Key points for the lesson:
1. Jesus’ teaching here lines up with his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (and everywhere else for that matter)
As we have been examining the Sermon on the Mount, we have seen that Jesus had a very high view of the law. His goal was not to end the law or eradicate it, but rather to fulfill it. In his teaching, he always shows us that we needed him to fulfill the law because we fall so short of doing so.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus set the standard that our righteousness has to exceed that of the Pharisees or else we can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In our lesson this week, Jesus says that all we have to do is to love God with all of our heart, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, and we will live.
We feel the weight in both of these passages of the reality that we cannot measure up. Who among us has loved God perfectly with all we are? Who has truly loved a neighbor as much as we love ourselves? So Jesus’ tactics are the same…show us just how desperate we are for a Savior.
2. The Samaritan in the story helped the broken and beaten Jewish man at great cost and risk to himself.
Think about just how far the Samaritan went to offer help, especially as his help is contrasted with the self-preserving, hands-off approach taken by the priest and the Levite. The Samaritan crossed over to cultural and ethnic barriers to help. He pushed religious differences aside and helped a man who could have caused him to be religiously unclean if touched. He rode into a Jewish town, as a Samaritan, with a beaten Jew on his donkey. This put his own life at risk. And he paid out of his own pocket the cost of caring for the Jewish man. And finally, he promised to return to make sure all costs were paid…to put things in order.
So the question that was raised by the expert in the Law, “who is my neighbor?” was a very narrow one. Jesus doesn’t want us to go around looking for people who deserve to be considered our neighbors. He wants us to go through life seeking to be neighborly to all, regardless of the risk or the cost.
3. The gospel is all over this story.
Do you see how the story applies to our lives? We are the beaten and broken Jew on the side of the road. Jesus is the Samaritan. He crosses all sorts of boundaries to come to us and help and heal us. He gives us care at his own expense. And he put himself in harm’s way to do so. He even makes a promise to return to make all things right.
As you learn this story and teach it, remember that ultimately this is a story about Jesus. He is the best neighbor in the world. And we must see that in order to be a good neighbor to others, we must first welcome the care and love that our Neighbor, Jesus, gives to us.
What does this story tell us about our need for salvation and the part we play in salvation? Did the beaten man merit any assistance by the Samaritan? No. In fact, if anything, maybe the beaten man deserved to be passed over since he probably looked down on Samaritans. But the Good Samaritan took the initiative and helped one who despised him. Praise God that this what Jesus did for us. While we were sinners…when we were enemies of God…he died for us!