This weeks Sermon

“‘Go and Do Likewise’”                                                         

Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C./Welsh

Luke 10:25-37                                                                         

July 14, 2019


While the Parable of the Prodigal Son (or Father) that we considered a few weeks back is certainly one of the more memorable stories in the N.T. (and prob. My personal fav.), today’s passage is arguably THE most well-known story from the ‘right side’ of The Book.  The Parable of… “The Good Samaritan.”  It is a story so meaningful, so relevant, so convicting, that it has become a part of our everyday vernacular in the U.S.  How many Bible stories do you know that have nationwide legislation named after it?  [Good Samaritan Laws]  (One of the images I found was particularly catchy:  “DON’T RUN… CALL 9-1-1!) 

Not to mention… (did you ever wonder how that expression came to be?… because it’s so oxymoronic:  when you say it, it means that you WILL ‘mention it’)… that this parable is also the namesake for the largest association of RV owners in the world:  the “Good Sam Club.”  [pic]  This international organization, named for “a traveler who helped a person along the road,” was established over 50 years ago. 

And then, from a much more contemporary time, just a few months ago a movie was released entitled… similarly, and simply… “Good Sam.”  It is a film whose story line is to find out the identity of a mysterious ‘good Samaritan’ who is giving away large sums of money… anonymously… in NYC, of all places. So, whether from the ‘halls of justice’ to the ‘backroads of America’ to the ‘hills of Hollywood,’ the concept of the ‘good Samaritan’ is certainly widely known.

So, what can we learn from, in the words of Hollywood’s Disney Studios, “a tale as old as time?”  One that is SO well known both in the secular world and the faith community from which it came?  A LOT.  Because, as I discussed with someone this week, just because we KNOW the right way to live, doesn’t mean we will necessarily DO the ‘right thing.’  Just as Jesus spoke to that clever young lawyer of how to live in such a way as to “inherit eternal life,” so too should we consider how to “Go and Do Likewise.”

            Our passage begins with the statement “…A lawyer stood up to test Jesus.” (Luke 10:25)  Now we KNOW that when a story begins with ‘A lawyer stood up’ that we’re in trouble.  It all goes downhill from there… J  Seriously, though, this statement does tell us 1) that this was an educated, articulate person, and 2) that he had an ‘agenda.’  He wasn’t asking a question for the sake of knowledge… but of challenge.  (Might the legal term be ‘entrapment?’)  The lawyer certainly had motive.  To ‘test’ Jesus. When he asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he wanted to see if this ‘man’ would in some way implicate himself as the ‘Divine inheritance’ of life everlasting.

But Jesus, in his usual expert ‘defense attorney’ mode, employed the Socratic method:  to answer a question with a question.  “What is written in the Law?”  ‘You’re a man all about the ‘Law,’ our written codes of behavior. What do they say?’  To which the lawyer quotes from the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus… the former known more commonly as “The Shema.”  Which is the Hebrew for the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4:  “HEAR, O Israel, the Lord our God is one; love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  And then, from Leviticus 19, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

            Sound familiar?  You may recall that on another occasion, when Jesus was also trying to be ‘tested’… to elevate one commandment over another… our Lord said that all of the Law and the prophets ‘hung’ on two commandments.  The two that this ‘legal eagle’ just spoke of.  So, it should be no surprise that Jesus approved of his answer.  “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”  (Luke 10:28)  Which show us that even when someone’s motives might not be pure… when a person’s intentions are not what they appear… the Spirit and Wisdom of God can turn that and use it for the glory of God.

            But of course, the lawyer’s questions… and testing… don’t end here.  He pressed the Teacher, “And who IS my ‘neighbor’?” (Luke 10:29)  In asking this, the Scripture said that he was “wanting to justify himself.”   What was it that he was wanting to ‘justify?’  Most likely, given his Jewish heritage, that the word ‘neighbor’ should only be spelled ‘J-E-W’…

            We can labor under this conception because of the identity of the four characters in the story Jesus would go on to tell.  The one who was stripped, beaten, robbed, and left for dead was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and therefore, most likely a Jew.  No doubt that the priest and the Levite were.  And we know for sure who the third possible giver of aid was:  NOT a Jew.  But a Samaritan. From the region of Samaria, that dreaded neighboring country so despised by the Jews.  It is quite clear that Jesus was painting the picture before this Jewish lawyer that the ‘neighbor’ whom we are to love is much more than one who shares a common ‘address’ or ‘nationality.’  Especially when that different ‘nation’ is quite UN-popular.  In our current political climate, we could substitute ‘Mexican’ or ‘Muslim’ to make that ‘Samaritan’ label more relevant…

            But this story is not only about the ‘identity’ of that ‘neighbor,’ but also, the ‘extent’ and ‘intent’ of the one who is called to express their love.   That what makes this story so remarkable… and applicable… is not only ‘WHO’ demonstrated such unconditional love, but ‘HOW’ and ‘WHY’ that love was expressed.  As to the ‘how,’ that Samaritan didn’t do just what he could to ‘get by’ and then ‘get on his way,’ but literally went the ‘extra mile.’  Not only bandaging his wound, but putting this injured man on his own personal transportation, his own beast-of-burden (which meant that he would have to walk alongside), took him to a nearby inn, paying upfront for lodging and care, and promised to come back and give him whatever other expenses might be incurred… leaving an ‘open tab’ for him…

WHY?  Why would he do ALL this for a perfect stranger… a JEWISH one at that?  The answer is unspoken.  And perhaps that’s the answer right there.  He didn’t have any reason, any ulterior motive, anything to gain by helping this man.  Except the ‘gain’ of knowing he had done the right thing.  The right thing not merely in ‘man’s eyes’… but in GOD’s eyes…  That by helping that person with whom he had so many ‘differences’… he would wind up a better person himself.  One who better reflected the image of the God who made them both…

As I mentioned earlier, I came to find out that there was a movie directly related to Jesus’ parable, “Good Sam,” which came out just two months ago… on the NetFlix movie ‘channel.’  And so, I took time yesterday to watch this movie… for ‘research purposes.’  NOW, this movie was not an explicitly ‘Christian’ film.  The author of the book on which it was based is not, as far as I know, a follower of Christ.  The film company was a secular one.  A review of the movie describes it as “the light-hearted, albeit impossible plot of an ideal world that still nurtures Good Samaritans… It poses fundamental question about the human condition: ‘Are people capable of helping others without expecting any returns?’”

            The story involved a cynical NYC TV reporter of Eastern-Indian descent who comes across these seemingly random beneficiaries of bags containing $100K in   cash, the only identifying mark on the bag being the number “8.”  These recipients range from a Hispanic woman whose husband died tragically, a working-class guy who had missed a lot of pay due to an injury, a young black female paralegal aspiring to be an attorney, and an oncologist whose passion was Pancreatic CA research.  All four were able to not only make it through their own trying circumstances, but also help others in their own struggles. In her interview with the skeptical news reporter, the first person to be impacted by ‘Good Sam’ said that “I want everyone to know that miracles happen.  This didn’t just change my circumstances… it changed ME.  It made me see how I could help others.  It’s spreading… like miracles do.”

            I won’t go into any more detail about whether or not she finds out the identity of “Good Sam,” but suffice it to say that the experience she has renews her faith in humankind.   She attested to the impact of this compassionate, giving person who “inspired recipients (of his gift) to do more for others.  By his, and their example, she saw “more kindness than competition… people reaching out to help others… that in spite of all the evil in the world, “we know that there are way more people out there doing GOOD… becoming better versions of ourselves.”

            Let us too consider how WE are becoming, day by day, ‘better versions of ourselves.’  Not merely through a movie, however… but through the words and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The One who sees through our excuses, our shortcomings, our failures, to use US, like that lawyer, in spite of ourselves.  How we can be healed of many of our own wounds as we bring comfort to others… who may be very different than us, but are really quite the same.  Let us consider just how ‘miraculous’ it is to show compassion to those we differ with… which demonstrates the truth that indeed, ‘miracles happen.’  That like the lady in the movie, our ministry to others won’t just change their circumstances… but their hearts.  Changed hearts that lead them to help others. 

May you and I be living proof that it is indeed possible to help others with NO expectation of anything in return… that in spite of all the evil in the world, “we know that there are way more people out there doing GOOD.  As Jesus spoke on what it means to be a true ‘neighbor’… ‘one who shows mercy’… may we also… “Go and do likewise.”   And may all of God’s loving ‘neighbors’ say… AMEN!