great samaritans

4 Sep

Recently, on 9 August I gave a talk at St. Mary’s church in Marylebone on Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. My focus was to look at the question that generated this parable and to look at a very similar question asked by another community leader a little later in Luke’s gospel. The question was about eternal life. The texts follow below with an answer in the essential summary section. In light of the immigrant crisis in Europe these texts tell us how we should live, both now and for eternity.

who is our, who is my neighbour

Luke 10: 25-37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

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 neighbour as yourself.’[b

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

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.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 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. The next day he took out two denarii[c] 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.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Essential question: The expert in the law’s question is “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” How do the parable and the expert’s dialogue with Jesus work together to answer this question?


The Rich Official Luke 18: 18-23 The Message

18 One day one of the local officials asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?”

19-20 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don’t you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honour your father and mother.”

21 He said, “I’ve kept them all for as long as I can remember.”

22 When Jesus heard that, he said, “Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.

Essential questions: The local official’s essential question is “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?” This question is the same one the expert in the law asked Jesus. Why do you think they both ask Jesus the same basic question? Is Jesus’ answer to them the same/similar or different? Why do you think he gives the official a directive and the law expert a parable?

Summary EQ:  Who are our neighbours?

Proverbs 19:17 states that “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.” MSG

The answer to the question on how to inherit eternal life of both the expert in the law and rich ruler is the same: the poor around us are to be treated as images of God. The poor are our neighbours, our community and His children. The Hebrew word for poor (needy in the Message paraphrase above) in Proverbs 19:17 is dal. This word means not just financially poor, but those who are sitting by you, the tired and weary; the weak and the hurting. The migrants of the Mideast and Africa presently in all the deadlines and social media of Europe. To be a great Samaritan we need to reach loving hands out to them.

John the Baptist in Luke 3 answers the crowd’s question of ‘What should we do?'(10) with ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.'(11)

This is the gospel. It is life and how we should live.


John Calvin wrote that the great commandment is “The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits… The word teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love.”

Tim Keller ‘We are to honor the image of God in all people-it is to allure us to look at and embrace them.’

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