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Sam's Story

Biography of Jesus #47

"Sam’s Story"

Luke 10:25-37




This past week the United States bombed Yugoslavia in an attempt to stop the civil conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The hatred between people in the Balkans runs deep. It is political with opposing claims of sovereignty and autonomy. It is ethnic between those with ancestry coming from the west and those with ancestry coming from the east. It is religious between Christians and Muslims. It is a mess! The hatred and animosity goes back for generations.
It is not unlike the divisions between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda, Jews and Arabs in Palestine, or a whole array of racial, ethnic and religious prejudices between the peoples of the United States.

It was the same way between Jews and Samaritans in the first century. They didn’t even speak to one another, much less have any trust between them. It is one of the reasons that Jesus’ famous story of the Good Samaritan is so amazing.

Listen to the way Luke tells what happened in chapter 10 of his biography of Jesus. I invite you to read along with me from your own Bible (Luke 10:25-37).



Luke 10:25-37

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’ ; 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 fell into the hands of 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, took him to an inn and took care of him. 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.’

"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." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."




I. QUESTION: Argument (lawyer) or Action (Jesus) 10:25-29

1. It all started with a question from a lawyer. I’ll skip the temptation to tell a lawyer joke here because it wasn't exactly our kind of lawyer. This was a religious lawyer, a specialist on
the Jewish Old Testament and how it’s regulations were to be lived out in everyday life.


2. The lawyer did what a lot of people do. He asked a question more to start an argument than to discover the truth. He wanted to test Jesus. I’m sure he was smart, highly educated, articulate and very religious. He expected to win the argument.


3. The lawyer asked Jesus a question: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Good question. Great question. Except, Jesus knew he wasn’t asking to really learn how to go to heaven but to trick Jesus. So, Jesus answered the question with another question: "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"

Have you ever seen Orthodox Jews with little leather boxes strapped to their hands and wrists? They are called phylacteries. Orthodox Jews still do today what this lawyer probably did back then. They have pieces of paper with parts of the Jewish law in these containers on their hands and wrists. Jesus was telling him to read what was there. Knowing exactly what Jesus meant, the man answered with direct quotes from the Bible: "‘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.’"

4. Jesus told the lawyer that he had a great answer and to just go and do what he just quoted. Jesus had already figured out that this man wasn’t capable of wholeheartedly loving God or of loving his neighbor as himself.


5. The lawyer did what we all tend to do. He tried to make himself look good. He did what most of the religious lawyers of his time did it, by defining neighbor in a careful and tricky way. It was a little bit like deciding what your "definition of is is." He asked Jesus "And who is my neighbor?" You see, the religious lawyers were defining neighbor as fellow Jews who were just like themselves. This way, they were off the hook and didn’t need to love or even like anyone who was different or with whom they disagreed. They could hate the people they didn’t like and love the people they did like and argue that they were loving their neighbors just like God ordered them to do. Clever, huh?


6. Jesus took a very different approach. Instead of arguing about the definition of neighbor, Jesus called the lawyer and everyone else to loving action. Jesus told a story.


II. ANSWER: Action 10:30-35

A. See the need

First, a lover of others needs to see the need. Jesus told about "a man who 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."

This guy was really stupid! He had no business traveling alone along one of the most desolate and dangerous roads in the world. If you were to travel this road today, as I have, you would be awed by the bleakness of the terrain. Virtually no one lives there. There are no towns, gas stations or typical signs of civilization. Then there were groups of bandits who routinely robbed, beat and murdered travelers. Your best bet was to avoid the road altogether. If you had to travel it you were safest with a large caravan and armed guards. To travel alone was suicidal.

This is a story about someone in need. The issue isn’t how the man got into the mess he was in. He was hurt and needed help.
Too often we blame people for their problems and excuse ourselves from helping them. We say that he was fired because he drank too much. She was raped because she went to a party she never should have been at. They were in a car crash because they foolishly drove during an ice storm. He has AIDS because of his sexual behavior. She flunked out because she didn’t do her homework. People bring their problems on themselves.
All of this may be quite true, but Jesus says nothing about how someone got in trouble and everything about how to help them out of trouble.

Last October in France a 23 year old shepherd named Christian Raymond fell over a ravine but caught the edge of a cliff with his fingers. As he fell his cell phone came out of his pocket and landed on the ledge near his face. Earlier in the day he had called the emergency number, so he pushed redial with his nose. After 20 minutes of hanging by his finger tips the rescue unit came and saved his life.

Should the rescue people have told him to be more careful and that he brought it on himself? Of course not, when a man has a need he must be helped. That’s what Jesus was saying.

B. Skip the excuses

Along that treacherous road came two potential helpers who looked at the half-dead victim and refused to stop and help.

It is possible that they had pretty good excuses.
The first was a priest. At that time there was an excess of priests so they served at the Temple in Jerusalem on a rotation basis. It was a comparatively rare assignment. The priest wanted to get to Jerusalem for the high and holy privilege of serving God and God’s people. However, any priest who touched a dead person was technically disqualified for seven days. He would lose his turn at the temple. So, when faced with the choice of serving in the liturgy or helping a man who might die on him, he chose to go with religious service.
You may see this differently than I see it. I’ve wondered what I would do if I saw a car accident or someone needing help on my way to church services at Wooddale Church. Should I stop to help or hurry along and hope someone else will stop? Would the people here understand if I didn’t show up? Would it make a difference if it was Easter Sunday morning?
The second was a Levite. He was part of the Temple staff but not a priest. We don’t know why he kept going. It may have been a safety issue with him. In those days, like today, there are bandits who set up decoys. Stop to help someone and the rest will jump out and get you. It was too risky for him. He decided not to take a chance.

Obviously Jesus disapproved of the priest and the Levite. There is a lesson here for us that our seemingly valid excuses for not getting involved with the needs of others are rarely legitimate. We should listen to Jesus telling us to skip the excuses.


C. Help the hurting

Instead, Jesus introduces the hero who helped the hurting. He could not have shocked them more than with the choice of a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans hated each other and certainly didn’t help each other. The lawyer would have assumed the Samaritan to be the villain, not the hero.

The Samaritan not only stopped but became involved. He was a good man with good credit and who was willing to use his resources and reputation to help someone who could not help himself. He was prepared in advance with oil and wine (an emergency first aid kit) just in case. He showed no hint of pride, self-preservation or selfishness. He saw a man who needed help and he gave him the help he needed.

Father Tim Power of Pax Christi Catholic Community tells a wonderful story in the current issue of the Pax Christi News. It is about George Conn, a Presbyterian minister in Virginia who served as a reserve chaplain in the Navy. He was new to the chaplaincy when he was called on to marry a couple in trouble. The groom was 18 and in jail for desertion. His bride-to-be was 17 and six months pregnant. The marriage would make the bride eligible for military medical benefits. The chaplain thought: "This is not the sort of thing they teach you about in seminary; two children quickly getting married for all the wrong reasons – in a hurried service, performed by a strange minister, before the groom is shipped off to be punished."
He performed the short ceremony. The bride looked pathetic and desperate. The vows were repeated, the rings were exchanged, there was a kiss and a benediction. Then the minister did what he had routinely done at other weddings – he shook the groom’s hand and kissed the bride on her cheek. She jumped back in shock. Tears rolled down her face. Wide eyed with amazement she asked, "You would kiss me?"
He was all dressed up in his officer’s uniform, decorated with stripes representing rank, authority and importance. "You would kiss me?" she asked.

That’s what Jesus was talking about - - helping the hurting, loving the desperate, reaching out to the troubled, caring about those no one else cares about. That is the way to love one’s neighbor and that is the way to love God. Action, not argument.


III. QUESTION: Who’s who? 10:36-37

So, who’s who in this famous story? Who are you? If you were asked to play one of the characters, which would be the best fit?

Are you the traveler who made stupid choices that have left you stripped of your possessions, beat up and half dead? Are you in trouble, hanging by your finger tips from a cliff? Are you the one who is hurting?

Are you the priest? You are on your way to do important things. You have appointments to keep and people to impress and God to serve? But you don’t have time to help the desperate and dying?

Are you the Levite? You’re an otherwise good person, but you don’t want to take any chances to put yourself at risk. You don’t want to get yourself hurt or lose what you’ve got? Play it safe. Don’t get involved.

Are you the Samaritan? Willing to go out of your way? Willing to spend your money? Willing to get dirty to help someone who may not even deserve the help you offer? Are you willing to kiss someone no one else would even touch?

Who’s who in this story?

Or could there be yet another casting of the characters? After all, the person I would choose to play the part of the Samaritan is Jesus himself. As the Son of God, he was willing to give up his prestige, position, power and wealth to help us sinners. He loved us and loves us all the way. He knows how and why we’ve gotten ourselves into the messes we’re in and he loves us anyway. He reaches out and kisses us, helps us, heals us, loves us.

That is the message of Palm Sunday. That is the drama of crucifixion. That is the hope of Easter. Jesus is our Good Samaritan.



1. What if the half-dead man had refused the Samaritan’s help? I suppose that could have happened. In reality, it does happen. But, it would have been the most foolish thing he ever ever did.


2. If that person on the side of the road is you, accept Jesus’ help. Let him be your good Samaritan. Let him touch you and heal you. Let him love you and carry you. Accept his gifts. Accept Jesus Christ.


3. Today begins Holy Week. This is the anniversary of Jesus coming to Jerusalem to die for us sinners. There could not be a better time to tell Jesus that you welcome him. Pray to him this morning. Tell him you are hurting. Tell him you are a sinner. Ask him to be your Samaritan. Ask him to be your Savior.


March 27-28, 1999 Wooddale Church

ęCopyright, Leith Anderson, 1999.


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