St Bride's: Sermons

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10: 25-37

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25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan William Henry Margetson

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Jesus tells a story in our Gospel reading - what has come to be called the story of the Good Samaritan.

It's a story that has passed into folk-lore and has given its name to  what is now a world-wide charity - The Samaritans, dedicated to helping people in direst need.

So let me begin by telling you a little story. Your're probably familiar with Charles Dickens novel 'Great Expectations.' Pip, a young orphan, lived with his unpleasant sister and her gentle husband in the Kent marshes. One day he is tending his parents grave at the cemetery when the frightening figure of an escaped convict appears, grabs him and orders Pip to bring him some food and a file for his chains. Pip does as he is told and brings the food, but the comvict is eventually captured.

Soon afterwards Pip's uncle brings him to the house of the eccentric and jilted bride Miss Havisham, where he meets her ward, the contemptuous and haughty Estella, with whom Pip falls in love. He dreams of one day becoming a gentlemen and marrying Estella. But Miss Havisham sends him away to be an apprentice blacksmith to his brother-in-law.

Much later the now grown-up Pip is visited by Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, who tells him that a secret benefactor has left him a fortune and so he must go to London and learn to be a gentleman. Pip is overjoyed because he is convinced that Miss Havisham is his benefactor and that she wants him to marry Estella.

Pip goes to London, lives the high life and comes into his generous allowance. In the midst of all this extravagance, one night a rough-looking man bursts into his apartment, and reveals that he is the convict whom Pip fed long ago. He tells Pip that he fled to Australia, made his fortune, but never forgot Pip, and his kindness: he, in fact is the source of Pip's wealth. But Pip, far from being grateful, is appalled by this ruffian, and when the ex-convict tries to embrace him, he rejects him.

Gradually, however, Pip's attitude changes and he begins to care for the convict and tries to help him escape London. But the convict is captured and dies in gaol at peace in Pip's arms. Pip has lost his fortune, but regained his humanity through the love of that generous convict.

Charles Dickens' story helps us to relook at the story Jesus tells, and see it in a slightly different way. We tend to identify with the priest or Levite, or the Samaritan. Jesus' healers would on the contrary have identified with the victim, the chap lying in the ditch, who had been beaten up and was then, horror of horrors, ministered to by his hated enemy, the Samaritan. The thought would have slowly dawned that in the time of greatest need even our deepest prejudices can be stripped away.

At first Pip saw the convict just as the victim saw the Samaritan - a hated enemy: and Pip was apalled that he had turned out to be his benefactor. Just as the victim in Jesus' story shuddered when he opened his eyes and saw the Samaritan, so Pip shuddered at the realisation that someone he had regarded as evil, as beyond the pale, was in fact generous and kind.

Pip, the victim of circumstances looks up from the ditch and sees the convict, his enemy, offering him love, friendship and fortune. He is changed by the encounter and realises that if compassion and love can come from one's enemy, then no-one is enemy. Everyone is neighbour.

So, it turns out that in the famous parable Jesus tells is not so much about the kindness of the Good Samaritan as about the conversion of the heart of the victim, who was shocked, like Pip in Great Expectations, to find mercy where he felt it could never be found, and who was forced to see a neighour in someone he considered an enemy.

Do we use the God given revelation of love and grace as a way of boosting our sense of superiority and entitlement, or as a way of breaking down our prejudices and extending that love and grace to everyone, enemies included?

Jesus says to us as he said to his first hearers - 'Go and do thou likewise.' Amen.

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