Jesus once responded to a man’s bid for self-justification with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). This parable has entered our mainstream of culture and literature and needs no summary or retelling.
Most people have a working knowledge of the parable, and are familiar with its closing tag line: “You go, and do likewise.”
And many have taken this charge to heart and are busy trying to help their neighbor in need, or maybe at the least, trying not to cause direct harm to their neighbor while they are about the business of feathering their own nest.
Very few people can honestly say they do not know what a “Good Samaritan” is. All well and good. But typically with Jesus’ parables, there is more to the story.
Consider the man set upon by the robbers and left for half-dead. Without aid or assistance, this man would die, for he is helpless and cannot care for himself. Along comes the Samaritan who selflessly helps the man. So we call him “Good,” though Jesus never used that term.
Without the direct intervention of the Samaritan traveler, the man would have continued in his suffering unto death.
Now consider he who saves the man. Notice that the Samaritan did not merely care for his wounds at the scene, but also “... brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” (Luke 10:34c-35)
Jesus, or the Samaritan of this story, brings the half-dead to an inn where the injured can continue to receive the vital care needed for life, care for which Jesus, the Samaritan, Himself covers the expense, even though He must be away for the short term.
Remember Jesus’ purpose in telling the story: to confront a man caught up in self-justification. As are so many, these days.
As a pastor, I see so many deciding for themselves that they no longer need the community of healing and spiritual care that is the local congregation. Many have bought into the deceiver’s whisper that one can be Christian but not religious; that one can be a true disciple of Christ while ignoring the church, which is the body of Christ.
And so many, who seek to justify themselves alone on the road, target of robbers and whipsawed by the normal calamities of life, are left half-dead alongside the road, the very same road of discipleship that they so fervently sought to walk alone, falsely secure in their own piety.
Walk the road alone, my friend, if you must and desire, for no one can tell you that you can’t. But please, watch for the signs in your life that you have had enough. When the “robbers” of the world have left you half-dead, do not try to rely on yourself for healing. Let the Samaritan Savior carry you to the inn-place, the church, where you will receive the true Word of God to bind your wounds, and the true Body and Blood of the Christ to strengthen you to continue the journey.
Turn in to the-inn place, and give over to the innkeeper your weaknesses and failures, trusting him to fulfill the Samaritan’s instructions, “Take care of him,” and let the forgiveness and peace that come through confession and absolution reclaim you from half-dead and restore you to full life in Jesus.
And tell of the inn-place, that place where comfort and safety reigns, where the Savior is, and where those who are no longer half-dead but restored to true and eternal life in Jesus gather for safety and strengthening.
And by all means, I caution you to be “once bit, twice shy.” Having found the healing, the restoration, the life renewal of the inn-place, journey forth alone no more. Stay within the body, the body of Christ Himself, where His instructions to bind the wounds and care for the injured are carried out by His faithful pastors and priests.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)