Summary: The Parable of the Good Samaritan can be used as a morality tale,but that’s not necessarily why Jesus told it.
Luke 9:51-55, 10:25-37
“The World-View Buster”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
This passage is one of the best known in all of Scripture.
Whether one attends a church or not, most people know the details of the story long before it’s read to them…
…the traveler who “fell into the hands of robbers,” who dump him by the side of the road, unconscious…
…the priest and the Levite who pass him by…
…and finally, the Samaritan, the “good guy,” who turns out to be the true neighbor.
Many of us think we know the meaning of the story as well; it’s a simple morality tale, an example for living.
“Be like him!” is the moral of the story.
“Don’t be like the others, who passed him by on the other side.”
And sure, the Parable of the Good Samaritan can be used as a morality tale.
But that’s not necessarily why Jesus told it.
Back in Chapter 9 we are told that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Which means that Jesus was beginning His journey…
... in a determined way to where the Cross awaited Him.
And the first place Jesus and His disciples go, on their way, is a village in Samaria.
“But,” as Luke puts it, “the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.”
In order to understand why this particular Samaritan village gave Jesus the cold shoulder, we’ve got to understand a little about where the Samaritans came from, as a people.
Originally, they were Israelites…
…but during a terrible invasion by the Assyrians, several hundred years before, most of the Israelites living up north in Samaria had been killed or carried off into exile.
Only a few of these northern tribes of Israel were left.
And over the years, these Samaritan Jews intermarried with other races, and adopted many of their neighbor’s pagan religious practices.
They still worshiped God, but they made their sacrifices on the top of Mount Gerizim, not in the Temple.
They interpreted the Law differently from the Jews in Judea.
In language, lifestyle, and custom there wasn’t much left to unite these two groups, both of whom considered themselves the true descendants of Moses and David.
And this hatred between Jews and Samaritans is still reflected, tragically, in the smoldering tension between Israel and Palestine today!
Both sides claim to be the true inheritors of the promises of Abraham and Moses, and both sides regard themselves as the rightful possessors of the land.
We see it in the news daily.
It appears to be the never-ending-war!
This gives us just a little glimpse of what a “play on words” it is for the Jews to have a Parable called the Good Samaritan!!!???
It’s nearly laughable, indeed!!!
Jesus went through Samaria; He just chose a different town.
Even today, few Israelis would even give a thought to travel this route from Galilee to Jerusalem, because it will take them through the West Bank.
There is just too much violence.
But Jesus went straight through, and He instructed His disciples to go straight through as well.
And that is what they did, healing the sick and announcing, “The kingdom of God is near you.”
We are told this was a very successful mission.
The disciples were exuberant, and Luke 10:21 tells us that Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.”
It’s not long after this that a lawyer, “an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.”
This lawyer is nothing like a lawyer of today.
He has more in common with a seminary professor than a practicing attorney.
What he really is, is a scholar of religious law…
…and he’s pretty certain that this country-bumpkin rabbi from Galilee is no match for his towering intellect.
So he asks Jesus a condescending question, one to which any Jewish school-boy would know the answer:
“Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”
And Jesus turns the question back on him, “What is written in the Law?”
The lawyer beams!
He’s on his own turf now.
The lawyer is just beginning to pat himself on the back when Jesus congratulates him on answering correctly.
“Do this,” he tells the lawyer, “and you will live.”
But his ego won’t let it go.
So he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
And this is where things get tricky!
This is an abstract theological question that the most learn-ed scholars had been debating for centuries…
… “When Leviticus commands us to love our neighbor, this only includes other people of Israel, right?”
No one, but no one among the elite would dream of suggesting that the word “neighbor” also includes Samaritans.
And it’s at this point that Jesus launches into the Parable of the Good Samaritan.