“The next day he took out two denarii ……. when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend”
Maggie is distraught. It’s her second day at secondary school in London. Yesterday her mother came with her on the train to Victoria Station and on the ten minute walk to the school. But poor Maggie was so anxious she hadn’t really taken in the route they took. Now she has absolutely no idea in which direction she should go. It’s the rush hour. Commuters in smart suits walk briskly away from the platforms heading off to their offices – they have no time for a little girl in tears, most probably don’t even notice her. What should she do? She’s lost and frightened and feels a lot younger than her eleven years.
One lady, though, does notice and comes to her rescue. She calms Maggie down so that she can tell her what’s happened. She then takes Maggie by the hand and leads her all the way to the school. She only leaves Maggie when she’s made sure she’s in the school building and with a teacher.
Maggie never knew the lady’s name, couldn’t remember if she’d thanked her enough for her kindness and never forgot being rescued in her distress. As she grew older she also understood how that lady had gone out of her way to protect her from harm.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan. The title rather gives away the story’s ending but those listening to Jesus telling it for the first time are gripped by the tale of a man beaten and left for dead by robbers. It happens on the notoriously dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho. That in itself isn’t unusual, it’s barely newsworthy in fact.
A priest and a Levite walk past without doing anything to help. Maybe that’s another common occurrence and perhaps they’re not the only ones. Others are avoiding danger to themselves or don’t want to become “unclean” from touching what might be a dead body, or they’re in a hurry, or they just don’t notice the victim.
But then someone, a Samaritan of all people, does notice and is “moved with pity”. For Jews, that’s not what Samaritans are like – the story has taken an unexpected turn and is about to take another one. The help this Samaritan offers is extraordinary, He carries out emergency first aid on the roadside then takes his patient to a nearby inn and cares for him there. Surely caring for a patient is women’s work? He then gives the innkeeper money to cover costs of care until his return when, believe it or not, he will reimburse the innkeeper for any further costs he incurs.
This is surely above and beyond the call of duty so when Jesus asks “which of these three (the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan) was a neighbour to the victim of the robbers?” there can be no doubting the answer. Of course it was the Samaritan but the lawyer whose questioning prompted the telling of this parable cannot bring himself to say the word. Instead he says “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus says to him, the crowd listening to him and to us, “Go and do likewise”.
Jesus’ words may perhaps challenge us to think hard about how we love our neighbour and who we believe is our neighbour.
Jesus tells us that our neighbour is not just the person who lives next door or even in the same community. Our neighbour may not share our faith and culture. Our neighbour is anyone in need who moves our heart with pity.
Loving our neighbour may be costly and if our love is reflecting God’s love it will call us to give of ourselves beyond what others might think reasonable. It may, for example, prompt a lady to interrupt her own journey to help a little girl in distress.
In the parable we begin with the victim as our neighbour needing love and care. Later the neighbour is the Samaritan offering costly aid to one who may not appreciate it. Whether we give or are offered love and care we need God’s grace to reach beyond religious or cultural boundaries and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and as God loves all of us.
1. Jesus uses a parable to teach his listeners about the commandment that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.
2. In the story he tells, it is a Samaritan, despised by Jews, who stops to help a victim of an attack by robbers on a notoriously dangerous road.
3. This Samaritan is a neighbour to the injured man and sets an example for us to follow.
4. We need God’s grace to enable us to reach out in love to those in distress, our neighbours, without judgment and ignoring differences of faith and culture.
Let us pray for God’s world and for his church, for ourselves and for our neighbours both near and far.
We pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ especially those who suffer because of their faith or are overburdened in their care for others.
We pray for the divided nations of this world. May their leaders and their people reach out to their neighbours and seek peace and reconciliation.
We pray for our neighbours and for ourselves. May we be sensitive to the needs of others and ready to respond with love to their suffering.
We pray for those who are ill or in distress and for those who care for them. May they know the loving presence of Christ in their hearts.
Loving God, we thank you for hearing our prayers and for your love which surrounds us and those for whom we pray. Help us to follow the example of your son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who looked with compassion and mercy on all who came to him. We pray to you in his name and in faith that he is alongside us on our life’s journey.