There are some fairly tough parts in the bible but for me there is none tougher than today’s Gospel reading when Jesus says – “Go and do likewise”.
It reminds me of the old saying – “do as I say not as I do”.
It’s so easy to know what the right thing is to do but not so easy to do it.
So when Jesus says – love one another as I have loved you, how many of us can do that?
How many of us could have offered hospitality to Judas like Jesus did, knowing he was going to betray him?
How many of us would have been prepared to forgive and reinstate Peter like Jesus did after denying him 3 times.
How many of us would be prepared to ask God to forgive those who put him to death like Jesus did?
St Paul found that dilemma himself when he said:
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan as it is widely known and upon telling the actions of the Good Samaritan tells the lawyer asking Jesus a question about eternal life to “go and do likewise”.
What are the details of this direction?
What is it that the Samaritan has done that we are to example in our lives?
Well, let’s look at the context and what leads up to the telling of this parable.
A lawyer comes up to Jesus and asks: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
So there is the first mistake this lawyer makes.
What must I DO?
There is nothing one does to receive eternal life.
It is a gift from God.
A free gift as St Paul says in Ephesians Chapter 2:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
There is nothing we do – God has done it all.
As a lawyer he wanted to know what he needed to do.
And as a lawyer it meant he probably wanted to know what he didn’t need to do – to try and find a loophole in the law.
So if there’s something I don’t need to do then I won’t be doing it.
The priest and the Levite going down the road didn’t have to stop and help one of their fellow Israelites – so they didn’t.
The loophole they found in the law was from the Law of Moses which said; “Whoever touches a dead body will be unclean for seven days… If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. (Numbers 19)
If they stopped to help him and he was actually dead then they would be disqualified from serving in the temple which was where they were heading.
Likewise the Samaritan didn’t need to stop.
It wasn’t one of his countrymen.
He was from the people that had persecuted his people.
He didn’t need to stop and help – but he does.
He loved as Jesus loved when he cried out “forgive them Father”.
Being a Good Samaritan is more than just helping someone out.
Being a Good Samaritan is helping out when all other indicators would say not to.
That’s what Jesus is teaching the lawyer.
The lawyer was looking for an out.
Jesus said to love your neighbour and he is trying to find out who I don’t have to love.
So he asks – “who is my neighbour”.
Why would you ask that question unless you were wanting to know – who is NOT my neighbour.
Jesus is explaining in this parable – think of someone you believe is NOT your neighbour – they are your neighbour.
How was it that this Samaritan would now call an Israelite, with whom they did not associate, a neighbour?
The Israelites had been anything but neighbourly to the Samaritans.
On the other hand, the Priest and the Levite had an obligation to care for this victim.
Not only was he a fellow Israelite but they were God’s representatives.
They were the ones charged with the Holy Things of God and to administer God’s grace and blessing on his people.
And they ignored the needs of their neighbour – their own blood.
So what makes a person a neighbour, according to Jesus’ parable?
A neighbour is anyone in need.
A neighbour is a victim who needs help.
A neighbour is anyone that we can help.
And that’s why this parable and Jesus’ teaching from it – go and do likewise – is one of the most difficult teachings of Jesus.
It examples exactly what God has done for us through Jesus.
We remember what Paul says – it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
We were anything but neighbourly to God.
We disobeyed him.
We rejected him.
We were anything but neighbourly to Jesus.
We betrayed him.
We denied him.
We humiliated him.
We chose a murderer to be freed rather than Jesus.
We demanded his death by crucifixion.
And yet his dying prayer on the cross was “forgive them Father”.
Can we think of a situation where we can be truly justified in not helping another person?
How does the Good Samaritan speak in today’s setting:
This week Channel 10 will show the documentary on footballer Adam Goodes – an indigenous footballer who left footy after prolonged booing.
It caused major divisions.
Some said it is his fault because of the way he acted and nothing to do with racism.
Irrespective of what you believe, the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that if he is hurting then we need to respond to his hurts.
Another example is the safe injecting room in Richmond.
Letters this past week slammed a decision to open more facilities with many saying just let them overdose and let society be rid of them.
Irrespective of what you believe, the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that if they are hurting then we need to respond in love.
That’s the challenge- to put aside our views and our biases and respond to hurt.
When the lawyer asked Jesus: what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “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 neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
We are very good at looking at others and declaring what behaviours shall not inherit eternal life.
But here Jesus sums up what it means to inherit eternal life.
Loving God and loving our neighbour.
And there is no one who is not my neighbour because every single person is created in the Image of God.
Every single person is a person for whom Jesus died.
And Jesus does not give us an out or a loophole but says – go and do likewise – he doesn’t say go and try your best.
We know that we cannot keep this law of love perfectly and for that we are thankful that Jesus has paid for our sins.
But it reminds us that we never have an excuse for treating anyone as less than a neighbour.
Even the Priest and the Levite show us that God even puts the needs of our neighbour above his own needs telling us to example the behaviour of the Good Samaritan rather than the Priest and Levite.
There are so many in our society today who are treated like the victim in our text – people we would rather not associate with – people for whom we cross to the other side of the road.
Let us daily example the Good Samaritan who was able to overlook his prejudices and seek ways to help.
They are there – across the road – it’s just we have learnt so well to look the other way.
Thankfully God did not look the other way but loved us with all his heart, soul, strength and mind.
Let us go and do likewise.