Sunday the 10th of July 2016
When I was little my mum and I lived with my Grandfather, until I was 6 years old. As a child I had a habit of talking to strangers, I would just walk up to anyone and talk to them. I remember my Grandfather one day having stern words to me, and what he said stuck with me for a very long time. He told me that I was not to speak to strangers, because we don’t know them and we cannot trust everybody. When I was a teenage I asked him about this and he told me that he lamented how society had changed. He grew up in Liverpool a large metropolitan city, but even as a child he and brothers and sisters were free to roam the neighbourhood, they knew people in his street, families knew other families. But by the time I was a child according to my Grandfather, the world was no longer safe for children. I found this very sad for him. But there is some truth to it. But it is not just children but society as a whole. We tend live lives in our own homes and not interact with others who we do not know. Our society is very much like this. And this makes it hard for us to be a Christians who are called by God to love and serve our neighbours. Unfortunately in our world it does not come naturally to us.
In living life as Christians there many things about God and his Word that we do not understand. There are many things that we wrestle with. But there are also things which we assume are basic to our understanding of what the Christian life is all about. One these is: we are to love God, and we are to love our neighbours. Life following Jesus involves service. It means serving others. It happens on the path of everyday living. It is directed to those who we encounter on that path—our neighbors, or those whom God has put around us.
But just because we know this does not make it easy to do it?
In today’s Gospel reading from Luke chapter 10 we hear of a Lawyer having a discussion with Jesus about this very thing. The teacher of the law new that he was to love God and love and serve his neighbour. But when it came down to doing it, he wanted a way to avoid the difficulty. He wanted to come up with a way in which he could serve only the people that he wanted to serve. He wanted to come up with an excuse to get him of the hook of serving others that pushed him out of his comfort zone. He wanted to serve on his terms, not on God’s. So he asks the question: “who is my neighbor”
Jesus responds with the famous parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man is traveling the winding road through the rocky desert from Jerusalem to Jericho. He is accosted by thugs who attack, assault, rob, and beat him. They leave him as if he were road kill. Later he is approached by two men:
The first one is a priest, when he saw the bloodied fellow. He ignored him. If the man was dead, to touch him, or to have blood on him would be taboo. The priest would experience ceremonial defilement, he would become unclean. He would have to go through the process of becoming clean again. He would lose his priestly prerogatives. It would cost him too much. The reality for this priest is that this situation was just too messy! It was just too complicated. It was easier to ignore the situation and not become involved.
The second man was a Levite (a religious worker) who would have kept very busy in religious activities. His duties were to clean the temple and synagogue; maintain the holy furniture and vessels, direct the choirs and musicians for worship; maybe even organize the sacred library. Like the priest he was working for God. But when he saw the beaten man, he passed by. Maybe he was just too busy working for God; he did not have the time to waste.
As Jesus disciples we have opportunities to serve those around us. And this is where this parable Jesus speaks so clearly to us, because the Priest and the Levite in this parable can so easily describe you and me.
To serve others, to become involved can be too messy, or we can be too busy.
How often do we hesitate to get involved with people’s problems: those around us whose marriages are struggling, a neighbour who struggles with parenting and their children are undisciplined, a teenager who looks odd and does not seem to fit in, an older person who is struggling, whose house is run down; a neighbor or friend who is struggling with mental of physical health issues. How often do we say to ourselves, it’s too complicated it is easier not to become involved. Someone else can help them.
We live in a word that is busy. To help and serve others takes our time. We’ve got life scheduled to the minute. So we can’t fit the needs of others into our schedules. We’ve got other obligations and deadlines meet. We can’t afford to stop and get involved, because we can’t afford the time. We have more important things to think about and to do.
Jesus continues his parable bringing into it a Samaritan.
Samaritans were the hated enemy of Jews, considered half-breeds, traitors, and heretics. So when Jesus introduces this character, I would suggest to you that those who heard this expected the Samaritan to be a villain. Perhaps they expected the Samaritan to finish off the injured fellow. They had not time for Samaritans at all, they were the enemy.
And yet in this story, the Samaritan “has compassion” or mercy (v. 33). He rescues the Jewish victim, serves him, and goes out of his way and counts the cost for the injured man so that he is cared for.
Having completed the story, Jesus asks the pointed question to the lawyer: “Which proved to be a neighbour?” The lawyer responded: “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus then directs, “Go do likewise” (vv. 36–37).
It is not just to the lawyer that he says this, but he says: “Go do likewise” this to you and me. The problem is, we often don’t. The lives of others are too messy! Ours are too busy! We fail to serve. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But there is one in this account who does not fail, it not the fictional Samaritan of the parable, but the real-life one telling this parable. Jesus came into this messy world and connected with messed up people; prostitutes, publicans, tax collectors, lepers. More than that, he connected with sinners. Those who were outcasts in God’s sight. Jesus was known as “friend of sinners.”(this title was given to him by his enemies). He served them—healed, forgave, and released them from the mess of sin and the peril of death.
Again this is not just about them it is about you and me, Jesus serves us sinners! He heals, forgives, and releases us from our sin and its deadly consequences. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).
This was Jesus’s mission: he saw us in our need (dying in sin), loved us, and took on himself the mess of our sin. He was beaten and bloodied so that we might be rescued, so that we might live. So that we now receive compassion, mercy and grace.
Now in response, to what Jesus has done for us, we now join Jesus’ mission, and serve in his name. We are called to serve in the messiness and busyness of life. And we are to do this because Jesus first served us.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is not much about actions, as it is about the attitude of our hearts. When we understand the compassion and mercy that we are shown, then we reach out to those around us with the same compassion and mercy. We do this for Jesus’ sake.
I came across a article about the famous Mother Teresa, where a man was observing Mother Teresa cleaning the wounds of a leper. He turned away in revulsion and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Teresa looked at him and replied, “Neither would I. But I would do it for Jesus.”
I encourage you when you think about his parable to think about how you have been rescued by Jesus. To ponder on the fact that he gave his all that you might live. And to think about how you can serve others in the messiness and busyness of your life. Always remembering that we are to serve others for Jesus’ sake