Biography of Jesus #47
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
didnt 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).
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
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my
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. Ill 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 its regulations were to be lived out in everyday
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. Im 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
Good question. Great question. Except, Jesus knew he wasnt 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 wasnt 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 didnt need to love or even like anyone who was
different or with whom they disagreed. They could hate the people they didnt 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
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 isnt 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 didnt 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. Thats 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
Gods 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. Ive 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 didnt show up? Would it make a difference if it was Easter
The second was a Levite. He was part of the Temple staff but not a priest. We
dont 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 didnt 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 grooms
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 officers uniform, decorated with stripes representing
rank, authority and importance. "You would kiss me?" she
Thats 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 ones neighbor and that is the way to love God. Action, not
III. QUESTION: Whos who? 10:36-37
So, whos 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 dont have time
to help the desperate and dying?
Are you the Levite? Youre an otherwise good person, but you dont
want to take any chances to put yourself at risk. You dont want to get yourself hurt
or lose what youve got? Play it safe. Dont 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?
Whos 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 weve gotten ourselves into the
messes were 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 Samaritans 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
©Copyright, Leith Anderson, 1999.