Summary: A sermon investigating the Good Samaritan and Good Works, in light of the Grace of Jesus Christ. We do God’s good works not to be saved because Jesus has done everything for our salvation; rather we do good works because we are saved.
And Now…the Rest of the Story
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Stephen Becker, M.Div.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, July 15, 2007
How many people here have heard of the story of the Good Samaritan before? It’s a parable that is taught often in Bible studies and for good reason: it teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a real, practical way. One researcher found in a survey that 49% of the people interviewed said they would be able to tell the story of the Good Samaritan if asked to do so, 45% said they would not be able to, and 6% were unsure whether they could tell it or not. Among those who attended religious services every week, the proportion that thought they could tell the story rose to 69% percent. And the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan isn’t to tell us a story about how one man helped another, although certainly that is part of the story. No rather, the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan is what we do with it in our lives, how we apply it to our lives, how we ourselves live our lives in Christ. Let’s open with prayer…
The radio commentator Paul Harvey is famous and is known for not only telling interesting stories, but for telling us the “rest of the story…” meaning the truth of the story and how the events of that story impacted lives and changed the course of events, even changing people’s lives. In the parable of the Good Samaritan we without doubt learn the first and greatest commandment, to “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.’” This parable teaches us that we are to do this. But without even telling us whatever happened to the man who had been beaten by robbers, without telling us what happened to this teacher of the Law who asked Jesus these questions and to whom Jesus told this parable, we still nevertheless learn how we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.
The concept of the "Good Samaritan" is familiar enough to everyone. We name hospitals, churches, and institutions in his honor. Most people know a ’Good Samaritan’ when they see one...Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Elk Grove police and fire men, and even that anonymous person that simply stops to change a flat tire for you or helps a blind person cross the street; yes, we have all met one or have heard of one even if we can’t relate the full details of the parable.
In the story of the Good Samaritan here in Luke, we are immediately introduced to an expert of the Law. Although it doesn’t say so, typically these “experts” were Pharisees, Jews who prided themselves in knowing every little detail of Mosaic Law. So this expert poses a question to Jesus as a “test.” He asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” To which, Jesus answers this question with a question of His own. “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
It’s interesting because the expert in the Law does give Jesus the right answer, at least the right “book” answer. He answers Jesus then by saying, “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.” Yes, good answer. And Jesus agrees. But this expert was still not satisfied with this, and so he asks another question “And who is my neighbor?” In other words, “OK, Jesus, I understand I am supposed to CARE, but what exactly am I supposed to do?” You see, the expert knew the letter of the law. He knew that the Law said we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.” But he didn’t know what that meant. See friends, that’s the vital difference, and that is what Jesus wants us as Christians to understand. It’s one thing to know Who Jesus is with our reasoning; it’s quite another to allow Him to change and mold our hearts into a likeness of His. So knowing that this expert still doesn’t “get it,” Jesus gives us this famous story.
The first person we meet is the poor traveler. He had taken the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was notoriously dangerous. It descended nearly 3,300 feet in 17 miles, running through narrow passes at points. The terrain offered easy hiding for bandits who terrorized travelers. This unfortunate man had been stripped, beaten, and left for dead. Now the people with Jesus, hearing this parable, knew the dangers of that road and could understand how a person could get beat up and left for dead there. For us, it would be no different than hearing about someone getting mugged downtown at night in an alley, or even by us just taking a quick look through the newspapers or watching the news on television. We hear of the evil and violence of the world. We know where it’s especially bad. 2,000 years ago, that road from Jerusalem to Jericho was just such a place. And so this poor traveler is beaten and left to die.