Summary: This sermon examines the parable of the Good Samaratan and gleans principles that are pertinent for Christian living.
Sam Ross, a writer and traveler, was taking a trip through England. Weary and thirsty, he came upon a small unpainted house standing on a hill. Near one side of the road was a signpost that pointed to a path and also a sign that read: “Come in and have a cool drink.” As he followed, he came to a spring of ice-cold water with a gourd dipper hanging nearby. There was another sign that read; “Help yourself.” On the bench nearby was also a basket of summer apples. His curiosity got the best of him, and he sought out the couple that owned the house. He questioned them about the water and fruit. He found out that they were childless and made a scant living on their farm. Yet because they had such an abundance of fruit and water, they felt rich and wanted to share it with those who might pass by. The old gentlemen replied; “We're too poor to give money to charity, but we thought maybe in this way we could add out mite and do something for folks who pass our way.”
Though the parable of the Good Samaritan does not give symbols like many of Jesus' other parables, it does provide an example that we should follow. It is a parable that leaves an impact on the conscience. It is so simple that a child can understand it but so profound that we must strive with all of our might to live up to the principles that it advocates. In essence, it tells what Christianity is all about. It informs us of the fact that Christianity is a way of living.
The story begins with a lawyer who stands to test Jesus about how he might have eternal life. Now the lawyer was supposed to know all the answers. It was his business to interpret the law of God and to guide people to relate it to their lives. Jesus responded with a question as he did on many other occasions. The lawyer responded by giving his interpretation of how one might have eternal life. He said that a person was to love God with all their heart, soul and mind and then their neighbor as themselves. Jesus commended him for answering correctly. Then the lawyer asks Jesus a second question that was designed to justify his conscience. He asked who his neighbor was. Perhaps he thought that rejecting Gentiles just because they were that was wrong. In response to this second question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan and in doing so gives us some principles for life.
I. BE COMPASSIONATE
Jesus begins the parable by telling of a certain man, probably a Jew, who made his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jericho was where the priests lived when they were not ministering in Jerusalem. It was located by the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth and also a place filled with salt. Thieves and robbers haunted the road between here and Jerusalem. Though the road was only 17 miles, it was very unsafe. The priest and Levites were probably not bothered because of their profession, but everyone else was in danger. This particular man may have been a merchant, but nevertheless the thieves attacked him as he made his way to Jericho. They stripped him of his clothing, beat him and left him for dead.
The first person to come by after the robbery was a priest. He was a servant of the Law and supposedly consecrated to God. No doubt, he had finished his course at the Temple and was returning to Jericho. During this time, the priests were divided into 24 courses and served twice a year for one week intervals at the Temple. Now perhaps he was in a hurry, but he knew what God's word taught about being neighborly. We read that he passed on by.
The second person to happen by was a Levite. He belonged to an inferior branch of the Pharisees. He was a servant in the Temple and a minister of religious worship. His job was to interpret the Law of God. Though these two men were supposedly godly individuals, if we study the time we find that for the most part their religion was formal, heartless and compassionless. He too passed by.
The third man to come by was a Samaritan. He belonged to a mixed race of people. As a result, the Jewish people hated them. When the northern kingdom of Israel fell in 722/721 B.C. to Assyria, they carried off many of the captives. This was characteristic of the Assyrian people when they captured an area. They brought others in to replace those carried off. They in turn intermarried with the Jews who had been left behind, and out of this mixture came the Samaritan race. They were considered rascals and renegades by the Jews. When the Babylonian captivity ended, and Cyrus the Persian allowed the Jews to return to their land, they began to rebuild the Temple under the leadership of Zerubbable. The Jews refused to even let the Samaritans help them in the building process. This resulted in them eventually building a temple on Mount Gerizim. This made the hatred between them and the Jews even worse. By the time of Jesus, the hatred had grown to such great heights that a devout Jew who wanted to go to Galilee, north of Samaria, would cross the Jordan to the east side and go that way to bypass the region of Samaria. It was this person from this hated race that helped the man in need. If the man robbed was a Jew, this makes the example of compassion even more influential. We too can imagine the hatred stirred up in the hearts of those who heard this parable when Jesus said a Samaritan helped.