Summary: Describes the characteristic that makes a good samaritan a really good samaritan. It is not what we often think this characteristic is but something often overlooked.
“What Makes a Good Samaritan REALLY Good?”
INTRODUCTION: What color was the first ambulance in the Bible? Who knows? It was probably gray or brown. A donkey. Today our scripture talks about a need and who God used to fill that need. It wasn’t probably the person you would have expected. It was a Samaritan, the most unlikely person to help a Jewish person, for there was a deep hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews saw themselves as the “pure descendants of Abraham” and the Samaritans were a mixed race produced when the Jews from the Northern kingdom intermarried with other people after Israel’s exile. For the Jews there was no such thing as a GOOD Samaritan.
The scripture opens with a lawyer--an expert in the law--asking Jesus a question to test him. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I don’t know how sincere he was in asking that question. Maybe he was just trying to trip Jesus up. Jesus asks him a question, “What does the law say? How do YOU understand it?” Jesus was not trying to put him on the spot or embarrass him because this lawyer knew EXACTLY what the law said. He replied,
“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.”
Jesus said, “Yes, that’s right. Do this and you will live.” And then the man asked, “Just who is MY NEIGHBOR.?”
Jesus then told this parable or story to answer the lawyer’s question. The scene opens somewhere along the way between Jerusalem and Jericho about a 17 mile stretch of land where it was very rugged and rocky. Robbers could easily hide anywhere along the way, and it was considered a very dangerous route.
A certain priest was returning from Jerusalem where he had been “observing the law and performing his priestly duties.” His highest duty was to offer sacrifices in the temple. According to the law in Lev. 21:1-3, he was to keep himself ceremonially clean and not to defile himself. Even though he had certain rules and regulations, there was no reason he could not show mercy to someone in need.
Luke 6:36 says, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.”
The law also stated that people were to help a person’s animal get back up if it has fallen. Deut. 22:4
Even an enemies donkey or ox that has fallen was to be helped up. Exodus 23:4.
The Levites assisted the priests in the temple services and also was a person set apart and trained for religious work. It is said that Jericho was a city of priests and Levites and thousands of them lived there.
The Samaritan was--in contrast--a Gentile who was low on the totem pole as far as status or respect. No one wanted to help a Samaritan and probably didn’t want to receive help from one either.
A man was going down to Jericho from Jerusalem on this dangerous road and some robbers beat him up and left him for dead. We don’t know the details of this story. The priest happened to come by and looked over and saw the hurting man. We don’t have much information about what he saw or felt as he happened to come along. He may have said, “I feel sorry for the guy. He’s probably about dead anyway. Maybe he’s already dead. Anyway what can I do to help? I’m not a paramedic. I better get out of here or that will be me lying in the ditch next time.”
STORY: Saint Peter was at the gates of Heaven interviewing a man. He said, “You haven’t done anything bad, but you haven’t anything good either. If you tell me just one good thing that you’ve done, I’ll let you in.”
“Well, the man replied, “I was traveling on the road when I saw a group of thugs robbing a woman. So I went up to them and shouted for them to stop. Unfortunately, things got a little out of hand and I ended up punching out their leader. Then I challenged everyone else in the group to fight me.”
“Wow,” Saint Peter said. “That IS good. When did it happen?”
“About 2 minutes ago.”
At any rate, the priest didn’t want to become the next victim. Whatever he felt or didn’t feel about the man in the ditch, he shut it out by walking over to the other side of that road so that he could avoid getting involved. He SAW but he didn’t WANT TO SEE. He may have even looked the other way. He thought, “Don’t know what happened. Don’t care to know.”
Application: When have we reacted just like the priest did, avoiding “getting involved.” If I don’t SEE the need, I can’t be expected to stop. If we can justify our lack of involvement because we might be in danger or at risk, we can often scoot to the other side of the road and go on our way with ease. If we tell ourselves that we can’t do anything about it anyway, it often gets us off the hook, and we feel OK about it. Even though the priest performed the highest of ceremonial sacrifices, he was not REALLY keeping the law.