Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

There are few things I dislike more in the pastoral profession than this thing called an ordination council. I understand that there needs to be some process of evaluation for those who go into ministry – an affirmation of gifts, calling and skills. My own ordination in Texas was very fair. It was at the church where I had been an associate staff pastor for quite a while, so the leadership knew me well. They also figured that if you could survive Dallas Theological Seminary, you did not need a lot of grilling on your knowledge of Scripture.

At that time of my life, I had no anticipation that the bulk of my ministry years would be in the Evangelical Free Church – the best organization I have ever been a part of.  Had I known that, I would have done my subsequent doctorate at Trinity – the EFCA school in Illinois – rather than at Dallas. And I would have done my credentialing with them. But my ordination is from the same church where Chuck Swindoll was sent out into ministry, and if I had ever been led back to the independent church movement, it was an excellent credential.

Beyond that, there is little else I can think of that I would rather NOT do than go through the fires of an ordination council. I have even hated being a part of the examining team on several occasions in the past, and I always reject offers to sit on them now.

The problem is not the worthy nature of the exercise, it is the grandstanding nature of those who are a part of the questioning “Sanhedrin.” Though it is ostensibly about examining the candidate, it seems to always turn into a “who can outshine the other by asking the most difficult theological question imaginable, thereby looking like a genius when not only the candidate has no answer, but all of the other questioners are at a total loss as well … thereby additionally causing all in the room to look at the questioner for the answer, as the questioner gloats in his extreme display of theological aptitude by enlightening all with the grand intelligence of his explanation.”  Wow!  So gross!

The setting for the story of Jesus answering a legal expert (one of the Sanhedrin types) with the Parable of the Good Samaritan has always reminded me of an ordination council. So let me take you through the passage by writing for you what I think was the thought process going through the mind of lawyer … the Scripture verses from Luke 10 are in italics, with the thoughts of the lawyer within < the brackets >  …………..

< I am so sick of this Jesus character and the annoyance of seeing many people foolishly follow him. We need to ask him a difficult question that will catch him in his own foolish words. Okay… here is one that will surely work. >

Luke 10:25 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

< Haha!! Let’s see him give an answer to that one with anything but heresy! >

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

< Oh man! I didn’t ask for a question to be answered with another question!  I’m the legal expert here, you’re just a hick from Galilee. Okay, I’ll play along with his game. >

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

< Wow! That was good, if I do have to say so myself! Crisp and to the point! >

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

< Well, of course I am correct; that is what I do – answer questions correctly with my deep and insightful answers. Yep, got him where I want him … now I’ll finish him off with an unanswerable question, and he’ll look like the fool that he is. >

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

< Boom! Hit that curve ball. Sucker! >

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers.

< Oh dear, spare me. Another one of his intolerable stories! >

They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

< Well, of course he did. Maybe the man deserved to be robbed, being unrighteous. And the robbers might still be nearby, and a priest would make a special target for thieves, they knowing how blessed we are by God to be his special servants. This is not the problem of a priest. >

32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

< Again, this is neither the problem of a Levite. Helping the man would make him unclean for his important service.  Where is this story going? >

33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was;

< Haha! An evil half-breed Samaritan. Now the poor guy is really in trouble! And so is the story Jesus is telling! >

and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

< What??  That’s the craziest story I’ve ever heard!  This Jesus guy surely doesn’t know anything about Samaritans. Unbelievable… yes, literally unbelievable. >

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

< Forget this. I’m done arguing with this guy. I could fight about the Samaritan, but it was his story, and now his question. Gosh, everyone is looking at me for an answer. I’m out of here! >

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Now here is my story.

Once upon a time there was a guy named Dave Swacina. Sadly, he died five weeks ago. When with him in public, he could drive you crazy by wanting to help every person he met who had a need. Many of those people were dirty and scary, some were frauds. It was costly. I saw him take hundreds of dollars out of his oversized wallet to just give to people … money he’d never see again. But beyond that, he built relationships with those people; he pointed them to the greater gift of Jesus Christ. He was a good neighbor to those in need. Go and do likewise.

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And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)

We’re greatful for another great post from Curt Snyder, on staff at Lifehouse:

Growing up in a very small town where my grandparents and parents owned and operated a small general merchandise store, I had the pleasure of basically knowing most everyone in our community. They shopped there, socialized there and often times just hung out there. For the most part everyone knew everyone and with that looked out and cared for each other in the process. Genuine relationships and community were the norm.

However, as the world expanded and localized community began to shift to more globalized community, this idea of true neighbors and care began to erode and disappear. Now with technology and communication as it is, what once was nearly impossible has become the new normal and it has blurred the lines of “who is my neighbor”. But that question isn’t a new phenomenon. Jesus himself was asked this question by a religious leader of his day.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”   – Luke 10:25-29

But apparently that answer wasn’t enough so the leader, in an effort to justify his self-centered thinking, asked “and who is my neighbor.”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 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.”   – LUKE 10:25-37

As Jesus unfolded his answer to the man’s question he spoke right to the issue; and in his parable he took those who should have been the first to respond to the need and have the greatest understanding of who our neighbor is and showed them as the most indifferent. Then he took the most unlikely character and demonstrated what true care and compassion looked like.

Here’s the catch! We would love to think that we more reflect the attitude and actions of the Samaritan, but the harsh reality is that, more times than not, we are closer to the two religious leaders and their actions toward the man who was in crisis.  We actually get as far away from the problem as we possibly can rather than getting involved in the need at hand.

You see, because of this thing called sin in each of our lives the tendency is to separate ourselves, to become insulated from the events around us and to look out for me first; but that is counter to what Jesus said we should be about. He said first we love God with everything in us and then we are to love people; and to be honest, you can’t truly love God with everything if you don’t love people.

Everyday you and I will encounter people who are in need. It may not be as critical as the man in Jesus’ story but in their life it is a crisis. Will we truly become the hands and feet of God by stepping into people’s lives and demonstrating the love of God to those who are far away from him? What steps can you take today to become that demonstration of God’s love?

Can you make this your prayer today?  “God help me to see the needs of people around me. Would you let me see with your eyes, hear with your ears and feel with your heart so that I can see the need in peoples’ lives?  And would you give me the courage to step into the situations I encounter and be a real demonstration of your love to others.  Amen.”