“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
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’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[c] 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.’
“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 replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Luke 10:25-37
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Quickly, some background: The nation of Israel was divided into two nations in the days of Rehoboam . Israel was composed of the ten tribes to the north, and Judah was made up of Judah and Benjamin. The animosity between the Jews (inhabitants of the Judah, the southern kingdom) and Israelites began immediately after the division, as Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom (with Jeroboam as her first king). Rehoboam assembled an army to make war against Israel to reunite the kingdom, but God intervened through His prophet Shemiah. Later, in speaking of the reign of Abijam, Jeroboam’s son, says “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life.”
Immediately after the division, Jeroboam changed the worship of the Israelites in . No longer did the inhabitants of the north travel to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and worship. Instead, Jeroboam set up idols in Dan and Bethel.
Later, after Israel’s fall to the Assyrians, they began to intermarry with the Assyrians, contrary to what required of them, This is why the Jews hated the Samaritans as “dogs,” or “half-breeds.”
The Samaritans were also a continuous source of difficulty to the Jews who rebuilt Jerusalem after returning from Babylonian captivity.
Eventually, the religion of the Samaritans evolved to the point that they held only the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) as being the law of God, rejecting all the books of poetry and prophecy. Furthermore, they claimed their copy of the Pentateuch was the only original copy (a claim still made today by what few Samaritans still survive). Obviously, this was/is a claim rejected by the Jews.
The story is that a man was beaten and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. But let me make the contrast a bit more poignant: Imagine that it was a pastor and a Catholic priest, that saw this poor man on their way to church Sunday morning. But later, an illegal alien, who happened to be Muslim, stopped and had compassion on this man and helped him and then took him to a hospital and promised to pay for whatever the beat up man’s insurance did not.
Now, does the insult of the parable not sting more? Christ was talking to some very devout Jews here and he asked them, “Who was being a neighbor?” Notice the reversal: The question was “Who is my neighbor?” but Jesus turns it into the more important question of who is living and acting like a neighbor. The one that did something was the neighbor. Not the ones that believed correctly or had nice thoughts.
The shocking part of he story is in the identity of the good neighbor, a Samaritan, one of those people despised by the Jews—-this was the dirty Muslim of their time. Jesus was telling the people he was talking to that they should all be as good as a Samaritan. What an insult!
There are two points being made here, I think, but perhaps more. The first one speaks mainly to us conservative evangelicals, that somehow think helping those in trouble in our community or being champions of social justice is in some way connected to socialism or progressive politics. Friends, if they are, we must all become socialists, because this is clearly Jesus taught! We are to look after the needs of others and not our own. In fact, Paul reminds us that those of us mature in Christ consider the needs of others more important than our own needs. But that’s not socialism, that’s a reflection of the very humility of Jesus Christ. You cannot have the mind of Christ and neglect social justice!
Liberals might claim to be the voice for the poor, needy or ignored in our society, but the voice should be coming from the body of Christ. Sadly, some of us who claim to have experienced the rebirth pass by the wounded and condemn them for being wounded. And I realize that they are also those whose political views are that only the government is able to decide what is best for the poor and injured. But again, if the Christian church did it’s job there would be no need or place the government to creating agencies and departments!
Bonhoeffer said that in the face of German persecution of Jews, Christians must call the evil government to accountability, bind the wounds of the needy, and stop the government from pursuing policies which harm people. So should we!
Reinhold Neibuhr once remarked that the Samaritan was pronounced “good,” as a passer-by priest and Levite were not. But think about it, did the Samaritan take that poor victim, hand him a tract, or preach a sermon? No, he did what the situation called for , and that was good. But don’t you get the idea that the Samaritan did this because it was simply the right thing to do. I don’t get the idea that he had to think about it, let alone pray about it! He acted out of his character and belief.
Think about what Jesus told His disciples in Mark 9:9, “He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”
It seems to me that a lot of what we call Christianity comes from folks that have focused on the life and teachings of Jesus, but they’ve not met the risen Christ. Friends, once Jesus Christ is “risen” within you, you’ve got something to say. Until then your witness is probably more religious, like the priest and scribe in the parable
You see, Jesus told the disciples that they should also say nothing until the Son of Man has risen. The risen Christ represents a new time in human history and a new understanding of what we’re supposed to be. But until the life of the risen Christ so dominates you that you truly understand what He taught while here on earth, say nothing, you don’t know what you’re talking about and you become a clanging bell.
When you grow and develop the right condition inwardly, that is to say, the Holy Spirit comes into your heart and opens your eyes and ears, the words Jesus spoke become so clear that you are amazed you did not grasp them before. In fact, you were not able to understand them before because you had not yet developed the proper spiritual condition to deal with them. You must meet the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and He must reveal to you who He really is. Has that happened in your life?
Our Lord doesn’t hide these things from us, but we are not prepared to receive them until we are in the right condition in our spiritual life. Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). We must have a oneness with His risen life before we are prepared to bear any particular truth from Him. Do we really know anything about the indwelling of the risen life of Jesus? The evidence that we do is that His Word is becoming understandable to us. God cannot reveal anything to us if we don’t have His Spirit. And our own unyielding and headstrong opinions will effectively prevent God from revealing anything to us. But our insensible thinking will end immediately once His resurrection has its way with us.
Let me close with the question that was asked at the beginning of this parable by an expert in the law: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Is there a more salient and essential question to ask? Is there a better question to ask Jesus than this? At another time He was asked the same question and told the one asking Him, you must be born again. At another time He was asked the same question and told the young man to obey all the laws—-and then sell all you have and come and follow me. So is Jesus telling people different things at different times? Of course not. We know that He was telling the same truth. He was telling folks that something had to happen to cause them to be set apart and prepared for heaven. Jesus was illustrating in this people what the people that are going to heaven are. They are people of love and compassion. And some folks outside the church might be closer to what God wants than some folks inside! And I am not saying that you go to heaven by doing enough good works, or that you can be a Muslim, practice charity in get into heaven No, no, no!
But if you are born again, you’re not like other folks that are religious actors. How do you know that have eternal life? The evidence is in the mirror. Jesus told the religious leader at the end of the parable, “go and do likewise.” He would say the same thing today!!!
If you think you are born again and Jesus is your Lord, and you’re not charitable, kind, concerned about the welfare of others—-particularly the ones that are not Christians, something is wrong with you!
If you find that you cannot do what the Samaritan did, it’s because He is not risen in your life. He is risen—-but is He risen in your soul?