The story of the Good Samaritan has inspired the construction of hundreds of hospitals in history. It has inspired acts of kindness every day for the past 2000 years…just a story. But it is not just a story, it is a powerful word from God.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus exposes religion that is inauthentic. It is the story of a man traveling the Jericho Road, being robbed, beaten and left for dead.
Then travelers come by and see him. And so, with each traveler, there is a moment of truth. The priest was presumably returning from the temple. He had just been in a service of worship, and he sees a man who is wounded and in great need. But he takes a wide detour in order not to deal with him.
He was followed by a Levite who sometimes served as a greeter, usher, singer or guard at the temple. He too saw the wounded man and left him on the road, unaided and unattended.
We must recognize that the Jericho Road is not just any road. It is a Temple Road. And we must remember that Jesus has decided to go to Jerusalem for the final showdown with the powers there. The first thing he did when he arrived in Jerusalem was to cleanse the temple of its marketplace atmosphere, using a whip, setting loose the animals from their cages.
Then, Jesus tells this unflattering tale about Temple officials and we are reminded that the Samaritan hero was not even allowed into the outer courts of their Temple. In fact, it would be the Levite who would keep people like the Samaritan out.
Jesus, along with many of the prophets, recognized a religion that was not authentic. When we define religion strictly in terms of our relationship with God, then we have turned religion into a neurotic, selfish reality. Many are more comfortable with the first part of Jesus’ definition of true religion than the last. They have no problem with “loving God.” The hard part is loving their neighbor as themselves.
The catch is, though, that in order for one’s faith to be authentic, neither can be neglected.
Tim Hobbs, Pastor