Reading Time: 7 Minutes
A professor in a prestigious east coast divinity school gave three students one of the biggest honors of their school career. He asked them to preach to the faculty and students at the weekly chapel service, which few students ever have the chance to do.
The topic he gave them was the parable of the Good Samaritan. None of them knew that he had asked all three to preach on the same day.
Neither did they know that he had hired an actor to portray a homeless beggar in distress, and that they would have to pass him on their way to deliver a message about the Good Samaritan.
It is sad to say that all three walked by the man without offering the least bit of help on their way to preach about one of Jesus’ most famous parables.
Every time I read the parable of the Good Samaritan, I wonder what I would have done if I were on my way to preach and encountered a dirty, smelly beggar who needed my assistance.
Doing the Right Thing
Jesus used parables to shock, confront, and challenge people to do the right thing. He knew that it is not enough to have the right answers in life.
What is needed is right behavior.
The encounter between Jesus and a lawyer brought about Jesus’ most famous parable, the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The whole scene can be viewed as a series of questions and answers. A lawyer asked Jesus a question and Jesus responded by asking him on in return.
Question 1 – Lawyer – “Teacher,” he said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10.25).
Question 2 – Jesus – “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” (Luke 10.26).
Answer 1 – Lawyer – “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10.27).
Answer 2 – Jesus – “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10.28).
Question 3 – Lawyer – “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10.29).
Answer 3 – Jesus – “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
“Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
“But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
“He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
“The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend'” (Luke 10.30-35).
Question 4 – Jesus – “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (Luke 10.36).
Answer 4 – Lawyer – “The one who showed him mercy” (Luke 10.37a).
Answer 5 – Jesus – “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10.37b).
Learning from the Parable
The divinity students knew the parable well enough to preach a sermon on it, but they didn’t know the parable well enough to live it. Let’s examine the parable to make sure we don’t make the same mistake as the students.
The basic question of the lawyer was if there are any boundaries to extending love to others. Some possible boundaries may include:
— Helping only “our kind” of people.
— Not helping people who are “obviously” not righteous.
— Not helping when helping may be risky or inconvenient.
The basic question of boundaries is an effort to define in advance who we will love and help, and who we feel free to avoid.
The priest and Levite, along with all good Jewish people of their day, were people of prayer. The Samaritan was believed to be a racial and social inferior, and yet he behaved in a superior fashion.
There is an interesting play on words with regard to the priest and Levite. The priest was “going down,” the Levite “came to the place,” but the Samaritan “saw him and was moved with pity.”
God does not put boundaries on his love and neither does he want us to have them. What he desires is that we have hearts that will move us to action.
If love is at the heart of our religion, the question is how will we apply it? Here are some questions to prayerfully ask ourselves as we contemplate that question.
— Is there a boundary where we can say that we have completed our obligation to love and need to do no more?
— Can we limit our love to “our kind” of person? Can we place limits that define who is our neighbor and who is not one?
— Is it true that while we cannot define our neighbor, all of us can be a neighbor to those we meet?
— Is our identity, that is who we really are, defined by love of God and love of neighbor?
— When people asked Jesus, “What do I have to do?” he asked in return, “What kind of person are you?” How do we answer this question in the light of the parable?
— Since God is love, does love describe our character and nature?
— Does the love command actually override all of the other commands in the Bible?
— Can I say to God, “I met my obligation to love you and others, and I can quit now”?
— Can I truly know God and yet not be conformed to the loving Being that he is?
This is truly a challenging parable. Jesus challenged people to join him in living in love for the Father and for one another.
Let’s accept the challenge today with all we have.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.