Summary: In the parable of the Good Samaritan we find some basic lessons on compassion.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 26
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Dr. John R. Hamby
“The Murder of Kitty Genovese"
“At approximately 3:20 on the morning of March 13, 1964, twenty-eight-year-old …(Kitty) Genovese was returning to her home in a nice middle-class area of Queens, NY…. She parked her ….(car) in a nearby parking lot, turned-off the lights and started the walk to her second floor apartment some 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 building nearby. She yelled, "Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me!" Windows opened in the apartment building and a man’s voice shouted, "Let that girl alone." The attacker looked up, shrugged and walked-off down the street. Ms Genovese struggled to get to her feet. Lights went back off in the apartments. The attacker came back and stabbed her again. She again cried out, "I’m dying! I’m dying!" And again the lights came on and windows opened in many of the nearby apartments. The assailant again left and got into his car and drove away. Ms Genovese staggered to her feet as a city bus drove by. It was now 3:35 a.m. The attacker returned once again. He found her in a doorway at the foot of the stairs and he stabbed her a third time -- this time with a fatal consequence. It was 3:50 when the police received the first call. They responded quickly and within two minutes were at the scene. Ms Genovese was already dead…. " [THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 27, 1964, p. 38.]
Kitty Genovese … was a name that would become symbolic in the public mind for a dark side of the national character. It would stand for Americans who were too indifferent or too frightened or too alienated or too self-absorbed to “get involved’’ in helping a fellow human being in dire trouble. …Detectives investigating … the murder discovered that no fewer than 38 of her neighbors had witnessed at least one of her killer’s three attacks but had neither come to her aid nor called the police. The one call made to the police came after Genovese was already dead….[Long Island Our Story by Michael Dorman. www.lihistory.com/8/hs818a]
Some of you no doubt have heard this story. That incident may be the defining moment of urban apathy in the latter half of the twentieth century. When it happened, many thought the incident shocking, bizarre – but not typical of the way people respond. The question was asked, “What was wrong with those people, anyway?”
Today text is the 1st century equivalent, it is found in Luke chapter ten and beginning in verse twenty-five, it is the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, and it is told in response to a question asked of Jesus by a Jewish lawyer. The story begins in verse twenty-five where we read, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
We are told that this man is a lawyer; but he is not the kind of lawyer who goes to court in a civil or criminal case. This “lawyer” is an expert in Old Testament Law he is a Old Testament scholar.
The question asked of Jesus by this lawyer is: “What do I have to do to have eternal life?” Basically, he is asking, “What must I do to be saved?” When he asked Jesus the question about eternal life, he was asking what Jesus saw as the essential requirements of the Law. Much like the rich young ruler of Matthew he seems to be saying, “What good thing must I do in order to have eternal life?”
I can just see Jesus smiling as he throws the question back in the lawyer’s lap in verse twenty-six: “He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" Jesus restraints from giving the man an answer and rather says to him, “You know the law, what does it say?”
In verse twenty-seven the lawyer answers Jesus, "… You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and "your neighbor as yourself."’ (28) And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
Jesus asks the question; the man gives the answer and then Jesus responds by saying, “Good answer, now do it.” Some are troubled by this answer but we need to understand that Jesus is not saying that he could be saved by the law. He is reminding the man what the law says. The law requires not only that one keep the law, but that he keep it perfectly. The law must be kept without omissions or failures. To be justified under the law one must be perfect. Jesus wants the lawyer to see that law cannot save anyone because no one can keep the law perfectly.