Parables of Jesus – THE GOOD SAMARITAN

PRAYING FOR RICHARD DAWKINS

In London, something of a controversy has been brewing ever since the Church of England publicly declared that it was praying for the health and family of Richard Dawkins, who had recently suffered a serious stroke. Throughout the UK, people were chiming in, mostly non-Christians bashing the church for Richard Dawkins.

Why? Richard Dawkins is perhaps the world’s best known atheist. He has been writing and speaking against religion and Christianity for a long time. He is known as the head horseman of a group know as the four-horsemen of the New Atheism.

In The God Delusion, Dawkins writes: “[God is] a vindictive bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic racist, an infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

This raises two questions:

  1. Should Christians pray for those who are self-proclaimed “enemies” of God and his gospel?
  2. Should we pray for people that don’t ask us to pray for them?

WHY THE PARABLES?

The parables of Jesus are familiar to all, but misunderstood by most. They uncover the Mystery of the Kingdom of God. Through this series on Jesus’ parables, the hope is to challenge our misconceptions and come to a fuller understanding of God’s kingdom.

What do we know about The Good Samaritan?

Searching #goodsamaritan on social media leads to tens of thousands of people describing random acts of kindness and heroism. It is mainly associated with a goodhearted person performing a good deed to a stranger.

But is this what the parable is about? Stopping for someone who’s car is broken down on the side of the road? Picking up a hitch-hiker? Offering food or money to a person on the street? Paying for a friend’s or stranger’s bill?

The purpose of this parable is far too transcendent to be stripped back to such simple platitudes. And the “random” acts phrase implies that it happens rarely, that being a “good samaritan” is something that happens once a week, a month, or a year. But Jesus is speaking of an everyday occurrence, a transformation of the heart.

By speaking in parables, Jesus is trying to uncover the mystery of the kingdom of God. They speak to this world in a sense, but they ultimately reveal more about the kingdom of God.

THE TEXT

Luke 10:25-28 – “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you red it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.'”

  • “And behold, a lawyer”This lawyer is most likely a Pharisee, a law-abiding Jew, determined to follow every rule.
    • Jesus was not really asking him what the Law was, but how he interpreted it.
    • “Do this, and you will live” – Implies he is not yet doing this
  • “Who is my neighbor?”  This is in reference to the question “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
    • The lawyer, like most Jews at the time, believed that eternal life was attained by following the Law, and the Law taught that love for neighbors was limited to only one kind of person–fellow Jews.
    • This is why Jesus’ answer is profoundly shocking and challenging.

The relationship between Samaritans and Jews:

The Samaritans were actually of Jewish heritage. But back when the kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms: the north (Israel in OT) and the south (Judea in OT), this ancient rivalry was born. The people of the north kingdom (Samaritans) inter-married with Assyrians who conquered their territory. The Samaritans worshiped the same God, but they were forbidden to worship in Jerusalem, so they built their own temple in their own region. Apart from key cultural indicators like the clothes they wore and differences in their accents, Jews and Samaritans were very similar. Without evidence of these indicators, it was impossible to tell them apart.

The common understanding of the day was that, if you came across a Samaritan drowning, you had no spiritual or moral obligation to help him. “He that eats the bread of the Samaritans is like the one who eats the flesh of swine.”

Luke 10:29-30But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.”

  • “going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” – This man was likely worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem and walking home to Jericho.
  • “stripped him and beat him” – His identifying marks were taken away.
  • “half dead” – He was unconscious, unable to speak or cry out for help.

Luke 10:31-32Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

  • Priest = high class, also coming from Jerusalem, likely performing religious duties.
  • Levite = by blood, Levites were part of tribe of Levi, and aided the priests in the temple courts, also in upper class.
  • “passed by on the other side” – Both the priest and Levite saw the man, but deliberately steered clear of him.

Reasons why they did not offer help:

For the priest, ritual uncleanliness for 7 days would result if he touched a dead body, which meant he could not do his job. There would also have been public ridicule if they helped a non-Jew. And what they found him to still be alive? For both of them, they had to be careful because non-biblical Jewish teaching at the time told them: “If you were to help a sinner or evil man, you will receive twice as much evil as you did good for them.”

Now, Leviticus 19 commans a God-fearing Jew to help another Jew if he is in danger. The man had no key identifiers if he was a Jew or Samaritan, so both the priest and Levite had to convince themselves that this man was ‘no neighbor’ to them and therefore posed no moral or legal obligation to help him. A combination of fear and a hard heart kept them from compassion.

Luke 10:33-35 – But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'”

  • “But a Samaritan” – Think of who was hearing Jesus tell this story…
  • “he had compassion” – The NIV translation says, “he was moved by compassion”
    • The key difference of the Samaritan was his HEART. It was not hard, but soft–as if the heart ruled the head, not the other way around.
  • “He went to him” – Contrasted to “passed by on the other side” – PROXIMITY.

The Samaritan helped this man in a LAVISH way — he bound up his wounds, he took care of him, he stayed the night with him, he paid for all expenses. And he did all these things without a word from the injured man. He was not operating out of the ethic of the world (RECIPROCITY), but rather out of love and compassion. He did all these things without a thought of anything in return.

  • Are you waiting for people to ask you for help before you show them compassion?
  • Are you keeping your distance out of fear or hard-heartedness?
  • Is the world ethic of reciprocity guiding your interactions?

There is something about proximity to hurting people that humanizes them and puts a silent but persistent demand on those who can help. When we draw close to people, whatever the need may be, those needs acquire faces, the faces acquire names, the names acquire stories, and out of the exchange of stories come friendships. The seed of restoration is planted.

Luke 10: 36-37 – Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.'”

  • The parable starts with a question of advantage & justification – Who is my neighbor? But Jesus ends it with a statement of action – Go and do.

Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer because there is nothing you can do to earn eternal life. It’s not “how do I earn eternal life?” But “how do I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind?”

NO SUCH THING AS A NON-NEIGHBOR

We are called to love God by loving every single human being we encounter as our neighbor.

Gospel Principles:

  1. Our God is a missionary God. He says “go and do” because he goes and does.
  2. His mission has always been to people who do not deserve his help, who might not even be able to cry out for help.
  3. His mission has always been to all people. “Every tongue, tribe, and nation.” There is no ethnic distinction, he sees everyone in his mission field.

This parable is more than a humanitarian message, it teaches us that EVERYONE is our neighbor. May we push back on the world ethic of reciprocity with the kingdom ethic of lavish aid and compassion. When we live this out, we see the kingdom come. Are we loving fearlessly, knowing that God is our source of strength? Are only willing to help until it hurts? Or even when it hurts?

CONSIDER THIS

We shouldn’t see people just as they are right now, but as they could be once God grabs a hold of them. This shifts our focus from how can they help me? To how can I help them get there?

2 Chronicles 28:10 – “Have you not sins of your own against the Lord your God?”

The truth is that we are all:
1) Created in the image of God, and
2) Sinners in need of grace, unable to self-fix. 

Are we then not more similar than we realize? Isn’t this true of Richard Dawkins?

Jesus took us in, he cared for us, he paid the bill–all without our asking. 


NEXT STEPS…

1.  Look Up:

  • What does God being a missionary God tell us about His character? About His kingdom?
  • What is the significance of Jesus using a Samaritan as the good example in this parable?

2. Look In:

  • Are you waiting for people to ask you for help before you show them compassion?
  • Are you keeping your distance out of fear or hard-heartedness?
  • Is the world ethic of reciprocity guiding your interactions?
  • Is your community one that loves fearlessly?

3. Look Out:

  • What does it look like to push back on the world ethic of reciprocity with the kingdom ethic of lavish aid & compassion?
  • What neighbors in your city/neighborhood are being “passed by on the other side”? How may God personally use you to go to them?
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