Summary: Lessons to be learned from the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

At 3:20am on the morning of March 13, 1964, 28-yr old Kitty Genovese was returning home in a nice middle-class area of Queens, NY. She parked her car in a parking lot near her apartment complex, turned off her lights, then started to walk to her apartment building only about 35 yards away. She got as far as a streetlight when a man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the 10-floor apartment close by. She yelled out, “Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me!” Windows opened in the apartment building and a man’s voice shouted out, “Let that girl alone!” The attacker looked up, shrugged, and walked off down the street. Kitty struggled to get to her feet. Lights went back out in the apartment building, but then the attacker came back and stabbed her again. Kitty cried out again, this time yelling, “I’m dying! I’m dying!” Again the lights came on and windows opened in many of the nearby apartments. He assailant left again, this time getting into his car and driving away. Kitty Genovese staggered to her feet just as a city bus drove by. It was now 8:35am. To her dismay, the assailant returned again, this time finding her in the doorway to her apartment complex and at the foot of the stairs. He stabbed her for a third time, this time fatally. It was 3:50 when police received the first call, and they responded in less than two minutes, but Ms. Genovese was already dead...lying alone in the doorway.

The story became widely known, symbolic for the darkest side of human nature. Kitty Genovese’s name became synonymous for being a victim...not only of her attacker, but of people too indifferent or self-absorbed to get involved in helping a fellow human being in trouble. Detectives discovered that at least 38 of her neighbors had witnessed at least once of her killer’s 3 attacks, but had neither come to her aid or called the police. The one call that was made came after Kitty had already been dead for at least 3 minutes and her assailant was never located nor identified.

Today, in the third message in the series, Pursuing Meaning, examining the lessons we can learn from the parables of Jesus, we’ll be looking at the first century’s equivalent to the Kitty Genovese case, but with a different ending.

I invite you to open a Bible and turn to Luke 10.

The story has been called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, although it probably was not a made-up story at all. Nowhere does the Bible say it was a parable, and the road to Jericho was known for being such a dangerous place (even called “The Way of Blood”) that a story of this nature probably had happened and was well-known to the listeners on that first century day.

The story is told as a response to a lawyer’s question. The lawyer (not a trial attorney but rather a teacher of Old Testament Law) stood up to test Jesus, asking Him the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He expected to hear that he was really close, being a teacher and all, but he was about to be taught by the Master just how far from it he actually was.

Jesus turned the question around, in a Freudian kind of way actually, by answering a question with another question. Jesus’ question to the lawyer: “What does the Law have to say about your question?” The lawyer proceeded to quote from Deuteronomy, telling Jesus that the law was summed up in loving the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus responded, saying, “If you do that you will inherit eternal life.” He wasn’t saying we’re saved by works, but was simply telling the young man that in order for a person to fulfill the Law he had to do so every time. One mess up and he wouldn’t measure up. Salvation doesn’t come by our good works. The lawyer felt he was probably doing okay on the first part of loving the Lord, but felt convicted about the second part of loving people, so, as lawyers do, he began looking for a loophole to be able to “justify” or rationalize his life. The Bible says he was “trying to justify himself,” and asked a second question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Ahhh, the perfect set-up line. So Jesus, in hoping the lawyer AND US would fully understand the subject best, told the story. The lawyer’s question was about “how do I get in?” but Jesus proceeded to turn the question around to describe what someone who is already “in” behaves, what he/she looks like.


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