4th Sun after Trinity (8am service)
Col 1:1-14; Luke 10:23-37
St Barbara’s 14.07.2019
Rev Tulo Raistrick
There are some of Jesus’ parables that require much explanation and interpretation.
There are other parables that require simply a humble heart to receive the message and be challenged by it.
The parable of the Good Samaritan falls into the latter category. It does not require huge amounts of commentary or biblical insight. Instead, it poses us with the same question as the Lawyer asking the story: “Who is my neighbour?”
The story Jesus tells would have been one his listeners could easily identify with.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho runs down a deep twisting canyon, with rocky sides and blistering heat. There were lots of hidden corners and large boulders behind which bandits could easily hide. It does not stretch credulity to imagine someone being mugged there.
Nor does it overly surprise that the priest and the Levite pass on by. No doubt they would have seen and heard the wounded man – after all, the canyon, even at its widest point, was only 60 feet wide – but to stop and get involved was potentially dangerous (what if the bandits were still around waiting for their next victim) and incredibly inconvenient – if the person turned out to be dead, they could be defiled by contact with a corpse and disqualified from their sacred duties. Reasons one could justify to oneself for not stopping.
But what would have stretched the credulity of Jesus’ listeners was who Jesus chooses for his hero – a hated Samaritan, the lowest of the low as far as good God-fearing Jews were concerned. Samaritans were seen as heretics. They were regarded as blasphemously mixing Jewish beliefs in with pagan beliefs. They had been willing to marry non-Jews. They had diluted the true faith. In many respects, they were worse than Gentiles.
And yet, just as Jesus remarks on the extraordinary faith of the Gentile centurion who believes Jesus can heal his servant from a distance – “I have not seen such faith as this in all of Israel” – so now Jesus tells a story of faith, and love and compassion, in practice, that the most holy members of Israel – priests and Levites – cannot match.
This lowly Samaritan points us to how our lives should be lived, if we want to honour God, if we want our actions to be of eternal significance.
Lives of compassion and love, of generosity and kindness.
And in doing so, Jesus uses the example of the Samaritan to give us a further window into who he is. Someone who reaches across the divide – in his case between heaven and earth. Someone who takes a risk – is willing to love unsure of whether such love will be accepted or rejected. Someone who is willing to pay a price to save another – not just the sacrifice of time and money as the Samaritan does in the story, but the sacrifice of his very life.
It is remarkable that Jesus takes the example of a heretic to not only show us how we should live, but to show us what God is like. It is enough to challenge all our assumptions, all our stereotypes.
Our challenge, whether it is in our prayerfulness and our giving to people in need in other parts of the world, or whether it is in the extending of hospitality and welcome to those new to our country from other parts of the world, or whether it is the offering of friendship to those who live in our street who are isolated and alone, is simple.
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”. And that we can only do in His strength.