Summary: God is not interested in our religious duty but in our relationships - with Him and with others
Luke 10: 25-37 – The Story of the Good Samaritan
Story: In the 60’s Simon and Garfunkel wrote this
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship;
friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
But that is not how God wants us to be – God has built us for relationships!
And relationships are the subject of this morning’s Gospel reading – The Parable of the Good Samaritan
When we look at Scripture, it is important to look at the context. And the context this morning for the telling of the story of the Good Samaritan is a question that a religious leader put to Jesus:
“What must I do to inherit eternal life”
Jesus turned the question back on him and said:
“What is written in the Law. How do you read it?”
And the answer that the religious leader gave Jesus mirrored Jesus’ own teaching in Mt 22:37-40.
The lawyer cited the two Greatest Commandments – to love God and to love one’s neighbour.
But Jesus didn’t invent these two commandments. You will find them in the Old Testament
The first is in Dt 6:5 which says:
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
And the second can be found in Lev 19:18 which says:
18 " ’Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD .
Jesus’ genius was to combine the two laws together to sum up the law and the prophets.
Interestingly these two laws God relate to relationships – not to “doing things for God”. I don’t want to decry “doing things for God but I do want to stress that our relationships are more important
Christianity is not what I can do for Jesus but in how I relate to Him and to my neighbour.
The first commandment tells us how to get on with God and the other shows us how to get on with your neighbour.
And the whole story of the Good Samaritan is about defining who your neighbour is.
The term “Samaritan” has lost its original import. Today it simply means someone who helps his neighbour. Indeed it is from Jesus’ stiry that “The Samaritans” take their name.
Due to the distance of time, we miss just how shocking this story would have been to Jesus’ original audience.
Samaritans were considered by the Jews to be traitors and half breeds. (The NIV Application Commentary The Jews certainly did not consider Samaritans neighbours. They looked down on them – perhaps much like we would a mass murderer like Ian Brady or Myra Hindley today
The story would have been very shocking to Jesus’ hearers because the hero of the story was a Samaritan not an Orthodox Jew.
Story: Maddy and I were in Israel in January 2000 and have walked a bit on the steep 17 mile road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It runs down a mountain side and is narrow. Just the sort of place just set up for a mugging. Robbers would hide in the caves found along the way.
Now the story doesn’t actually say that the man who was mugged was a Jew, but clearly the implication is there.
Jesus’ audience would have expected the Priest to stop and help – but he didn’t.
Why you might ask. One reason might have been that the man looked dead. According to Jewish custom, if the Priest had touched a dead body, he be ritually defiled and this would have stopped him going into the Temple.
Jesus is challenging us. Does our duty to church override our duty to help another in his need?
Well if the Priest wouldn’t stop, then the Levite would have been expected to. Again, the meaning of the Levite is lost in the passage of time.
The Levites were the people who were in charge of the day to day running of the Temple in Jerusalem. You might say they were our churchwardens of today.
The Levite had important things to do – perhaps he had to open up the Temple.
Perhaps the Levite didn’t stop because he was scared that the same thieves would come back and beat him up too.
We don’t know the reason why the Priest and Levite didn’t stop – and perhaps it is not important.
But Jesus’ challenge to us today is that Church is not just about our church buildings and quotas – both of which are important - but rather its is all about relationships – with God and those around us.