Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)
This weekend we will be continuing in our series on the Beatitudes. As a part of that conversation, we will be considering the story of the “Good Samaritan,” for which the quote above is the introduction.
There is a legend that comes from one of our Presbyterian seminaries that on the day of their final exam the students were told to be at a certain building at a certain time, in a very specific room. Upon their arrival at that place each would find a sign on the door that said that their exam is in a different room on the far side of campus. Desperate to do well on their final and with hardly any time to spare, the students would run off toward their new destination. As they did, all of them passed by a person in the middle of the sidewalk, clearly hurt, unconsciously lying there in need of help. When they arrived at the far building, their professor then lead them in an oral examination on the topic of the Good Samaritan.
For many of us within the Christian tradition, we have heard this story so many times that we forget how controversial it really was. Samaritans were foreigners, in this case residing in Jewish territory, and were considered second-class humans, if not even lower. On some level, we understand that as the two priests pass him on the other side, we are witnessing the religious establishment ignoring those most desperately in need out of fear for protecting their “piety.” And all of this was in response to the lawyer’s question of Jesus, but really “who is my neighbor?”
The question we should ask ourselves is where are the people we pass over? Ignore out of fear? When do we turn our eyes and ears away? Pretend they don’t exist?
It’s important to remember that following Christ was never meant to be comfortable. It’s supposed to push us. Stretch us. Transform us – because only then can we become more like the Triune God in whose image we were made.
Let us not miss Christ’s message from this parable: we will be held accountable for how we treat others. Jesus spends more time on the importance of living out our faith in tangible acts of mercy than almost any topic. Instead of telling us to run from “evildoers,” he consistently points to the ways we must choose to overcome the evil in ourselves, with God’s help of course. It is not ours to choose who is worthy of love; it is our job to simply live out love in as many ways as we can.
I look forward to further conversation with you about this parable and the next beatitude this weekend. And I pray that God will continue to open our eyes and ears to those in desperate need of our help, and that we will finally hear God’s lesson that the relief and help for these people will come through us.
Blessings, Pastor Janie