THE REALLY GOOD SAMARITAN
COLOSSIANS 1:1-14; LUKE 10: 25-37
JULY 14, 2019
My wife, Karen, used to work at a country store on the Maine/ New Hampshire border. After getting
up at the crack of dawn, and putting in a full day, she would not always take the time to fill the gas tank
in her truck, on her way home. I would usually be the one who ended up filling up the tank, and it was
usually just above empty. I remember one cold Winter day, driving to the local store to fill the tank.
Unfortunately, the truck ran out of gas about a half mile from the house. As I was trudging along,
carrying a gas can, in the cold and the wind, suddenly a man in a pickup truck pulled up beside me and
gave me a ride the rest of the way.
These days we would call him a “good Samaritan,” because he stopped to help someone in trouble.
I'm sure all of us have either been helped by someone like that, or we may have been the ones doing
the helping. There is even a law to protect good Samaritans who stop to help folks in need.
Unfortunately, the term “good Samaritan” has lost the original meaning and has become just a cliche.
The world has a very narrow definition of who our neighbor is, and whom we would be willing to help.
That man could have just as easily passed right by, instead of being kind and giving a stranger a ride.
Many of us could attest to passing by someone in need whom we should have stopped to help. Or
perhaps we have experienced having someone refuse to help us in our time of need.
So let's dig into our Scripture this morning and see if we can find what it really means to be a
Our Luke passage begins with a lawyer asking Jesus a question. This man was not a lawyer in the
modern day sense of the word. The Bible uses this term to refer to someone who was an expert in
the laws of the Bible. He would have spent his life studying the Scriptures and he would have been
a Bible scholar. These folks would also be referred to as the scribes. The scribes and religious leaders
of the day prided themselves in their knowledge of the Scriptures, for most people in New Testament
times were unschooled. They thought they were better than everyone else, especially Jesus whom they
regarded as another unschooled country bumpkin. Regrettably, these people were so concerned with
the knowledge of the law that they had failed to practice God's love and compassion which was the
very heart of the Bible.
So this Biblical scholar asks Jesus a question. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” When the
Savior asks the man what is written in the law, the lawyer responds with a verse that all good Jews
would have memorized in Hebrew school- “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.”
Now the religious leaders of the day would have had a very narrow view of who their neighbor was.
They would not bother to help just anyone, especially not a tax collector, or a beggar, or a foreigner
and they certainly wouldn't go out of their way to help Jesus. They would only help someone whom
they thought was like themselves, righteous and holy, not just anybody they met on the street. So
when this scribe presses Jesus to tell him who is my neighbor? The Savior chooses to answer the
question with a parable.
Jesus tells the familiar story of a man traveling on the Jericho road which runs from Jerusalem to
Jericho. I learned from my research that the Jericho road is seventeen miles long. It is a lonely,
deserted road which winds through the hills and through the wilderness. It was the perfect place for
a robber to set an ambush. In fact, it is still a common place for robberies today.
So our traveler falls into the hands of the robbers who beat him up, steal everything he has and leave
him for dead. There were no cell phones or pay phones, not even a police officer to help him. Our
victim can only hope that someone will take pity on him and rescue him. He notices that someone is
approaching, maybe this person can help. The first person to arrive is a priest. He is a godly man and
surely he will help. But even though he sees this poor man laying beside the road, the priest pays no
attention and walks on by. A little while later, a Levite comes down the road. He is the equivalent of
an Old Testament Deacon. And we all know how good Deacons are, right? But he also ignores the
victim and keeps on walking.
There may have been several reasons, or excuses why these men didn't stop. First, they may have
thought this was a trap, so they had better keep walking. We can all relate to times when we were in a
situation and just didn't feel safe. Second, they were not allowed to come in contact with a dead
person. If they did, they would have to go through a long cleansing ritual. They may have thought the
man was dead, so let's not get contaminated. Third, maybe it's better to just not get involved. The last
reason may have been the coldest excuse. Maybe they just didn't care.
Just when it seems that all is lost, another traveler approaches. This man is a Samaritan. The
Samaritans were a people living to the north of the kingdom of Judea. They were a group of
people, who had been transplanted there when the Northern kingdom of Israel had been sent into exile
many years before. They had tried to join the covenant community of Israel, but the Jews wanted
nothing to do with them, because they thought the Samaritans were unclean sinners. As a result, their
neighbors to the north developed their own Scriptures, their own temple and their own religious
This alienated them even more. The Jews would not associate with Samaritans and would even cross
the street to avoid them. The Samaritans were none too friendly either. They had once turned Jesus
and the Disciples away from staying in one of their villages when they learned that the Savior was
only passing through on His way to Jerusalem. If the Samaritan had been the one laying in the ditch,
you can be sure that no Jew would have stopped to help him.
Even though these men were enemies, the Bible says that the Samaritan was “moved with pity.” This
is the same phrase used in the New Testament to describe how Jesus felt whenever He met someone in
need. The Samaritan knew that the man in the ditch would probably not have stopped to help him, if
the roles had been reversed. Yet this kind man bandaged up the stranger, took him to a local inn and
paid for his care.
Bible scholar Amy Jill Levine says it well- “We should think of ourselves as that person in the ditch
and then ask, “Is there anyone from any group, whom we would rather die than acknowledge,
“She offered help,' or 'He showed compassion.' Is there anyone who would rather die than help us?
That is our Samaritan.”
The lawyer in our story had a different concept of “neighbors.” His neighbor would have been
someone like himself. Perhaps someone who could return the favor to him someday. But Jesus tells us
that our neighbor is anyone in need. Our neighbor could be someone who is very different from us,
who may not even like us, or we may not like them.
In our Colossians text, Paul reminds us that our faith needs to be a faith of action. We need to show
our faith not only in words, but by bearing the fruit of doing good deeds for God. I can think of no
better way to bear fruit for God than by being good Samaritans to those we meet each day.
It may be someone who doesn't like us, someone who is different from us or someone we don't like.
Even though we may not want to admit it. This person may be someone who has hurt us in the past.
We also shouldn't assume that someone else will help them out. We may be the only one who will
help them and can help them. The Savior said that the true neighbor is the one who shows
mercy to others. And Jesus says to us, “Go and do likewise.” Amen.