritan? Of all the people, Samaritan? No, please. A Samaritan cannot do this. Samaritans cannot do any good” At that time, the Jews and Samaritans did not get along very well. There’s a history behind it, but I don’t have time and you don’t have patience to listen to all the history, so I’ll just skip it. But they were just bad to each other. That’s why people in the southern part and some areas and Galilee, they had to go through the same area. They didn’t want to go through the land of Samaritans. They went around, took detours. But it was stranger, Jesus went through Samaritan areas and met a Samaritan woman when you look at John 4. But they didn’t really along with each other.
But it was a Samaritan who helped the person in trouble. Then, a very, very important question came. That question penetrated into the soul of the people. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” Which of these three? That lawyer had to answer Jesus’ question this time. He came with a question, but now he had to answer Jesus’ question. He said, “The one who showed mercy.” Look at this answer. Look at this answer. The one who showed mercy… he couldn’t say Samaritans. He wouldn’t say Samaritans. He wouldn’t name it. “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus thought that was good enough. So he said, “Go and do likewise.” Go and do likewise.
Go And Do Likewise…
Now you know who your neighbour is. Go and do likewise. Who is our neighbour? Mexico will not think the USA is their neighbour just because they are neighbouring countries. The people who are captured in the airport, they would think that the USA is their neighbor. There’s some Harvard students, Stanford students, they wanted to go away for a study trip and on the way back, they got trapped. People who work at Google, they went away for business. On the way back, they are trapped. I don’t know what can the world we live in. The whole world is moving toward protectionism. Me first, me first. Us against them.
We become heartless and loveless. Jesus was right when he said, “At the end of the age, people will become loveless.” To show mercy is not easy. Sometimes there is danger involved. The Samaritan risked the danger to show mercy, my friends. Always, showing mercy takes priority. Showing mercy takes priority. That’s the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of Christianity. That’s why Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” My friends, don’t let your consciousness, don’t let your conscience, don’t let your mind be tainted by the teachings of the world. Listen to the teaching of Jesus Christ. That’s who we are. The one who showed mercy to anyone. That’s our neighbour.