Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He 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 neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?
After worship on Sunday, this question that Jesus poses about the Good Samaritan story kept coming back to me, and even more so, the answer to it. Through just these two verses, we learn so incredibly about what being a neighbor actually is; that it isn’t about showing our compassion through nice words but instead is rooted in what you actually do for a person in need. Pastor Greg in his sermon called this sacrificial action, that we can’t care for others until we give something of ourselves.
Where I work at Barnabas Community, an outreach ministry of Sheridan in the Belmont neighborhood, I see the story of the Good Samaritan play out in front of me almost each and everyday. Whether it’s guests giving to one another or guests sharing their gift of guitar playing with the community, this story gets lived out there.
One moment in particular I’m always reminded of is when a woman at Barnabas acted as the Good Samaritan to me. Last March, we began having short worship services at Barnabas Community and on Maundy Thursday, as tradition goes, folks could come forward during the worship and get their feet or hands washed just as the disciples did at the Last Supper. As I was drying the feet of the last woman in line, she looked down at me and asked genuinely: “Who is going to wash your feet?”
I was immediately taken aback as I hadn’t expected someone to ask me this question. I just told her, “Oh, it’s fine. I’m just washing everyone else’s feet tonight.” I thought that would be a good enough answer but she asked me again, “No, who is going to wash your feet?” And right then, she insisted I take a seat and she would do it. A woman who had never been to a Maundy Thursday service before, let alone wash a complete stranger’s feet, showed me a most beautiful compassion as she served in this way.
So easily, she could have just went and sat down, she could have just passed me by and never noticed I wasn’t having my feet washed, but instead she noticed a place where she could serve and she did just that; she gave of herself through her time and trying something completely new for a stranger, because she felt called by God to do so. Through this action, she showed me welcome, kindness and love for neighbor. Let us go and do likewise.
Thank you, O God, for placing people in our lives who’ve acted as the Good Samaritan to us when we least expect it. As we hear this parable, remind us to ask ourselves each day, how can I be a neighbor to those around me? Continue to push us to action, to show our love for our neighbors by doing, not just by our words. In your Son’s precious and holy name, Amen.
Written by Dana Rademacher