In Luke 10, we find the parable known as “The Good Samaritan.” A lawyer stood up while Jesus was speaking and asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer already knew the answer to his question, but he asked in hopes that he could trick Jesus into speaking against the Law. The lawyer was one of many who wanted to shut down what Jesus was doing and saying (that He was the Son of God) because they feared the following Jesus was attracting with his sermons and miracles. Jesus was gaining popularity among the common people, and the Pharisees feared they would lose their influence and power they had over the Jews. The Pharisees and lawyers kept asking Jesus questions, hoping He would say something against God or the Law so that they could arrest Him.
On this particular day, Jesus answered the question with a question, as He often did. Jesus asked the lawyer what did the law say? The lawyer summed it up by giving the rabbinical summation of “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him for answering this correctly. “Do this and live,” Jesus said. The lawyer, however, wanted to make himself sound spiritual, so he said, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responded by telling the parable about the Good Samaritan. A parable, remember, was a story Jesus would tell the crowds and his disciples that had a hidden meaning. (“A heavenly story with an earthly meaning,” as they told us in VBS.) In this parable, Jesus told them about a man had traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem, which was well known for being a dangerous road, where thieves were known to be a threat. The man had been robbed and beaten, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead on this well-traveled highway. After a while, a priest came along, one who should have been concerned with helping someone in distress, but instead of reaching out to the man who had been beaten, the priest crossed the road to the other side and ignored the man who was lying in the dirt. Perhaps he did not want to risk making himself unclean by touching someone else who was ceremonially unclean. But the priest showed no compassion for the man who had been mistreated and went on his way. Next, a Levite came along. He too, observed the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead, but he was also more concerned with his own needs, like the priest, rather than in helping someone in distress. The Levite also crossed the road in order to avoid the wounded man.
As the man lay there bleeding, perhaps calling out for help from someone, anyone, finally, a Samaritan approached the wounded man. But instead of ignoring him like the others, the Samaritan went to the wounded man and gave him first aid. He poured oil and wine into his wounds to promote healing, and then the Samaritan picked the man up and put him on his own donkey. The Samaritan walked along beside the donkey, making sure the man didn’t fall or harm himself more. The Samaritan held the man steady on the donkey all the way to the inn. He took money from his own pocket and rented a room for them, and he gave extra money to the innkeeper. He told the innkeeper to spend it if the man needed anything, and he paid for the room for a few extra nights. He told the innkeeper if it cost anything else, to let him know the next time he came through the area, and he would pay him back.
Particularly interesting about this story is that in this time, the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. The Samaritans’ ancestors had intermarried with the Jews and produced children who were biracial. The Jews considered the Samaritans half-breeds, and both races viewed and treated the other with contempt. The Jews would actually travel around Samaria, going out of their way to avoid having any interaction with them.
Jesus finished this story by asking the lawyer, “Who is his neighbor?” and the lawyer replied, “The one who had compassion/mercy on him.”
This parable reminds of a scene on “The West Wing” that I saw recently.
One coworker in the White House had been through a previous trauma (Josh) was now possibly in danger of losing his job. Another coworker (Leo), a recovering alcoholic, related this story to him…
“Guy falls in a hole…A priest walks by and the Guy hollers out, “Help! I’ve fallen in a hole! Can you help me?” The priest writes out a prayer and drops it in the hole and keeps going.
A doctor walks by the hole. Guy calls out, “Help! I’ve fallen in a hole! Can you help me?” The doctor writes out a prescription and drops it in the hole and keeps going.
A friend walks by, and the guy hollers out, “Help! I’ve fallen in a hole. Can you help me?” The friend jumps in the hole with him, and the Guy in the Hole says, “What??? Are you stupid?”
Friend says, “I’ve been here before. I know the way out!”
Leo says, “As long as I have a job, you’ll have a job here.”
This scene made me cry both times I watched it. I just thought it was so profound, because here on this secular program is a modern story about the Good Samaritan, and it depicts exactly what our job as a Christian in today’s world should be.
It’s a crazy world we’re living in these days, but the parables and stories in the Bible are still true and relevant today. It’s our job to help people that have fallen – that have been beaten and bruised in life, who are spiritually lying on the side of the road bleeding out – while the church is unconcerned and doesn’t want to get their hands dirty by messing with those sinners.
But we need to be like the Good Samaritan, as well as like the friend of the Guy in the Hole. We have to be willing to jump in the hole with them, to get down where the real stuff is happening, and get our hands dirty helping them if need be. We need to remember that one day we were that Guy in the Hole, pleading for help, with everybody ignoring us. But somebody made the decision to jump into the hole with us, so they could show us the way out.
I encourage you tonight, be that friend. Be the Good Samaritan who is willing to stop and help someone who is in trouble, one who is bleeding and hurting, one who isn’t going to make it unless someone steps in to help. Be the one who shows compassion for someone who has messed up and just need someone to help. Be the one who jumps down in the hole and shows that person the way out. After all, God sent Someone to help you find the way out. Don’t make them beg. Have the compassion of Jesus and reach out to someone who needs help, whether you think they deserve it or not. Be the one!