Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Parable of the Good Samaritan: The Gospel Hidden in Plain Sight

Has someone ever helped you at just the right moment? I remember many years ago, I was in my early twenties, hanging out with some of my friends. And this drug dealer who had infiltrated my group of friends, found out I was hanging out with them. He didn’t like me. So he sent over a guy to beat me up. And I just kind of laughed it off. But my friends kept telling me I should leave before the guy got there. But pretty soon I realized, I shouldn’t stay because this guy is crazy enough to send someone to beat me up. So my friend Aaron and I went out to his car. But his car wouldn’t start. So we were stuck there. I didn’t know what to do. But at the last minute, an old guy with his daughter in a car pulled up and asked me if I needed a ride. Where on Earth did that come from? I have no idea to this day. But they gave me a ride home. And I asked them, are you angels? They said no.

But in any case, what about you? Have you ever had someone help you at just the right moment?

What about vice versa. Have you ever met someone in desperate need and helped them? That is a beautiful, godly thing to do. I think we can sense it when that moment comes, and hopefully we jump into action.

So today, here we come to one of most well known scriptures in the entire Bible, many non-Christians and even people of other faiths are aware of the classic parable of the good Samaritan.

But before we get into the parable, let’s take a look at the context. Jesus is spending time with his disciples, when a teacher of the law approaches him.

From Luke’s gospel, chapter 10:25-29 “25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He 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 neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This is the context in which we find our parable today. This guy asks the point blank question all of us wonder in our own lives: Just what do I need to do to receive eternal life? That is really the most important question any of us could ask.

What we might expect Jesus to say is, “Believe in me, I’m the savior you need.” But instead Jesus asks him a question. What’s in the law? And the man answers, giving the two great commands, love God, and love others. Those are indeed vital. They are the two great commands of the new testament. Love God, love others.

Are you living out the two great commands? That’s our first question to ponder today: Am I loving God? Am I loving people?

So then we see the response of Jesus to the man, as he tells a powerful parable. Let’s take a look, in Luke 10, verses 30-37:

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho, uh oh, that’s a dangerous road to go down. There are certain parts of any city you wouldn’t want to be walking around at night, but two thousand years ago, many roads were very dangerous 24/7. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. once traveled in Jerusalem along this very road in his car, and later he made this comment about it: “I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., "I've Been to the Mountaintop" (April 3, 1968)

It’s a low road, a dangerous road. But sometimes you have to take difficult roads to get where you’re going. On my journey last Monday from Owosso to Missouri, definitely had to take some tough roads to get to the retreat. Lots and lots of construction, and even a few times when the road went down to one lane, of course right outside Chicago, some big traffic jams. But we made it safely, which is a blessing.

Similarly you have this man traveling the dangerous road, and the worst case scenario happens. He’s jumped. He beaten up, maybe stabbed, during this time in history most people carried short knives as weapons of self defense. He has everything stolen and he’s left on the road half dead.

Now, in my research for this sermon, I was studying good Samaritan stories, real life ones. And one account came up, of a man in Brooklyn, who saw a woman being attacked. And he tried to help her. She did get away. But then he got stabbed. And eighteen people saw it happen, according to video footage of the incident. But no one helped the man, not even the woman he had saved. She ran away. And no one in the area did anything to help, he ended up bleeding to death before rescue personnel got there. Very sad. Just goes to show you that in our world today, we need many good Samaritans, not just one. We can’t just be bystanders who do nothing. In fact some people took pictures and video of the incident with their phones but didn’t bother to help or call police or ems. Crazy stuff.

We see in the parable a priest and a levite, religious leaders walk by and don’t help the man who has been beaten. But then a Samaritan comes along.

Fascinating, because Jews hated Samaritans. If you recall, at this time in history Israel had split between Judah in the south and the north kingdom also called Samaria. Samaritans were seen as traitors, and garbage. And Samaritans hated Jews. But in the parable, the Samaritan is the one who helps the man in need.

We see several important factors in the Samaritans response to the situation.

First of all, he pities the man. He has an emotional response to the situation that calls his heart to action. When we see someone in need, when we see a bad situation, when we see someone suffering, we should first respond in our hearts with pity, with a sense of compassion. We join in the sorrow with them.

Second, he went to him. He changed direction. Sometimes we’re going so fast we see a need and we just keep going. We’re so locked in to the course. But no, slow down, and change your course, spin the steering wheel, and head into the moment. Slow the car down and stop.

Third, he bandaged his wounds. He poured ointment on the wounds so they would heal more efficiently.

I suppose he could’ve stopped there, right? Well, I did my good deed. Bye. But he didn’t stop there. He knew if he just left him on the road bandaged, he might not be able to make it anywhere safe. So he puts him in his car, and brings him somewhere safe. He puts him on the donkey. And bring him to a safe place.

Not only that, he brought him to an inn. It even says he took care of him at the inn. He apparently stayed there with him for the night. Because then the next day, he took our two denarii, two days wages, probably about $200.00 in modern money, and gave it to the guy at the front desk, and tells him to look after the man, get him whatever he needs further. And he even says I’ll check back later, and reimburse any further costs in regard to the incident. In modern terms this is probably like bringing him to the hospital, staying with him at his bed side through the night, and then paying his medical bills. This Samaritan gets into the situation even though he has nothing to do with it. And he brings in not just a little help, but helps in an extended, full, complete way. Now that’s powerful.

So in response to the teachers question, who is my neighbor, this is how Jesus answers, the man laying half dead in the road who you don’t even know, that’s your neighbor. And Jesus commands the man to show mercy just as the Samaritan showed mercy to the person in need.

Now in our modern society we have all sorts of emergency systems, police, EMS, doctors, nurses, fire departments, emergency disaster services, charities and nonprofits set up to help in various situations that come about. But that does not excuse us from helping. There are definitely opportunities to help those in need in Owosso, in Shiawassee county. Pray to God, later during our response time, for someone who you can bless and help in their time of need. Because they are out there. Don’t pass them by.

Now, that’s the top level of the parable for today, love God, love your neighbor, here’s how. But let’s go one level deeper. Because I think Jesus has hidden something in this parable for mature Christians to take note of.

The gospel is actually hidden in this parable. Do you see it?

The man is you and me. We were going down, above sea level, to below sea level, lost in our lives, on our way down to hell, on a dangerous road, the road of this life, is a dangerous road of sin and danger. We were beaten and mauled by sin, left broken, and naked, and half dead by sin. The levite and the priest represent the law of moses which could never save us from sin.

And Samaritan represents Jesus the Messiah, rejected and hated by his own people, and yet he comes to us, to save us from the effects of sin.

Jesus has compassion on us. He cares. He comes over and he heals our wounds, the effects of sin, and he covers over our sins with oil and wine, and bandages our wounds, this is how Jesus pays our debt of sin and heals our sorrows. The Samaritan puts the man on the donkey, and brings him to an inn, the body of Christ, and makes him part of the body of Christ. Christ pays our entry to the inn, and commands his angels to look after us. He pays our way, and cares for us as a compassionate lover of our souls. Even in the parable the Samaritan leaves, but promises to return again in the future, just like Jesus will return again in the future as his second coming to pay us back for our good deeds with riches in paradise. Amen! Glory to God! Jesus is our good Samaritan. He rescues us and leads us to safety hallelujah!