Love is an idea encouraged by Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims and so on. You may not even believe in God, like atheists or agnostics, but still understand something about love. Love is something every man, woman, and child strives to obtain every day. The word itself has become so watered down that love often loses its true meaning.
The Scripture has a lot to say about God’s love. With loud voices Christians will sing about God’s love and mercy. They have memorized Scripture about the love of God with John 3:16 being the most famous – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. As Christians, we have no excuse for not knowing what love is… We understand that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). But the Scripture tells us “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This verse alone should awaken the church of Jesus Christ to the important of Christian Love. As believers we know the importance of not taking our eyes off of God’s love and mercy. But God states, it is “Christian Love”, love for one another, that will be the distinguishing mark of believers, letting the world know that we are disciples of Jesus.
As Christians, we have a powerful in-depth description of love found in 1 Cor 13:4-7 - “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and it not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. As Christians grow in patience and kindness and so on the world around us gets a better picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. That is what love looks like. These should be the marks of Christ’s disciples. However, there are times when the world hears “Christian” – they do not think of this love. They think of rules. Or maybe Christian people who are judgmental. That may or may not be true of us, but it is our responsibility to change what the world thinks of Christians. It’s still our responsibility to demonstrate that radical love described to the Corinthians. This morning we will look at the parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus speaks about Christian Love.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Many of Jesus’ parables illustrate the tension that comes as we live in two worlds, one being the physical and the other the spiritual. Jesus teaches us how to resolve that tension by giving priority to the spiritual, trusting that our heavenly Father will meet our practical needs. In this parable, Jesus confronts the clash of cultures and how to distinguish true love. We find this parable in 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.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself” was part of the Old Testament law (Lev 19:18). However, Jewish teachers had often interpreted neighbor only in relation to people of their own nationality and religion. The expert in the law was hoping that Jesus would agree with this interpretation. Therefore, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus shares this parable. One of the main points of this parable is this - our love for God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind is seen in the way we love all people. The key to understanding this parable is by identifying those involved - a man is robbed, robbers, a priest, a Levite, a Samaritan and an innkeeper.
· The man robbed - The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was rocky with high walls and was frequented by robbers. This would catch the attention of the listeners. They would know the peril of this journey and maybe some of them were victims of the same crime.
· The robbers – a band of cowards pick on one solitary traveler. They are villains who leave him to die. And yet they are not the chief villains in this story. That distinction belongs to the next two characters, the priest and the Levite.
· The priest identifies a religious leader of Israel who would perform sacrifices, take care of the Temple and provide religious teaching. The fact that he passes on the other side of the road speaks of his lack of compassion for the man in distress.
· The Levite is also a religious leader who would serve in the temple and should have known better. He, too, avoids the beaten and bloody man in need.
· The Samaritan. First of all, Samaria was a region of central Palestine that was once the capital of Israel. It was captured by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and they deported many of the inhabitants and replaced them with foreign colonists. This caused intermarriage and the adoption of non-Jewish practices. As a result the Jews considered the Samaritans to be religious heretics of a foreign nationality and inferior race. The Samaritans offered to help rebuild the Jewish temple, but their offer was rudely rebuffed (Ezra 4:1-3). Later on the Samaritans actually built a competing temple proclaiming it to be the true house of God. Suffice it to say, for hundreds of years the Jews and Samaritans hated each other.
The Samaritan was the one who took pity and action to help and heal the man beaten by the robbers. He physically touched the man, bandaged his wounds, and poured in oil and wine to heal and soothe. He goes above and beyond, in contrast to the priest and Levite who did nothing. The Samaritan takes him to an innkeeper and pays for all the costs for his complete recovery. For Jesus to introduce a Samaritan into the parable would arouse every ear listening. How could Jesus bring a Samaritan into the parable? How rude. How insensitive. The Samaritan would be considered less than a “neighbour” in the Jewish mind. If a Samaritan man could be a potential neighbour, then everyone, regardless of race, religion, nationality or any other distinction could be our neighbour.
Jesus ends the parable with a question back at the expert of the Law (verse 36) - “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the Law could not bring himself to say the Samaritan which was the obvious and only reply. Instead he says - “The one who had mercy on him.”
“Go and do likewise” – is Jesus’ response, implying that all people are to be treated as neighbours with mercy and compassion. In this case the Samaritan is the Hero! God a be like the Samaritan.
The expert in the Law asked the question of how to inherit eternal life. One of the most deeply ingrained human notions is that a person must do something to win God’s love and favour. We know how to accept gifts from other people. But when it comes to our relationship with God our pride steps in and we want to say to God, “I earned it!” However, we know from Scripture that salvation is a gift that cannot be earned – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9). In trying to justify himself, the expert in the Law tried to outsmart Jesus. As in the case of many of Jesus’ parables, there is a shocking end to the story. The Samaritan was the hero, not the religious leaders nor the expert of the Law.
A big question for us today is the same as that of the expert of the Law, “who is my neighbour?” In our culture the idea of the Samaritan is foreign. However, we do have racial issues that spring up all around us as Christians. We have First Nation issues, Immigration issues, Political issues, Gender issues, Economic issues and so on. There are things that we may not agree upon and all of these can produce a sense of us and them. And yet they are our neighbours and should be treated with compassion and mercy as described in this parable. So when we find someone in distress, do not pass by, do not avoid or be rude. We must be compassionate, and this is a learning process. God will place us in situations with people so that we can learn what it is to demonstrate God’s love. The world will know we are Christians by our love for one another and our neighbours. Let’s pray…