Pentecost V – By Ted Hackett
Today’s Gospel is …may be… along with the Prodigal Son….the best known of all the Parables in the New Testament…
Hospitals, Homeless centers…our own medical facility…which was
started by Holy Family folks…are named after the Good Samaritan…
There is even a “Good Samaritan Law.” It says that a doctor or
anyone who jumps in and tries to help a sick person when there is no
other help, cannot be sued if the person dies.
Now, this title “The Good Samaritan” was a name given to this story by later Christians…it is not in the Greek manuscripts…people did not use such aids to reading back then….
And this title may be misleading as we shall see.
Let’s go back and look at this story……
A story that Jesus probably told…
It has his fingerprints all over it!
O.K…..a certain Jewish Lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to get into the kingdom of God…
Jesus answers: “What do the Rabbi’s teach?”
Answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength
and mind; and your neighbor as your self.”
This summary of Torah…Jewish Law…was formulated a hundred
years before Jesus by Rabbi Hillel and had become standard
So the Lawer had got it right.
But if you think about it…
It doesn’t really answer the Question.
You still have to figure out who the neighbor is.
The guy next door?
The Folks in your Church?. ..or who think like you?
Or everybody in the world”
Wow!…that’s quite an assignment!…loving Putin?
But instead of simply answering…Jesus tells one of his stories.
A good Jew was going down the mountain from
Jerusalem…Perhaps from visiting the Temple.
And he is mugged by a gang of Highwaymen….
There were lots of them in Palestine.
They leave him half dead and bleeding.
Well…here comes a Priest back from his rotation at the Temple. He sees the guy…and ignores him.
Next comes a Levite…that’s like a Deacon….
He sees the poor victim….and ducks to the other side of the road
and leaves him.
Jesus’ Jewish audience would shake their heads and say: “that’s
the selfish clergy for you! What do you expect?”
Now comes along a Samaritan….
Now let’s take a minute and talk about Samaritans.
Jews absolutely hated them….
They despised them…
They were heretics from what used to be the Northern Kingdom.
They had seceded from the south….and had adulterated
And so they were….worse than Gentiles…filthy, unclean!
A Jew didn’t talk to one
Much less touch one
And the feeling was mutual!
So back to our story…
The Samaritan comes along and sees the poor beat-up guy…
And feels pity for him….
The Greek w ord Luke uses is splangizomai…..
which literally means:
“He was moved in the guts!”
So the Samaritan goes over to him and pours wine in his wounds and then olive oil….
The alcohol in the wine disinfects…the oil soothes…
And he puts the poor guy’s arm around his shoulders and half
carries him to an inn maybe half a mile away…
He checks the guy in…pays in advance and says: “Take care of
him, give him what he needs and I’ll pay you any balance when I
Now….consider a couple of things.
Pretend you are a Jew in Jesus’ time and culture.
First of all…you would be shocked that a Samaritan
would do all this.
What he did is not only more than the corrupt clergy did….
but more than most of the audience knows they would do!
Now….consider the guy who was mugged….
He’s good Jew ….
And here is a Samaritan….
He expects him to say something like:
“You got what you deserve, you stuck up Jew-scum!” And maybe
But instead, he gets taken care of in the best way possible.
He is literally at the mercy of a contemptible enemy!
Absolutely dependent on someone he hates
for his very life…..
And he has no choice but to accept his mercy!
It’s like like being tenderly cared for…having your life saved…by an Isis fighter, when you expect to have him slit your throat.
Are you grateful? Or are you so humiliated, so angry about your
situation….your shame at being helpless…
Of your dependence on someone…especially someone you
hate…. That all you can feel is shame and anger?
Now there are really a couple of issues here in this story.
The first is the obvious one…the one the Lawyer
asked: “What must I do to get into the Kingdom of God?”
If we take the parable as an answer to that question, it must be
something like: “Find the most despicable people you can line up,
then, love and take care of them.”
Good luck with that!
But we need to recognize that Jesus’ parables are not so much
about prescriptions as they are flash pictures of the Kingdom
of God. They are like mirrors to see ourselves.
In the Kingdom, Jesus says, we will all take care of and be
cared for by the people we despise now.
I realized a few years ago that when I started to pray for
a Bishop who I despised because he lied to me…
When I prayed for him…
Which was very hard and not very sincere when I
Then it turned out… somehow…
my anger melted….
And I found myself feeling sorry for him!
The second issue is: What do you do…how do you respond…when someone you despise does something important for you?
This may not happen often but it is a radical version of a more
What does despising someone…do to us?
For one thing….it takes a lot of energy…
It’s kind of like a cell phone tht has a hidden program running on
it…under the stuff we see.
We don’t know it’s there, but then we realize our charge is being
Despising someone, we actually become less able to love
And….and we can even become toxic to others.
We call it “nursing a grudge”…
And it spills over into every corner of our lives.
Still we often cherish it… nurse it….resist
giving it up…
We even relish it.
And this parable asks: “How does that fit with the Kingdom of God?”
Or, in other words, How does this event on the road down from
Jerusalem… affect the Samaritan?
And how does it affect the injured Jew?
How does it fit them for the moment when Christ’s love will be
all in all?
You know..Heaven will include a lot of people we don’t trust…
A lot of people we dislike….
And some we really despise.
That could be really….
For the Samaritan…
This may have been difficult…
Jews were the enemy…
But when he saw that hurt man….
His guts moved….
Somehow his inherited Samaritan hatred of Jews was thin
enough to allow feelings for someone who was hurt…
That his empathy for a fellow human being overrode his
cultural mistrust and hatred.
In that moment of pity…
That moment when he knew a
hurt brother human and acted….
In that moment…he became a bearer of God’s reign…
He became a kind of Sacrament…
Like Jesus himself…
A Sacrament of God….
An ordinary person…
In that moment….
Overcoming his inherited
fear and hatred….
Fit to enter the all-consuming love which
is God’s promised Reign….
The Kingdom of God
And he became the bearer of God’s love
He became a kind of walking Sacrament….
so with each of us…
Both the Samaritan in who overcomes his fear and hatred…
And the wounded Jew in us who must give up his pride!
Such is God’s Kingdom… And it is our destiny!