Road Trip (Part 1): The Road to Jericho

To begin this series, we are going to visit one who was traveling the road to Jericho. As we make this journey, we will learn about loving our neighbor.

Jesus replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

‘But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.”

‘Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same’” (Luke 10:30-37).

This is one of the more well-known parables of Jesus. Most people have at least heard of the “good Samaritan.” Let us consider some lessons from it.

Life Is Uncertain

We might immediately think of this as it relates to the victim in Jesus’ parable. Even if this was a potentially dangerous area, he did not go out expecting to be robbed. However, this also applies to the three men who passed by – the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan. They did not go out expecting to find this man in need.

We do not know what will happen in the future. The wise man said, “If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7). We “do not know what [our] life will be like tomorrow” (James 4:14). Something unexpected could happen to us at any time. And as we saw in Jesus’ parable, this is not just about what might happen to us; it will also include what happens to others that could put us in a position to be able to help.

Because of this, we must not because so “busy” that we cannot help when opportunities arise. We are not told in the parable why the priest and the Levite passed by without stopping; but given that they were traveling from one city to another, they likely had someplace to be. Yet Jesus warned in another parable – the parable of the sower – that it is possible to become so busy and preoccupied with the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” that we are fruitless in our service to Him (Luke 8:14). When there is an urgent need before us, we need to do what we can to provide help.

This also means that we need to prepare in such a way that we are able to help when opportunities arise. The good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable not only stopped and took the time to help, he also used his own money and supplies to provide the care that this man needed. This requires more than just a sacrificial attitude, it also means he had to have the resources available to be able to do this. Paul wrote, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). In order to be able to help others, we need to have the resources available to help. Paul explained that the way to do this, generally speaking, is to work. In our work, we should not be content to just barely earn enough to meet our own needs (unless we find ourselves in a situation in which that is all we can do for the present time). Instead, we need to work to earn enough that we have the resources available to provide help to others when those opportunities arise.

More to Serving God Than Public Worship

Jesus described two individuals who saw the victim but failed to help – a priest and a Levite. Why did Jesus use these two in His parable? Notice what their roles were:

  • The role of the priest was to attend to the altar (Numbers 18:7) and make sacrifices (Hebrews 10:11).
  • The role of the Levite was to perform the service for the tent of meeting (Numbers 18:6). In essence, the Levites were to help the priests.

Therefore, both of these individuals would have been involved in the public worship of God under the Law of Moses. They would have been known for this work as they were “set apart” for this. Jesus’ point was not that these roles were unimportant. Instead, He was making a point that involvement in the public worship being offered to God was not the sum total of one’s responsibility.

In the church today, we do not have priests and Levites like there were under the old covenant. However, the New Testament does describe other public roles in the work of the church: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). These roles served a vital part in the function of the church as God designed it. Yet even if we are engaged in a public role in the church, there is more to serving God than that.

Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan was given in response to a question: “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). This conversation began when a lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to “inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25). Jesus answered by asking what was written in the law and the lawyer correctly replied, “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 neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). The lawyer’s question and Jesus’ parable focused on loving one’s neighbor, yet this answer even went beyond this – it involved one being completely devoted to the Lord. Paul described our responsibility in this regard when he wrote, “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). It is not enough to worship God on Sunday and even take a public role in the work of the church. We need to give our lives completely to Him and recognize our responsibility to serve God even when we are not in a worship service.

Provide Help to Those in Need

The New Testament talks about how Christians are to help those in need. We have already noticed Paul’s instruction to “labor…so that [we] will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). The Hebrew writer admonished his readers, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers… Remember the prisoners…and those who are ill-treated” (Hebrews 13:2-3). James described “pure and undefiled religion” as including the care of “orphans and widows” (James 1:27). There are many ways we can provide help and many situations in which this is necessary.

The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable showed an example of one way in which help can be given. However, providing this help required him to make some sacrifices. Notice how he did this:

  • He sacrificed his time – He was on a journey; therefore, he evidently had somewhere to be. Yet he stopped to help the man in need.
  • He sacrificed his provisions – He took his supplies that he brought with him for his trip and used them to help this man.
  • He sacrificed his money – He paid the innkeeper and promised to pay more when he returned if needed.

We need to be willing to make sacrifices to help those in need. At the same time, this is to be done within reason. We could do so much in helping others that we neglect our families and our work and bankrupt ourselves. This is not what is required of us. If we did this, our “doing good” would result in us denying the faith (1 Timothy 5:8) and becoming a burden to others (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

We are to be “rich in good works” and be “generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). This is what the Samaritan did. He offered help sacrificially, but he also had to move along and offer additional help later if it was necessary.

Do Not Be Limited by Cultural Barriers

This parable was given in response to a question presented to Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). This was asked by the lawyer who was “wishing to justify himself.” Evidently, he had not lived up to the command to love his neighbor (Luke 10:27-28) and he knew it. So he was looking for a loophole – a reason to excuse himself from helping someone in need.

Jesus’ answer in defining a “neighbor” had nothing to do with one’s place of residence, cultural similarities, or anything like that. How was the victim a neighbor to the Samaritan? First, he was in need. Second, the Samaritan found himself with an opportunity to help. Culture, race, language, and location did not matter in this context.

We are to “do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10) and show no partiality in this. James wrote, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (James 2:1). He went on to describe how they fell short in this regard by treating the rich and poor differently; yet the principle would apply to any number of differences (culture, race, language, etc.). He warned, “If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

We need to remember that everyone has been made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Paul told the philosophers who gathered to hear him at Mars Hill, “[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). This means that all men are inherently equal. God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34), so we must not show partiality. If we find someone in need, we are to love our neighbor and provide the help that we are able to provide.

Conclusion

We never know when an opportunity will arise to help others. We need to be alert, ready, and willing to help. By doing this, we show love to our neighbor and demonstrate our commitment to serving the Lord.


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