Luke 10:30-37, New Living Translation.
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[a] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[b] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
As Jesus’ story unfolds, the audience naturally would have expected Jesus’s storyline to progress from priest, to Levite, to ordinary Israelite, celebrating the compassion of the common person over and against the elitist religious leaders of the day. Shattering all expectations, the third traveler is not an ordinary Israelite, but a Samaritan! The story does not pit an Israelite against a priest and a Levite. By making the hero of the story a Samaritan, Jesus challenged the long-standing enmity between Jews and Samaritans. The latter were regarded as unclean people, descendants of the mixed marriages that followed from the Assyrian settlement of people from various regions in the fallen northern kingdom (2 Kgs 17:6, 24). By depicting a Samaritan as the hero of the story, therefore, Jesus, demolished all boundary expectations. Social position – race, religion, or region – count for nothing. The man in the ditch, from whose perspective the story is told, will not discriminate among potential helpers. Anyone who has compassion and stops to help is his neighbor. The question is thereby turned when viewed from the perspective of the one in desperate need. The alteration of the expected sequence by naming the third character as a Samaritan not only challenges the hearer to examine the stereotype regarding Samaritans, but it also invalidates all stereotypes. Community can no longer be defined or limited by such terms. A sovereign God can work graciously in the lives of anyone.
– Adapted from the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol IX, p. 229.
Questions about the Scripture
1. Jesus’ audience was likely surprised by the implication that a Samaritan was capable of being an instrument of God’s compassion. Often in Scripture, God works in surprising ways, using surprising people. Can you think of some biblical examples of God working through people that some would deem unworthy of divine use? What lessons can be gleaned from these examples?
2. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, believed that God’s grace was at work in every human being prior to their conscious awareness, beckoning them in a God-ward way. He referred to this as Prevenient Grace. In his message, Rev. Rikabi suggests that God’s compassion working through the Samaritan was an example of Prevenient Grace. Have you ever experienced this through someone of a different culture or religion? If so, what effect did that experience have on you?
3. 1st Century Jews and Samaritans were prejudiced toward one another due to historic misunderstandings and injustices that occurred centuries before. Yet in reality, they had much more in common than the things that separated them. Do you think the same can be said for Christians and Muslims? Why or why not? In what way to historic misunderstandings and injustices negatively impact Christian-Muslim relationships today?
4. From what you have learned about Islam, what are some things that Muslims and Christians have in common? What are the major issues that separate us?
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:
1. Seek Common Ground. Both Christians and Muslims fast, pray, and engage in specific seasons of seeking God more fervently (like Advent, Lent, or Ramadan). And because there is such an emphasis on forgiveness, spiritual blessing, and closeness to God, we can build a natural bridge to how Jesus fulfills that for us in ways that we could never attain by our own efforts. Sharing this with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) could lead to rich conversation and softness-of-heart toward Christ.
2. Be REAL. The very best way to make an impact in ANYONE’S life is to simply spend time together. Hang out with your Muslim friend’s family, as you would any other friend. And remember that if you treat someone as an evangelism project, then your relationship is a means to an end, not an expression of Christ’s unconditional love. Trust that Christ will reveal himself through your authentic relationships and live out the call of 1 Corinthians 13.
3. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: Love does no wrong to a neighbor. — Romans 13:10