13th Sunday after Trinity
St Barbara’s 11.09.2022
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Jesus often told parables in such a way as to take his listeners by surprise. They would be listening along, thinking “I know where this story is going… I know what the point of this parable is” and then suddenly Jesus would deliver the punchline and it would be totally different from what they were expecting.
That is very much the case with this story of the Good Samaritan. We are now so familiar with it – one of the most famous stories Jesus told – that it doesn’t shock us or surprise us – but back when Jesus told it and people heard it for the first time, it would have shocked, appalled, scandalised people. If Jesus was looking to make friends, this story was not the way to go about it!
The story is one that all Jesus’ listeners would have been able to identify with. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho on which the man was travelling was notoriously dangerous. It ran down a deep twisting canyon, with rocky sides and hidden corners and large boulders. It was the perfect place for bandits and robbers to attack travellers and take all their possessions, and it happened frequently. It would be as familiar as if Jesus was speaking to the people of Coventry today about the quirks and dangers of driving on the Coventry ring-road with its 12 junctions and 24 or so on and off ramps in less than 3 miles- “Oh yeah – we know what you mean.”
When they heard about the Levite and the priest walking past, not getting involved, there would have been knowing smiles. “Good old Jesus. He’s not going to let the religious professionals off the hook. They may talk a good game, but do they live it out? Look – he’s calling their bluff.”
But then smiles and camaraderie would have turned to shock and horror when Jesus reveals the hero of the story. Not someone like them, but a Samaritan! Of all the people Jesus could have chosen, a Samaritan was the worst. Samaritans and Jews had been hating each other for centuries – Samaritans were seen as heretics, as compromisers, as the worst kind of enemy. And here is Jesus making one of them the hero of his story.
Jesus was making a very uncomfortable point: even Samaritans were your neighbour; even Samaritans were capable of doing good; and even Samaritans could show the right way to live out God’s commands.
That point maybe still remains uncomfortable for us too. We can’t judge people on the basis of their background, gender, sexuality, race, education, what they wear, how they speak. God welcomes all people, and he uses all types of people to show his love and do good.
I wonder, have you ever received kindness and love from someone you were not expecting it from? How did that make you feel?
The parable of the good samaritan shows us that God will use anyone. It challenges any prejudice we may have.
The story also encourages us to act. Loving our neighbour is about showing love and compassion to those in need.
Jesus doesn’t pretend it is easy.
We can understand why the Levite and the priest didn’t stop. It would have been dangerous to stop – maybe the robbers were still around waiting to pounce on their next victim. Maybe they feared that if they touched a dying man they would become religiously unclean and not able to do their religious duties. Maybe they were late for a meeting, in a hurry to get home, and helping would have been inconvenient.
But it was difficult for the Samaritan too. He didn’t know if the robbers were still around. He didn’t know whether the man would reject his help – “I don’t want help from people like you”. He didn’t know whether his own people would turn on him – “you shouldn’t be helping those kind of people”. And of course it cost him time and money.
But the point of the story is that he does help. He does show love and compassion. He does take the risk.
And the challenge to each one of us is: will we do the same?
As a church there are a number of things we try and do, especially through supporting our mission partners through prayer, giving and volunteering:
We support Good Neighbours – making sure that lonely and isolated people in our community receive weekly visits.
We support CAP (Christians Against Poverty) – offering debt advice and support to people in financial difficulties in our city.
We support St John the Divine in Willenhall, in their work of supporting a community particularly vulnerable to the economic downturn.
We support Tearfund, as they work with communities around the world struggling with the impact of drought and other natural disasters.
And we support St Paul’s Kapsabet in Kenya, helping the church there bring support to poor communities.
And as individual members of this church, there also many things that people already do:
In school, helping other children who are lonely or struggling
At work, using our skills to make a difference, whether that is working through the council, or through charities, or through health care, or through business, going the extra mile to help those in need.
Or in our community, looking out for and supporting family and neighbours who need help.
Our challenge, as we ponder on the story of the Good Samaritan, is the same as the one Jesus gave to the lawyer who asked the original question: “go and do likewise”. We can only do that in God’s strength.