Often it is the familiar stories of Scripture that are the toughest to preach on. That’s because we think we know them so well that we don’t listen. And we aren’t open to new insights and even some surprises. Yesterday I preached on perhaps the most beloved of all stories in the Bible, the one about the good Samaritan who stopped to help someone lying along the road, and who was beaten and battered. Remember in the Gospel of John how Jews and Samaritans had nothing to do with each other? But here in Luke 10 the Samaritan outshines the Jews. Maybe this story has lost its shock value to us today. I didn’t see anyone in church bolt upright in their pew when this text was read.
Mother Teresa said, “To show great love for God and our neighbor we need not do great things. It is how much love we put in the doing…” Through Christ each of us can be an instrument of peace, a source of light, and a bearer of gifts. Ordinary encounters with ordinary people, and yet what extraordinary gifts they bear. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” asked a wealthy man of Jesus. Show mercy was his reply. Referring to the good Samaritan, “Go and do likewise.”
In this story it seems so simple to answer the question of “Who is my neighbor?” We all have our hands in the air. We want to impress our teacher Jesus with our insights. But as I said earlier, maybe this story has a twist to it. Maybe we haven’t considered a new idea. Maybe Jesus told this story not for us to identify with the helpful Samaritan, but as the wounded along the road. It is a story about you and me and everyone we know. We are all needy people. Could be finances. Could be spiritual. Or something else? We can be helpers, no doubt. But we certainly know what it’s like to be in need.
We need neighbors. We need to be neighborly. Sometimes they need us. Sometimes we need them. On the road, or in a ditch alongside the road, that’s where we travel. We are both…Good Samaritans and Hurting Jews. Jesus reaches out to both. Amen