Saturday 13 July 2019

Luke 10 verses 25/37
We are looking at a story which has become part of biblical folklore, the story of the Good Samaritan, a story which the word ‘ love’ features.

One of the most overworked words in both religious and secular worlds is love. There is a song entitled, ‘all we need is love’ yet as we look around the world, we see anything but love. For millions of people, men women and children life is hard and even tragic, unable to live as God intended. There are equally so many people who want to kill, injure, deprive others and defraud, causing others misery and sadness. Love is far from their minds.

We find violence perpetrated in the name of religion, racial tension in the Middle East where there is
 a desire to see Israel destroyed as a nation, warring factions in Africa.  Within our nation family life, the bedrock of society, is being attacked by activists, intent on obliterating the traditional understanding of marriage, and homes broken and divided with bitter divorces, men and women who once professed love for each other now exchange for hate. Whilst many talk of love, not all practice in their lives.

God is a God of love and Jesus told this story to a Jewish religious leader, an expert in Jewish law to show the disappointing gap between words and practice.

I had a girls’ school next to my church and the head mistress asked if she could bring senior girls into the church to learn about the church. There was one girl   who each time tried to embarrass me by asking an outrageous question. I was reminded of the story of Martin Luther who was asked by a man what was God doing before he made the world, and Luther answered,’ he was making hell for people who asked stupid questions’.

Jesus often faced people who wanted to trap him and we have an example here from the lawyer. He asked Jesus what appears to be a serious question, what must I do to inherit eternal life. He recognized that what matters, is not the here and now, but the there and then.

You inherit something when someone close to you who loves you leaves us something in their last will and testament. We don’t do anything to earn that inheritance it is a free gift, we receive it because of our relationship with that person; such is the way with eternal life.

We have to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ who loved us.  When we accept him as Saviour, we are born into God’s family. The Bible says as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become children of God. When we become part of God’s family, we are included in his last will and testament. We do nothing to inherit eternal life, we accept it as a free gift of God through faith in Jesus who died for us.

The lawyer did not understand, he thought of eternal life as something he could get by his own effort rather than be by God’s grace. So it is not a genuine question, he knows the law and thinks Jesus didn’t. What Jesus did cleverly is to make him answer his own question by asking him,’ what is written in the law.’

As a scribe he would wear a phylactery, a small box fastened to his wrist or forehead which contained the Jewish Scriptures.  The lawyer’s reply is from Deuteronomy/Leviticus, a perfect summary of the law and Jesus commends him.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.

We see the importance Jesus places on Scripture. He referred the lawyer to the Bible as the only way of faith and practice; not the priests, not the Jewish church, but straight back to the Bible.  When any priest or bishop tells you what is right or wrong, check the Bible. We have seen lately too many instances of even bishops discounting and ignoring Scripture.

The lawyer asks who is my neighbour?  For him God was the God of Israel and so his neighbour were Jews. For Jesus however, God is the God all the world and a neighbour is anyone in need.  In his reply the lawyer showed there was no way he loved the Lord with all in him.

Today many people are like that. Who needs God and Christianity, God has passed from their view. So many people will say firmly, all you need for heaven is to pull out a list of what are all your good deeds, perhaps throw in a bit of religion, but not a lot. They then fix things to make sense in their minds.

This now a way of life. When government wants to boast about their record, they fiddle the figures and are economical with the truth.  The name of the game is accommodation, and this is what the Jewish leader did.  This was behind the lawyer’s question, who is my neighbour, he wanted to justify himself.

Jesus then told a parable about a man going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  This road was notoriously dangerous and few people would travel alone or even take a diversion to avoid doing so.

Jericho was 2,300 feet above sea level whilst Jerusalem was 1,300 feet below, so over a distance of 20 miles the road dipped 1000 feet.  It was rocky and narrow and robbers would hide in the valleys and hills waiting to pounce.

A man was stripped and beaten and left lying in the road. Jesus tells first of a priest passing and then a Levite, and both crossed over and passed on the other side.  Jewish law stated anyone who touched a dead body was considered unclean for seven days, so the priest felt he could not go near the man in case he was dead, which would have meant he could not have officiated in the Temple.

There was also the danger this was trap for robbers would send a decoy posing as an injured man, and if someone stopped to help they would be set upon.

Now we have the Samaritan.  The Jews and Samaritans hated each other with a passion. The Jews said the only good Samaritan was a dead one, and they were publicly cursed in the Synagogues. Yet here was a Samaritan man who saw a Jew battered and helpless and took pity upon him, risking his own life in doing so.  He took care of the man after dismounting, and walked the rest of the way after putting the injured man on the horse and arranged for his safe keeping.
Jesus asked the lawyer who was the real neighbor to the injured man. Jesus had chosen a hero so offensive
It would be like expecting a Scot to support England when they were playing another country in a football match.

God is like that Samaritan. He looks at us battered and helpless and unable to help ourselves of spiritual; sickness.  He is moved from heaven to help us, having made himself human in the form of Jesus, and leaving himself open to mockery from the heathen.  As the Samaritan bound the wounds of the Injured Jew, Jesus bound our wounds having been tortured and placed on a Cross on our behalf.

The Bible states, ‘by his wounds you shall be healed’. That is why Jesus made the journey the opposite way from Jericho to Jerusalem.

We have here an exact picture of what is happening in the world.  Selfishness is the leading characteristic of the majority of people. People may put coins in a collecting box or send a cheque to a charity, but the self-sacrificing which Jesus is calling for is rare.

We constantly hear of people who are old and/or defenceless being attacked, women assaulted, whilst people pass by on the other side.  Quite recently a woman police officer was attacked whilst helping a colleague make an arrest, and knocked down in the path of traffic but no went to pull her clear.

There are of course times when it is not wise yo interfere, but we could call the emergency forces, even if in practice they are reluctant to attend.

Jesus told this parable after the question was asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Here was a man who was under the delusion, as many are today, that he could earn his way to heaven by good deeds. He thought that way because he misinterpreted Jewish law, and the point of the parable is to tell this is not possible and comes from the highest source, our Lord himself.

We are called to think of practical things in our life. We will not, and are not expected to have such a dramatic experience as the Samaritan, but may be there is someone in our family circle, or a friend who has been neglected and would benefit from our attention. May be within a church membership there is a tense relationship that needs to be healed. Whatever it is, it should be faced up to and in the word of Jesus, go and do likewise

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