Parable of the Good Samaritan
10 July 2016
Free-lance writer Shane Claiborne who spent a summer in the poorest section of Calcutta, India with Mother Teresa wrote about his once in a life time experience with the saint. “People would often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Did she glow in the dark or have a halo? I would tell them that she was short, wrinkled and precious, maybe a little ornery like a beautiful wise old granny.
But there is one thing I will never forget and that was her feet. They were deformed. Each morning during Mass, I would stare at those feet. I wondered if Mother Teresa had leprosy. Of course, I wasn’t going to ask.
One day a sister asked a group of us, ‘Have you noticed Mother’s feet?’ We nodded. She said, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pairs, so she digs through and finds those. Years of wearing bad shoes have deformed her feet.’ That was typical Mother Teresa and that was what made her great. She placed the needs of others above her own.”
My scripture is text is Luke 10:25-37 and it is one that is familiar to most. It is the parable of the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help someone greatly in need. It is a story that also repeats itself every day.
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
The setting of our gospel text takes place on the desert road called the “Way of Blood”. This notorious road began at the outskirts of Jerusalem and for some seventeen long and windy miles; it descended some 3,300 feet to the city of Jericho. But this was also a place where desperadoes and thieves would hide and rob anyone who came their way. Back in the day, the people who had to travel on that road often went in groups and were heavily armed.
Sad to say, in some of our inner cities all across the United States, it is extremely dangerous; people need to be on guard, especially if they are alone or if it is night. Last summer when I came to this church from NH, I was warned about certain sections of Hartford.
The man in this parable should not have been walking alone; as a result, he was robbed of his money, stripped of his clothes, beaten and left to die on the side of the road. This victim was probably a Jewish peddler or salesman who carried a bag of kitchen utensils, some cleaning supplies and some personal items–just like the old Fuller Brush man. Lying wounded on the side of the road, if someone hadn’t come and helped, he would have died.
Now in fairness to the priest and the Levite, those bandits often set up decoys and pretend to be wounded. When the first unsuspecting person came by to help, they would attack. Unfortunately those things still happen today.
It seemed the first two people who came by didn’t want to get involved. They didn’t want any trouble. They weren’t wicked or evil, but they wanted to get home without any incident. Though they happened to be religious professionals, their sin was that they ignored an obvious need.
All of us have sins:
- There are sins of omission such as this, when we do not do the things we should.
- There are sins of commission. These are the things we should not do, such as cheating on our income tax.
- There are the sins of the flesh-which would be adultery or fornication.
- There are the sins of the spirit which would be lack of devotion to God or robbing him when it comes to giving.
- There are open sins such as violence of any type, murder or terrorism.
- There are secret sins such as hatred or covetousness.
- There are “respectable sins” such as telling white lies or gossip.
But in this parable, it was the sin of omission that Jesus focused on.
In our scripture text it was the Samaritan, who was looked down upon, who came to the aid of the injured man. I am sure he could have come up with a half a dozen reasons why he should not stop to help. But instead he demonstrated compassion.
I think all of us have been in situations where we were too busy to help. Most likely it was inconvenient, and we looked the other way. However we should ask the Lord to help us to be more sensitive to the needs of others, no matter how inconvenient or how involved we might have to become.
When Rev Gordon MacDonald was the pastor of the Grace Chapel in Lexington MA, he and his wife were seated in the back of an airplane; they were on their way back home and were schedule to land at Logan International Airport. Sitting in the row in front of them was a woman with two small children and, next to the children, was another woman.
During the flight there was a lot of air turbulence, and the children’s ears hurt so they cried a lot. The mother and the other lady tried to comfort the children. About halfway through the flight, one child threw up and the sight and smell were unbearable to the other passengers. The mother did her best to comfort one of the children while the other woman did her best to clean up the mess and make good out of a bad situation. When the plane landed, a flight attendant came up with paper towels and handed them to the woman and said, “Here ma’am, these are for your little girl.” The woman then said, “That isn’t my little girl. I have never met the mother and these children before in my life.”
That woman who sat next to the children was a stranger, but found the opportunity to give assistance. I don’t know too many people who would have done what she did. But she deserves a “woman of the year” award for what she did.
If someone is in need we need to find time to help, regardless of the inconvenience. Whatever we do, God will make it up to us.
- If we help someone, we will always be helped.
- If we give money to the poor and needy, we will never lack.
- If we bring food to the unfortunate, there will be food in our refrigerator.
- If we give people rides the Lord will see to it that our transportation needs will be met.
- If we are with someone in an emergency, there will be someone there for us in our time of crisis.
Emergencies and times of great personal crisis often take place at the worst possible time. Or you may find yourself in a place you would rather not be. May God help us be sensitive to the needs of others.