Who Is My Neighbor? Luke 10:25-37 The Parable of the Samaritan Neighbor

It is great to be with you, again, today.

It is my privilege that I can minister here in this congregation and in this nation. This is a right that I should not take for granted. I thank God, I thank this nation and I thank you.

We are currently in a series of selected story parables from Luke’s gospel, and today’s message is from Luke 10:25-37.

TITLE

There are several ways in which we could describe this parable.

Traditionally we call it the “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” but there are reasons why I am not too fond of that title, personally:

It implies that to be a “Samaritan” meant to be good—as in modern English, outside of a conversation about this parable, if the term “Samaritan” is used, it undoubtedly means “a person who helps those in need.”

For example, when I was in Texas, people told me that if my car breaks down on the side of the road, several people would stop to see if I am OK and need any help.

And it was TRUE.  I stopped once, to make a phone call, and I had 2-3 cars stop to see if I needed anything.

They were ready to be “good Samaritans”

So this is just a term as any term from classical literature…

For example, if someone is unhappy at Christmas, and spoils everyone’s party, this person is called a what?

“SCROOGE” — for the character that Charles Dickens wrote about in his story, “A Christmas Carol.”

But we ought to be known as Jesus’ disciples…The goal of the Gospel of Jesus is not that we would be known as “Samaritans” by our love,  but that we would be known as Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another.

As Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

John 13:13

So, I propose that a better title for the parable might be:

“Who is my neighbor?”

or

“The Man Left for Dead”

or

“Two Good Guys Fail to Do Well; One Bad Guy Does Well!”

OK, I’ll stick with tradition and call it the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.”  J

“Parable of the Good Samaritan” 

But I hope you see my point.

TWO  STORIES

Before reading, let me set the stage.

There are two stories:

FIRST  STORY

The first is about an expert in the Law (a theologian) testing Jesus with two questions.

As an expert in the Law…

He was one who studied, particularly, the “Pentateuch,” which is a fancy word used to describe the first five books of the Bible, also known as the “Books of Moses” or merely as “Moses.”

The term “expert in the law,” would be synonymous with “lawyer (in the religious sense)”

and “scribe,” too.

These people would study and/or copy the Scriptures, and this was their job.

Therefore, they knew the facts of the law, but not necessarily the spirit of the law.

The setting of the first story was possibly a synagogue, as it was Jesus’ practice in the beginning of his ministry to visit the synagogues…although, later, he was not welcomed in such places.

While people were seated around Jesus and listening to him, this Expert in the Law, stood up, to test him with two questions.

In answer to the second question, Jesus tells the second story.

SECOND  STORY

The second story IS the parable of the “Good Samaritan.”

At the conclusion of the parable, we find ourselves back in the first story, with a brief dialogue between Jesus and the expert in the law.

CHARACTERS

There are several characters involved in these two stories:

a.   Expert in the Law

b.   Bandits

c.    Priest and Levite

d.   Innkeeper

e.   Samaritan

f.     Jesus

In this painting by local artist, Nelly Bube, you can see all of these characters, except for the expert in the Law and Jesus:

I have already explained what an expert in the Law was, but let me explain the other characters.

Bandits loved to attack vulnerable folk along this road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

And this continued to be a bad place for lonely travelers even into the last century

I have a travelogue that reads like a Bible Commentary, and it was written in the 1930s.

And at that time when the author was traveling between the two cities,

he was warned again, and again,

to not travel at night, or he might be robbed.

The Priest and Levite…these were religious workers who were tied to the Temple system of worship.

They needed to be careful not to come into contact with anything unclean (especially a dead body)

or they would not be able to perform their sacred duties at the Temple.

Samaritan…he was of a race of people who were a mixture of numerous ethnic groups. Originally Hebrew, of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, for about 700 years they had been changed by their conquerors.

Although they had previously worshipped idols,

by the time of Jesus, they had returned to the God of Abraham.

They only accepted the first Five books, the Pentateuch, as God’s Word.

About 100 years before Jesus, the Samaritans had built a temple to God on Mt Gerazim.

This was because they were only allowed in the outer courts of the Temple in Jerusalem.

When the Jews found out about the Samaritan Temple, they sent soldiers to destroy it.

This, of course, hurt the relations between to Jews and the Samaritans, even more.

The land of Samaria was in the middle of Israel, and when people would travel from Galilee to Jerusalem, they would often avoid Samaria,

as Samaritans would abuse Jewish pilgrims who were on their way to worship in Jerusalem…

it was decades of “payback” for the destruction of the Samaritan Temple.

In Luke 9:51-55, Jesus and his disciples passed through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem…

one village of Samaritans refused to let Jesus pass through, and James and John asked Jesus for permission to cast down fire from heaven to punish them (this caused Jesus to rebuke them).

 

GEOGRAPHY

Now, a word about geography:

Jerusalem is 750 meters above sea level

Jericho is about 250 meters below sea level

So the difference in Altitude is about 1000 meters

Some of the landscape would have looked like another planet.

Here is a picture of part of the trail.

As you can see, it would have been easy for thieves to hide, rob and hide again, among those rocks.

So with this background information, let us read these two stories:

 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.”

Luke 10:26-37

 

PRAYER

BASIC INTERPRETATION PRINCIPLE FOR PARABLES

How to interpret a parable:

Parables are meant to teach one main point.

Of course, there may be sub-points, depending on the length of the parable

There is not a deep, hard to find, mystical meaning beneath the parable,

but usually a simple and spiritual meaning that should be easy to understand.

Parables are not allegories…

an allegory is when a story is told in extended metaphors, and each point in the story is a symbol for something else.

When we study the parables, look for the main point…

for example, the main point of the parable of the good Samaritan is the answer to the question, “who is my neighbor?”

What is interesting is that for many centuries, this particular parable was understood as an allegory.

While the allegorical interpretation may seem very inspiring, it does not really answer the question of “who is my neighbor?”

The early Church fathers, in particular, Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) read the parables as a story of the Redemption of Man, through Jesus. For example:

  • Jerusalem = Paradise
  • Jericho = the “world” (in the bad sense)
  • Man = Adam/the whole human race
  • Priest and Levite = The Law and the Prophets (which by themselves cannot save)
  • Samaritan = Jesus
  • Inn = the Church
  • Innkeeper = Paul
  • Two coins = Old & New Covenant OR the 2 Great Commandments

This was the way much of the Church in the West looked at this parable, in particular, for centuries.

And while this may seem nice, it is not the way that we normally read any sort of literature.

Clearly, the question was:

Who is my neighbor?

And the allegorical answer is

Overkill

And worse, this allegorical idea keeps us from seeing our responsibility to love our neighbor as we love our self.

As I share today, I would like to look at a few questions and how they relate to the various characters in these stories:

1.   How did these characters look at the traveler?

2.   Why did these characters look at the traveler in this way?

1….How did people in these stories look to the traveler?

 

a…Expert in the Law…to the expert in the Law, the traveler was a topic of discussion…

 

NOW discussion is a great activity, but it should lead toward something PRODUCTIVE…

Yesterday at the Men’s breakfast, we had a very important discussion about earthquake preparedness

And we finished the discussion with prayer and by assigning tasks to people so that the discussion will be fruitful

prayer and then action…at least prayer!

We should DiscussàDetermineàDo

 

THE EXPERT WANTED TO BUILD HIMSELF UP

 

b….Bandits…To the Bandits, the traveler was someone to victimize and exploit…

do we look at people this way?

I’m not only talking to the business folks, but to those in ministry, too…

and I’m not only talking to foreigners, but to locals, as well…

when we see someone, do we see them with the eyes of Jesus, or with eyes like a bandit?

Do we think, “what can this person provide that will advance me?”

I hope not

c….Priest & Levite…the traveler was someone to be ignored and avoided…

no need to enter into something untidy, besides, he’s half-dead,

he hasn’t a chance at living, anyhow…

are we like this too?

We look at someone and think,

“they are so far gone from Jesus, there’s no hope for them,”

or do we ostracize those who fall into sin, or find themselves divorced, or who disappoint us or disagree with us…

it’s easy to avoid people, but that is not biblical…

these are what the Bible tells us to avoid:

What the Bible Says to Avoid:

The Way of Evil Men

(Proverbs 4:14, 15; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:22)

Strife and Quarrels

(Proverbs 20:3; see also Titus 3:9, 10)

Gossips—especially a “man who talks too much”

(Proverbs 20:19; see also 2 Timothy 2:16)

Strangled meat, blood, food sacrificed to idols and SEXUAL IMMORALITY

(Acts 15:29, see also 1 Thessalonians 4:3)

I’m sure that we are avoiding the strangled meat, blood and food sacrificed to idols, but how are we doing with regards to sexual immorality?

 

PAUSE

 

d…The Innkeeper…the traveler was someone to serve, but not for free, but for a fee

One thing that has bothered me, missiologically here in Kazakhstan is how people with funding will pay believers to do what we volunteer to do in our home countries…

and sadly, there is not a strong movement of volunteers among the local believers here in Kazakhstan, as far as I can see.

One of the goals I have in the ministry I’m involved with in the special needs orphanage is to enlist local volunteers to serve the children and the workers…

Let’s consider how we can volunteer in service to Jesus and not look for a way to make money…

Let’s not be a bandit, either

e….The Samaritan…the traveler was a person to pity and to serve…he loved his neighbor as himself!

He was generous and not only allowed the traveler to ride his donkey, but he gave the innkeeper money to cover expenses.

This might have been enough for a couple weeks, some think, a couple months

f…Jesus…the traveler, and everyone in the two stories (and in the world) are worth dying for

b.   Why did they look that way at the traveler?

a.   Expert in the Law…was just hoping to justify himself, and was caught off guard

He was testing Jesus, so the he may have just been waiting for Jesus to quit talking about this poor fellow who was attacked…

those things happened often on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.

He was testing Jesus, by the way, in order to possibly embarrass Jesus and elevate himself.

But he found himself tested

He was prejudiced towards non Jews…and even Jews that were not like him…

So he was too proud to mention even the term, “Samaritan” when Jesus asked, “who was a neighbor to the traveler”

b.   Bandits…prone to sin, as we all are, but the Scriptures teach us to repent of sin and to

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…

Hebrews 12:1

Remember, let’s not make like a bandit

c.    Priest and Levite…conditioned by traditions, laws and rules…

 

if the traveler were dead, then they would be ceremonially unclean…

this not only meant that they would not be able to serve at the Temple, but that they would not paid…

loving our neighbor as our self may prove costly, at times…

d.   Innkeeper…this was most likely not the first person to come to his inn after having been beaten up by bandits

e.   The Samaritan…Perhaps he was a devout person…possibly he was looking for the Messiah.

It is estimated by some that John the Baptist had ministered among the Samaritans

…while the priest and Levite should have been looking for THE MESSIAH, they often missed Jesus —and the interesting thing is that much later, when the Church began to serve the neglected widows—which was loving their neighbor as their self—and Deacons were appointed, that many priests began to believe in Jesus.

 

Why did so many religious people not recognize that Jesus was the Messiah?

Because they were expecting someone who would fit their mold.

But the Samaritans, who only revered the Pentateuch, themselves, believed that the Messiah would come to reveal all things (as the Samaritan woman in John 4 said to Jesus:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

John 4:25 

Somehow, the Samaritan was in reality, the only one in the parable who showed love.

f.     Jesus…motivated by the Love of God the Father and Jesus’ obedience to His Father’s will, and therefore loves us all

c.    Who do we, individually, resemble?

a.   Expert in the Law

b.   Bandits

c.    Priest and Levite

d.   Innkeeper

e.   Samaritan

f.     Jesus

I hope we would want to resemble Jesus and the Samaritan

This kind of love is what we, too, should have and follow:

to Love God with everything within us, and to love our neighbor as we love ourself.

I have heard someone say, “but I don’t love myself.”

Actually, we all love ourselves if we take the time to go to sleep each night, and eat food and brush our teeth…these are signs that we truly love ourselves.

There are those who love themselves TOO MUCH, so much,

that we could never love anyone else as much or in the same way, even God…

for we put ourselves on the throne of life and we consider everyone around us (including God) to be our subjects.

We ought to be people who love others,

even if it is uncomfortable…

even if the results are not so good

The worst situation I have seen relating as a “Samaritan” was last Autumn when Clover and I were driving through a storm in the South-Eastern part of Virginia. We were on our way to visit a church and were using a GPS device.

Now if you’ve never used such a device, they are somewhat helpful.

But this device had us traveling through narrow country roads.

I was so upset with the GPS until I saw a small SUV in a ditch.

Inadvertently, the GPS led us to someone in need.

Thankfully, the rain had stopped, at this point.

I stopped and put down my window.

A young college student was in the SUV and she, for some reason, did not put down window, but got out of the vehicle.

I asked, “Can we help you?”

“No,” she said. “I’ve called the police to help me, and they should be here in a few minutes.”

“OK,” I replied, and we prepared to drive away.

But then we noticed that the girl had accidentally locked herself out of her vehicle.

We said we would wait with her.

Then it started to rain again.

We offered her to sit in our car, but she must have been afraid.

So we gave her an umbrella and waited until the police came.

We wanted to help, but inadvertently, our actions led to her locking herself out of her car.

I think there are many times when we are very sincere in our lives as Christians, but still, we inadvertently lock people out.

LIKE THE PRIEST, LEVITE & EXPERT IN THE LAW…AND DON’T FORGET THE INNKEEPER, WHO HELPED ONLY FOR A PRICE

But Jesus wants us to be a good neighbor, and to love our neighbor.

The Priest and Levite neglected the traveler; the Innkeeper received him on contract; the expert in the law didn’t even care.

And this parable serves as a rebuke to anyone who would think that they are doing God’s will by doing nothing, but by resting in their positions.

How will we answer the question, “Who Is My Neighbor?”

And I think we should remember that it is very easy to determine the answer to this question when it is posed in a parable, but not so easy when it is posed in life.

As we find ourselves surrounded by people who treat us with contempt because of our race, education, nationality, language abilities, age, lifestyle, occupation, religion, marital status, etc. we find we can be overwhelmed.

Yet, God calls us to love our neighbor as our self.

How does this parable explain this commandment?

It is obvious that the priest and the Levite did not love the dying man as they loved themselves.

But the Samaritan DID love…and it was shown in his actions.

If we look at some of these verses, again, relating to the point when the priest enters the story, and look at the verbs we will see the extent of the love not shown and shown:

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.”

Luke 10:31-37

Our salvation is not dependent upon what we do, but faith in what Jesus has done, yet, the Word of God says that a living faith would show itself as active.

The actions of the priest and Levite were to “see” and “pass by on the other side.”

Reasons Not to Love

 

-Professional

-Time Restraints

-Discomfort

-Difference of Tradition

-Pride

-Procrastination

-Busyness

Reasons Not to Love

a.   Professional—the priest and Levite could not risk becoming ceremonially unclean—but in a question of life and death, can’t we put our professions aside?

b.   Time restraints—when we are running late for something, we know that we will let down those who are waiting for us—but, in the question of life and death, wouldn’t people be understanding?

c.    Discomfort—we don’t want to get our clothes dirty, or to have to be faced with something discomforting like death—yes, but in life or death situations we need to be willing to do what is uncomfortable—can you imagine not helping, and then realizing the person died due to your negligence

d.   Difference of tradition…we are uncomfortable, and don’t know the traditions

e.   Pride—since I don’t really know what to do, I would hate to do it incorrectly, and be embarrassed—but, this is life of death—we should do what we can

f.     Procrastination—perhaps they wanted to send for help, or were going to come by, later to help…IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO LATE FOR THIS DYING MAN

g.   Busyness—when we are just to busy to notice someone in need

The actions of the Samaritan were very numerous…each action led to another action…

AND HOW DID HIS OWN ACTIONS OF LOVE AFFECT HIM

How the Samaritan’s Actions Affected Himself:

 

-He was late for his appointment

-Perhaps he had a financial loss

-Ceremonially unclean

-Uncomfortable

-In a humbled position (acting as a servant)

This may have been a true story…and we know nothing of a relationship between the Samaritan and the Traveler after this.

I have helped people and then been despised by whom I helped…it is not a good feeling.

But we need to help out of a love for God and neighbor.

Now, in conclusion, Let’s consider another story….our story!

Who will be reached with the Gospel because we stoop in humility and service to those around us?

God Knows, and He wants to Dispatch us to do it.

 

Let’s Pray

 

REFLECTION

 

As we pray, let us consider how this Scripture speaks to us

 

Let us reflect on it

 

If you would like prayer at this time, please come and we will pray with you.

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2 Responses to Who Is My Neighbor? Luke 10:25-37 The Parable of the Samaritan Neighbor

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