Last week during a bible study I lead, we talked about Acts 8:4-40. It’s the story of Philip in Samaria. To our modern ears, that sounds like Philip got in the car and drove down to the next city over and started preaching. But it’s far from that. There’s a ton of history underlying this situation – centuries of animosity and deep-seated division.
It’s this deep-seated seething that makes the parable that Jesus tells about the “good Samaritan” so shocking. But explaining all of this takes some time.
So I’m going to offer a modern-day version of the parable so you might get the effect of what Jesus was saying.
There once was an American who traveled to the Holy Land. He wore his American flag shirt so everyone would know he was an American. He was traveling along and seeing all the sites in the region when he was mugged and beaten by some local thieves. They beat him badly and left him for dead.
As he lay there, wondering if he would survive, along came a tour bus full of American tourists. The bus driver knew that this was not a safe area that he was driving through, so he kept on going for fear of robbers jumping the bus and robbing everyone. As they pass, the tourists snapped pictures of the poor local who benefited from American’s generosity with our clothing.
The man was distraught and was starting to give up hope when along came a pastor on a motorcycle. He saw the man on the side of the road but kept going – he had many committee meetings to get to and had to make an important presentation about the finances of the church he served. He reasoned that someone else would stop. As he left, he offered a quick prayer and went on his way.
The man who was beaten lay there, dying.
A third man approached. This man looked nothing like the people from two other groups. He was a member of ISIS – a sworn enemy of the American. He came across the man who was beaten badly and he was moved with compassion for him. He took what first aid materials he had and used them on the American. Then he lifted him up and took the man to the local emergency room and told the intake person that he would pay for the care of the man.
And Jesus asked “Which of these three was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
So, now do you get how radical Jesus’ parable was? Do you get how unlikely it was that the Samaritans would have listened to Philip? And yet, they did. Amazing!