Who Is My Neighbor? July 14,2019






TEXTS: LUKE 10: 25 – 37


The person in the story who steps out to question Jesus we are told was a lawyer. Because the question that he asked Jesus possess to him another question to him. Jesus then proceeds to the tell the story of a good Samaritan. Those two words (Good Samaritan) have been use in many ways since, even in our today’s world. We have Good Samaritan Hospitals and organizations.

For to fully comprehend the story here we need to do a little history. Samaritans were half Jews. When the Assyria took Israel to captivity, they populated Samaria with foreigners who eventually intermarried with the few Jews that were left behind and that is how the Samaritans as a people came about. There are stories that say the Jews hated Samaritans more than they hated the Romans. I believed on the other hand the Samaritan would have tried to keep away from the Jews. That is why the woman that meet Jesus at the well (John 4:1ff) asked Jesus the obvious question. Why is a Jew having interest on a Samaritan who they hated?

It was not unusual in Jesus time for his audience to ask him questions. Jesus being a teacher (Preacher) this method of answering question was what Rabbi’s did. Sometimes they would use Socrates method of answering a question with a question. Sometimes the question(s) would be tricky controversial while others asked wanting to truly learn the truth. Jesus first checks with the lawyer if he knew about the two great commandments of loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbors as thyself to which he said he followed from his youth.

In our particular scenario according to our version the lawyer continued to ask another question to test Jesus by asking the question “And who is my neighbor?” We would assume when one asks a test question, they somehow know the right answer to the question. But Jesus chooses to answer the question with a question.

It reminds me of a story of a little boy who asked a preacher a question to test him and him prove him wrong in public. The young man said to this wise preacher, “Hi Preacher, I have a butterfly in my folded fist, is it dead or alive? The young man had figured all the possible response which the preacher might give. If the preacher said the butterfly is dead, all he had to do is open his hand and the butterfly will fly away. If the preacher said it was alive all he had to do tighten his hand and the butterfly will be dead. The preacher looked at the young man and said, if the butterfly is dead or alive it depends on your choice.”

Jesus is going to throw the decision or answer to the question to the lawyer to decide. Jesus then tells the story of the man who was attacked by robbers while travelling down on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Three people saw him but only one stopped to help.

This story has been interpreted in different ways over the years by theologians and other people. We have to be careful to stay on the actual message and what it was intended for the time. Origen Adamantius of Alexandria interpret this way: “Man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho represents Adam. Jerusalem represents Paradise while Jericho represents the world, we live in. The robbers represent the hostile powers in the world while the priest represents the law and the Levites represent the prophet. The Samaritan represent Christ while the Inn represents the church. The wounds represent disobedience while the oil and wine represent the healing repentance and deliverance by grace. There are ideas by Origen that can be applied in our today’s world not as a way of taking the meaning but drawing some parallel. Jesus final request to the lawyer was to go and do what the Samaritan did. With that conclusion in mind I would like to draw the following faith lessons:

  • Walking down Jericho Road: The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was often called “Bloody pass.” This was because there were many bad things that happened along this road. But it was the shortest road between Jerusalem and Jericho. This road like Origen said represents our journey of life. On this journey we are meet with many challenges of life. In our life journey we will pass through many things. Some good some bad, some could be avoided while other we are not able to avoid. The are many perils of life that we face because of what we do where we live and sometimes who we are. Somethings are hard to believe that they happened but they do happen. The other day I listened to a unbelievable story on the news. Shaquille Dukes 24 years a black patient in an Illinois hospital was arrested accused of stealing medical equipment while wearing a hospital gown and pushing a steroid and Antibiotic IV drip pump. It is hard to believe that but it was true. That the kind of world Shaquille is living in. In simple ways Jesus is reminding us that the world be live in has many challenges. Some we can prevent whiles other we can’t. The best we can do, is to be a neighbor for each other.
  • Who do we represent? In our story we have three characters that Jesus mentioned in his story: The priest, The Levite and The Samaritan. Each of these persons had reasons why they acted the way they did. They justified their actions in their own ways. The first persons (Priest and Levites) might have used the same reasons why they could not help the injured man. They all (3) noticed the injured man and two acted in a similar way. As the priest and Levite was walking on the “bloody pass” as it was known they were scared for their own lives. They walked being aware of the dangers that they might face. The path had a history of people getting attacked. So maybe their first, reason not to want to help was for fear that this was a trap set by robbers so that they can descend on them as they tried to help the injured man. Their second, reason could have been since they were going on official duty and by them touching the inured man, they would have become unclean and not be able to perform their duty as a priest or Levite. Third, could have been they were too busy and out of time and did not want to be distracted. Forth, they may have blamed the injured man for not being careful while travelling on this dangerous pass way. How many of us today find ourselves giving similar reasons when our help is called upon? Never, wanting to be engaged with the issues of life that might tie us or not wanting to make a commitment that might change the direction of what we are doing. Every time I pass by the bearded man at our Walmart here in town with a cardboard reading “It Could be You” I have wondered whether he is putting guilt on people driving past or is strategy that he has found to work? Other times I wonder because he is the same man year after year coming in intervals for help, has made me not feel obligated to help. Is there a root cause that need to be addressed with him and who is supposed to do that? Maybe it is my challenge to stop and speak to him one of these days. Then here comes the challenge from the Samaritan man who decides to risk everything to be of help the injured man. We have to remember he represented the hated people by the Jews. Jesus audience that is listening to him tell this parable are mostly Jews. We don’t know the nationality of the injured man but it is my urge that he could have been a Jew. The Samaritan man does a number of things: first, he had pity on the injured man. Second, he knelt down and cleaned his wound with wine and oil. Third, he bandaged the wounds. Fourth, he put them on his donkey that means he had to walk the rest of the journey. Fifth, he books him in a Inn and nurses him through the night. Six, he offers to pay for the expenses and promises to pay more on his way if he did spend more. Jesus is therefore calling us to be like this Samaritan man to someone or something. We may not be required to do all the six things at once or more but we can do something to show that we care. Just because it has not happened to us does not mean it is right or we can ignore. During the time Hitler there was a story about a German Lutheran Minister by the name of Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984) who is quoted to having said the following “They first came for the socialist, and I did not speak out. Then they come for the Trade Unionist, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade Unionist. Then they came for Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for, and there was no one left to speak for me. Jesus is inviting us to notice what is happening around us. Who is your neighbor? Anybody in need.
  • Function of the Inn (Church): Origen said that the Inn represents the church and I agree with him. Many come to the church who are wounded: physically, emotionally, spiritually and even psychologically. They come to receive hearing and care. We read from our text that the Samaritan nursed the injured man the whole night. Can we be a church where people come when: they are injured received care, rejected receive acceptance, lonely receive care, crying and their tears wiped, discouraged and be encouraged. Can we be a church where everybody feels invited, where all feel belonging, where all can participate? Look at the person on your left and the one on your right and tell him/her “you are loved and you belong here.” Then wait for him/her to say the same to you. We are each other’s neighbor praise be to God. Let go to the world and become each other neighbors.