5th Week after Pentecost
July 10, 2022 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Luke 10:25-37
Got it. All right. So this story, this parable of the Good Samaritan, it says in all of your Bibles, right? Funny thing about it is it never calls the Samaritan "good." Jesus never mentions that. We've just called it that for years. But this really has nothing to do with Samaritans being good or bad. This has to do with people's perceptions and prejudgments -- outright bigotry. Jesus uses this story in reference to this lawyer that is questioning Jesus. That is trying to puff himself up, right? "Teacher, what must I do to inherit the eternal life?" this lawyer knew -- was ready to say the answer as soon as Jesus asked him. "You should love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul and mind and strength. And your neighbor as yourself." Thought he could trap Jesus.
But who is my neighbor? This is a Jew that is connected through centuries of history all the way back to ancient Israel. But this is also a story of a person connected through centuries back to the fallen kingdom of Israel. And when the kingdom split, the Kingdom split in two and the northern kingdom of Israel claimed Samaria as the capitol. And the southern kingdom of Judah claimed Jerusalem as the capitol. At the time of the exile when the Assyrians conquered and then the Babylonians conquered, it didn't really matter if you were part of the Northern Kingdom or the Southern Kingdom. But enough animosity had grown at that time that if you were in Northern Kingdom or the capitol of Sumeria, you were a Samaritan. And as they came back from exile it remained that way. The Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews from Judea. Right? To the point where the Jews connected it all the way back to ancient Israel being the one true followers of Yahweh, the one true worshippers of the one true God. The Samaritans were doing it wrong. The Samaritans weren't paying attention to the texts. Right? Right. And even though they claimed to worship Yahweh, even though they claimed to worship the one true God, the Jews knew that they weren't right in what they were doing. And it created this deep seated animosity.
Which is exactly why Jesus uses it in this story. Because he's talking to this lawyer. Talking to this expert on the law who thinks that they've found their way. A Samaritan wouldn't be a neighbor, right? But here we are. The two that should have helped, that were expected to help, the obvious neighbor choice -- passed right on by. But the Samaritan comes. And in the story as soon as the mention of Samaritan comes you think this story is going to get good because they're probably coming to finish the job. But they're the one that helps. They're the one that shows mercy, that sacrifices for the person in need. The lawyer's forced to acknowledge this. And Jesus says, "go. And do likewise." It all sounds well and good when we just trap it into the Good Samaritan and -- oh, we ought to be like this person that helped the neighbor. And it feels good and all, but it's not telling us to just help people as it's convenient. It's telling us to help the people we don't get along with. It's telling us to help the people that we almost see as enemies. That we don't respect. And that is a difficult calling.
The Christian way of life is not necessarily an easy one in that way. To love as God loves is to truly love all people. The people you disagree with, the people you are bothered by, the people you outright don't like, the people you find repulsive. And quite frankly, that's not very fun, is it? The Christian message is much more fun when we think about it in terms of Jesus coming to me and helping me and forgiving my sins. And I have the eternal love and life in me. "Go and do likewise," is haunting. And I think what's hard for us is we've become more and more afraid of the neighbor. And I don't know if that's really anything new that's happened. But I think we've become more and more afraid of the neighbor. And I think it's not something that, you know, is something that we maybe do intentionally. But when you see somebody in need, some of those stories creep into your head as to maybe why they got in the position they were in. Maybe this person shouldn't have been walking on that road past 6:00 at night, or who knows? Maybe this person knew the robbers and had what was coming to him. Those are the types of stories that we we invent in our heads. Right? And it can be difficult for us to truly embrace this call, to help one another. To truly embrace this call, to love the neighbor. But I think it's something that we can't get away from either. Because this calling in scripture, this calling for us to go and do likewise is in direct response to what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus has already loved the neighbor in a way that goes beyond all of us. Jesus has already cared for, paid it forward. So the reason we can't get away from this, it's not a lingering command that we just can't follow. It's a direct response to the love God has already shown us. And it's this love that wells inside of us that helps, that it can't help us but to look out and see neighbors in need and want to go help them. But there's also this lingering sin inside of us that fights that. That wants us to stay selfish, to preserve ourselves.
The difficult part of the Christian message of going and doing likewise, also ends up being the most beautiful part of the Christian message. That we who are completely showered in love -- we get to go and help the neighbor. And in fact, all of us together, united in Christ as one body, get to share in that common focus of loving one another as God loves us. Despite our differences, our political alignments, all of that stuff, we can be united in one thing. And that is God's love for the neighbor. And we can argue about how best to serve that neighbor, but that calling is welling inside of us because of the love that God has shown us.
That's the beauty of the Christian message. God's love compels love. God's love compels love in us together. So no matter the difficulty, may we overcome our own inward turmoil, strengthened by the love that God has shown us. Strengthened by one another as we gather together to celebrate this love in our lives. May we see our neighbors in need. And go and do likewise. Amen.