Regarding the topic of our summer series on the Parables of Jesus, a technique of teaching and application I have heard over the years has been to challenge the hearer with this question: Which character in the story do you identify with?
Hopefully you don’t identify with the self-righteous lawyer – the fellow who thinks he has more answers than anyone else and wants to be seen in that light. I have to say that I have found a few of these folks over the years.
It would also not be flattering to be identified as like the first two religious fellows who went over into the passing lane to ignore the person in need.
We might like to be seen as the Samaritan, but how often is it true? The extent of his care and connection was indeed highly expensive by every measure. But as we’ll see, this is the goal.
Perhaps we might be most like the innkeeper. We’ll do the job of caregiving if paid for it or if we benefit personally in some way.
Talk to yourself, or among yourselves if you are studying this in a group.
But this much I can say for sure: We should be able to identify with the victim who fell among the thieves. What the Samaritan did is what Christ has done for us. He found us on the road of life – half dead – with no way of helping ourselves. Men did not help us, religion did nothing to save us, but Christ came to where we are, taking on flesh and humanity. He paid the cost of our sin to bring healing to us through his sacrificial gift. And now we should possess an attitude of service to do likewise for others with what we possess.
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The question the lawyer had asked was one of identity: who is my neighbor? The question that Jesus asks is one of activity: who acted as a neighbor? Jesus turns it from a noun to a subject/verb.
The lawyer can’t even say the word “Samaritan.” All he can say is … “the one who showed mercy.” Jesus acknowledges this and encourages His hearers to do the same.
We need to care for people who are like us – those close – family, etc. This is a primary responsibility to be intentional about the church family.
But beyond that, we need to care for people who are different than us, people who most likely don’t have enough close relationships to help them with their needs – beginning with physical/material things – and beyond to spiritual needs. So we need to be intentional about being on mission in our communities and neighborhoods – the places that, even in a technological age, we have interaction with others who need a relationship with Christ to have success in their lives.
The common denominator for each is looking away from self. This means intentionality, making cognizant plans to live a certain way. But the funny thing is this: when serving others, your own needs are only then truly met in abundance.