Summary: It’s easy to ignore the needs of others and excuse ourselves. This sermon challenges us to stop and make time for the people God puts in our lives
Text: Luke 10:25-37
Theme: God’s compassion compels him to act on our behalf
Doctrine: Attributes of God: Compassion
Need: God gives us compassion to meet the crisis
Image: Forrest Gump on the first day of school
Mission: Have compassion for those who are in crisis
One Monday afternoon, a student at the Jerusalem Graduate School of Theology stood up in class to test Jesus. “Professor,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with your entire mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” As a good theology student, he recited these laws twice a day, even when Dr. Reid wasn’t around.
“You have answered correctly,” Professor Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But, being a brilliant graduate student, and a little uneasy with the simple answer; he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus told this story: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a journey of eighteen miles. It was called the ‘Bloody Way’ because it was a dangerous trip through steep, rocky passages. It would be similar to walking down a dark alley on the seedy side of Chicago with hundred dollar bills hanging out of your pockets. He fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest named Gnosko (Gk: Knowledge), happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite named Goggusten (Gk: Murmuring), when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan named Goando, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he was tempted to put his donkey in reverse, but instead, he had compassion on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then Goando put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him throughout the night. The next day he took out two silver coins’ and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him for the next few weeks,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” The innkeeper knew Goando to be a man of integrity, so he agreed to his request.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The theology student, hoping to graduate Magna Cum Laude, replied, “The one who had compassion on him.” (He couldn’t bring himself to say “the Samaritan” even if it meant getting a hundred on the test)
Jesus looked him in the eye and told him, “Now go and do likewise.”
TROUBLE IN TEXT: COMPASSION IS LACKING
This familiar text is found in Luke 10:25. Here we see a person who has been robbed, beaten, stripped and left for dead by robbers. He had been beaten with such force that he was just lying there and couldn’t get up. He was so badly injured he had crawled off and was just waiting to die. The robbers create a crisis in this man’s life and in the lives of those passing by the injured victim.
The religious men were not moved with compassion to take action. They are not malicious, they don’t attack him, but neither did they attend to him. They ignored the problem; they were passive. Maybe, they were fearful of touching the dead and being ceremonially unclean. They remain aloof and preserve their purity. It was just easier for them not to get involved. They chose not to do anything. It’s not what they did; it’s what they didn’t do. The opposite of compassion is not hatred, but rather indifference and apathy.
John F. Kennedy, in quoting Dante’s Inferno said the “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who during a time of moral crisis, do nothing.” “They passed by on the other side.” They did nothing. They were good… good for nothing. Compassion compels the Samaritan into action on behalf of the wounded.
The innkeeper treats the problem professionally. He agrees to take care of the man for a fee. Who’s the hero of the story? Not the innkeeper, he’s a hired hand, an HMO. It’s a business proposition for him.
Theologians like to ask questions. “What one thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him to answer his own question from scripture. He says love God and love people. Jesus says do this and you will live. He didn’t say he would inherit eternal life. Maybe the theologian was asking the wrong question. He was focused on inheriting eternal life and wanted to know what one deed would obligate God to give him what he wanted. Jesus tells him a story because he failed to realize that inheriting eternal life comes from living life in the present tense with a heart of compassion that compels one to action to aid someone in need.