by Rev. Tina Schramme, Congregational Care Pastor
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?”
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.”
Yesterday we read about Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. We considered the cultural tension that existed between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus. This hatred between these two groups plays a significant role in today’s passage as well. On the surface, this story is about compassion, but dig deeper and you see that Jesus was condemning the animosity that had divided God’s children. We should not be divided, but rather embrace the unity that has been provided us in Christ, We are one in Jesus, one people, all broken, all loved, all redeemed. We often forget this and forget that Jesus is Lord, now. When we remember that God is still God, and Jesus is Lord of all, we can find peace, even with our enemies. It is countercultural, then and now. But it is our calling.
Notice in this story, the priest and the Levite, both important religious figures of the time, did nothing to help the fallen man, presumably a fellow Jew, as he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. I can just picture the priest and then the Levite walking along, thinking about their own importance and how it would be against the cultural “rules” for them to help this man. They might have become “unclean” from the man’s blood, or put themselves at risk if the robbers were still nearby. But the Samaritan, the one who comes from a culture of animosity toward Jews, overcomes those cultural walls and shows compassion, even going beyond the expected amount of help.
Just like the lawyer in this story asks, “Who is my neighbor?” we must do the same. Jesus’ response in the story was to tell us to have mercy on everyone, no matter their heritage, upbringing, race, hometown, etc. We have to question our own cultural biases and condemn animosity and barriers that prevent us from being brothers and sisters. I encourage you to ask the question each time you encounter someone new. “Who is my neighbor?”
Loving God, I know our world is not as it should be. Help me be an instrument of peace. Give me words to comfort and heal. Guide me to see through cultural barriers, hardened hearts, and destructive actions. Let me bring grace to those around me. Give me courage to see my neighbor as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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