Summary: Who’s the real good Samaritan and what can we learn from him?
So often, people hear only what they want to hear. Take my father, for instance. He is actually deaf in one ear and hearing impaired in the other. However, he still hears only what he wants to hear. We call it “Selective Hearing Loss.” For instance, if you call for him, he often won’t hear you the first, second or third time. However, if you merely whisper that you are going to have some ice cream, he says, “Would you scoop me a bowl, too?” Sometimes, he hears what he wants to hear.
People often hear what they want to hear when it comes to God. When he points out their faults and threatens them with hell, they don’t often hear that. When he talks about his great love in Jesus they don’t often hear that, either. They hear what they want to hear. That is also true when it comes to the story of the Good Samaritan. Ask people on the street what the Good Samaritan is about. Most often, they will tell you that it’s all about the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be a nice person and God will be happy.
But they only hear what they want to hear. They don’t listen to the real message in this story, the message of sin and forgiveness. So, today, let’s open our ears and study what Jesus is really teaching us about loving our neighbor in this story of the Good Samaritan. Listen carefully as I read this account to you and see if you can spot it.
Luke 10:25-37 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27 He answered: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.’" 28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,’ he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (NIV)
We’ve done a crummy job
The Bible expert thought that he had earned God’s favor, yes, heaven itself, because he was such a good person. He thought that he had always loved God and his neighbor more than anything else. If anyone deserved to go to heaven it was him. But he just wanted to make sure that he was right about this. So verse 29 says, “He wanted to justify himself (in other words, he wanted to be sure that he had loved his neighbor enough), so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
Now, Jesus knew that only perfect people are allowed into heaven. Sinners are thrown into hell. And Jesus also knew that this man was nowhere near as perfect as he thought. So, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, not to convince this guy that he on the right track but that he was sorely mistaken about his perfection.
The story was a shocking one. Neither the priest, nor the Levite (both Jewish religious leaders) helped their own, half-dead countryman. Then along came a Samaritan. Now, the Jews of that day hated the Samaritans with a passion. They were considered half-bred ignoramuses who were a nuisance. They avoided Samaritans at all costs. They would go dozens of miles out of their way just to avoid a Samaritan town. But it was this unloved Samaritan who lovingly helped an enemy on the side of the road. He was the real neighbor, the one who even loved those who hated him.