Luke 10:37:25-37 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
First Responders Are Focused on Needs
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was like the road between Welch and Davy here in WV. It was sparsely inhabited in places and dangerous to travel. Thom traveled that stretch for the first time about a month ago. It was seven miles and took him forty minutes to travel. It was dark and every few feet there was a hairpin turn. Who in the world put that road in? He was nervous and lost but thought “Just keep your foot on the pedal. Whatever you do, don’t stop.” If you can avoid driving between Welch and Davy, trust Thom, you want to do so. You especially don’t want to travel it at night. Well, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was pretty harrowing in places.
When the priest, Levite and Good Samaritan all reached the person in need, he was naked, bleeding and half dead. I know how I feel when I see a dead deer on the side of the road. I swerve and look the other way. I can’t imagine coming upon a person in such bad condition. I’m sure it wasn’t a welcoming sight to any passerby.
All three people saw the man in need, but only the Good Samaritan “took pity” on him. Only the Good Samaritan was moved with compassion to help the man. You see, people who are focused on needs are people who allow themselves to be moved by the needs of others.
Listen, people are walking around the halls of your schools and riding the elevator with you to work every day that are beaten and bruised on the highways of life. Are you moved by the pain of those around you or do you find it easy to walk on by? Do you tell yourself someone else will handle it as pass up an opportunity to be a first responder? If they are in your path, consider it is God’s opportunity for you to be His hands and feet.
Verse 31 says that the priest “happened” to arrive on the scene. Opportunities to be a first responder aren’t necessarily planned. They are often unexpected, unplanned moments that many like the priest see as interruptions in their day. The priest couldn’t spontaneously jump in to save the day because he was tied to a formal rule. Priests weren’t supposed to come into contact with corpses. It would make them unclean. He had already done his temple duty. We know this because he was traveling FROM Jerusalem TO Jericho. Duties were over. But in his mind, rules were rules. Although the rule of mercy would take precedence if the man was clearly alive, the man looked as if he might be dead, and the priest wasn’t going to get close enough to check for a pulse. He wasn’t going to take a chance. Though the rules weren’t as strict for the Levites, the Levite, too, didn’t want to risk becoming unclean by getting involved.
Listen, God can’t use you as a first responder if rules and traditions are more important to you than the needs of people.
You’ll remember Jesus was scrutinized in Luke 14 by the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders, while he healed a man on the Sabbath. He had a condition called “dropsy” where because of kidney, heart or liver trouble his tissues were filled with water. It was a very painful condition.
In Luke 13, He was outwardly criticized for healing a woman on the Sabbath who was bent over and couldn’t straighten up at all. They claimed that there were six other days in the week on which the woman could have been healed. Because the rules said not to work on the Sabbath, they thought her healing should have waited. In addition to being bent over, later verses tell us she was bound by Satan. Why delay freedom for this woman? The religious leaders actually held the conviction that she should have continued to be possessed by demons for another day rather than break the rules.
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and called them hypocrites. He pointed out that they all loosed and took care of their donkeys on the Sabbath. Aren’t people more important than animals? Jesus wanted everyone to know He came to make a difference in their lives no matter what day it was. He came to heal and deliver and save wherever He was whenever there was a need and He didn’t want and doesn’t want anyone to suffer one minute longer than is necessary.
You see, those who are first responders are focused on others in love, not focused on rules and traditions.
Jesus wanted the man who asked the question to know there is one rule that trumps every rule and it is simply, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
It may not always be politically correct to be a first responder. It might ruffle some feathers. Like Jesus, you may be criticized for getting involved in meeting the needs of others. People may tell you that you are wasting your time, that you can’t make a difference, that you aren’t qualified to help, that it isn’t any of your business, or that someone is just too far gone like the man who appeared to be dead. But first responders close their ears to naysayers and critics when a need is present because of their love for God and love for their fellow man.
I believe God has called our church to be on the front lines, looking for the wounded, looking for the weary, looking for the weak and He is preparing us to be ready to be first responders in an unconventional way. One need this community has is recreation, community and banquet space. Our vision is to meet that need by building a double gymnasium which will also serve as a community, conference, and banquet center. I see it as a facility that is open to the community seven days a week with the possibility of using it for Sunday worship.
It’s unconventional. It’s out of the box. It doesn’t look like church ministry to some people. For some, if it’s not a Vacation Bible School, a Sunday School, a Revival or a campmeeting, it’s not ministry. Some people can’t see how doing a Family Fun Day Free carnival at K-Mart could be ministry or how washing windows could win someone to Christ. It’s because their mind is on the rules or on tradition or on the way it has always been. Let it not be a surprise to anyone that as we move forward we will receive criticism. As a matter of fact, we already have. A year ago after newspapers ran a story on the master plan for Teays Valley Acres, the property we own one mile east of here, I received a scathing letter that ran through the Charleston post office. It was from a man and wife who only put their first names and no return address on the envelope. They said things like, “How dare you plan to use God’s money to build a sports center when it should be used to preach the Gospel.”
I’m sure they had conviction when they wrote the letter and perhaps a level of sincerity in their concern. I felt sad for them that they couldn’t see beyond the conventional. They didn’t have the vision to see how meeting the needs of the community would help us build relationships and earn the right to share the Gospel that our community so desperately needs to hear.
I’ll tell you that letter fired me up, but in a good way. I figured we must be doing something right if Satan was prompting people to send anonymous letters to try to discourage it. I took it as confirmation we were on the right track. Satan doesn’t want us to connect with our community and you can be sure he’ll try to set up as many roadblocks as possible.
Listen, God is looking for some first responders who will get out of the box, go beyond tradition, be prompted by the needs of people and move out in Jesus’ name to share the Gospel.
First Responders Are Often Ordinary People
What is one phrase you will often hear if you are in a crowded restaurant or theater and someone needs immediate medical attention? “Is there a doctor in the house?” Sometimes there are those who are trained and prepared to act under pressure that are present and can respond like those we have honored here today. Often, however, it is an unlikely person who rises to the occasion and does the seemingly impossible to make a difference in a critical situation.
On 9/11 it wasn’t just the trained firefighters, police officers and paramedics who made a difference. There were lots of ordinary people who helped keep others calm and give instructions about evacuation. My sister-in-law told me about one of her friends who was killed in the second tower. She stepped off of an elevator that was descending to take people to safety to make room for a lady in a wheelchair. The wheelchair bound lady made it to safety. The ordinary first responder who gave up her spot lost her life. I’m sure she never dreamed she would give her life to rescue another when she woke up that day.
The Bible is filled with stories about unlikely heroes. One of my favorites is a shepherd boy named David. He was just a boy, not old enough to think he was capable of taking on a Giant named Goliath. Not old enough to be on Facebook or have a cell phone. He was far from being old enough to be in the Israelite army. He had three older brothers who were serving in the army and all three of them along with the rest of the Israelite soldiers were afraid of the giant named Goliath who for forty days would come to the battle line spewing insults and threats against God’s people.
David’s dad sent the little shepherd boy with some food to the battle lines for his brothers. He saw how the Israelite army all ran like scaredy cats when Goliath came to the battle line. He started asking questions about the possibility of taking the giant down and everyone who heard him laughed. His brothers scolded him and told him to go back to counting his sheep. No one took this young man seriously. But David’s mind was made up.
He got the weapons he was familiar with, a stone and a sling shot and Scripture says he ran to the battle line to take action. “On one side of the battlefield, Saul and his cowardly army gulped. On the other, Goliath and his skull-splitters scoffed. In the middle, the shepherd boy ran on his spindly legs. Who bet on David? Who put money on the kid from Bethlehem? Not the Philistines. Not the Hebrews. Not David’s siblings or David’s king. But God did.” (Max Lucado) Because God uses unlikely candidates to win battles and free people and bring His healing. Using just a slingshot and one stone, David made one strategic shot and hit that giant square between the eyes. He killed him and cut off his head. How is that for sealing the deal? And all from an unlikely hero.
The hero in our story today was a very unlikely first responder. He was a Samaritan. He was unlikely because the Jews and the Samaritans hated one another. When fellow Jews passed by, when they passed up the opportunity to be first responders, the man’s very enemy had enough compassion to put aside any differences to break down any barriers and to do what was needed. The Samaritan got the main rule right. He got the law of love right. Even towards one who despised him, he showed compassion and mercy. First responders may be unlikely heroes when it comes to preparedness and expertise, but they may also be unlikely heroes in the world’s estimation because of their willingness to help anyone no matter who they are or what they have done. If you live to make a difference, regardless of your training or abilities, you can be a first responder hero.
Jesus was an unlikely first responder. Perhaps that is why people didn’t recognize Him as their hero. I mean, how could a baby, born in a manger, also be the sinless Son of God? How could a boy from Nazareth lead a revolution? How could this miracle worker who broke so many religious laws be the Messiah? How could a man condemned to die on a cross save anyone? Jesus, an unlikely hero became the greatest Hero of all.
First Responders Take Action
I read a great quote this week from Andy Stanley. He said, “It’s much easier to make a point than to make a difference.” I know a lot of people who have opinions about what should be done in certain situations and they love to share them, but they take no action. They talk, but their feet don’t walk in a way that makes a difference. First responders don’t just talk, but they take action.
Maybe the most famous of all the unexpected heroes of 911 was a 32 year old Oracle salesmen named Todd Beamer, the determined Christian on flight 93 who called up the GTE operator to find out what was happening, prayed the Lord’s Prayer with her over the phone, added, “Jesus, help me,” then said, “Let’s roll!” and led a half dozen other men to their deaths while stopping terrorists from harming our nation’s capital by downing their plane in a Pennsylvania cornfield. Todd Beamer left behind two children, a pregnant wife, and a nation full of grateful admirers because as a first responder he took action. What an amazing example of an unlikely, ordinary person who became a hero because he was willing to take action.
If you are going to be a first responder, you often don’t have time to waste. You just spring into action. It was just a month ago when I had an opportunity to be a first responder. Jacob Vandevander was at the same birthday party I attended at the FMC pool. He started out sitting on the steps, splashing in the water. It wasn’t long before he was on the steps, tip toeing his way in the way. Getting braver and braver each time, he got to the bottom step and got brave enough to step off. In an instant he was in over his head. There was no one else in the pool around him who could come to his aid. I was closer than the party lifeguards. With no time to waste and risking my poof I bravely jumped into two feet of water to rescue the young boy.
Now seriously, those who were near the Twin Towers on 9/11 and those being dispatched didn’t have time to consider the consequences of their actions. They didn’t have time to consult with their loved ones to make sure it was alright if they risked their lives to help someone else. They had to move fast.
First Responders have a Band of Brothers mentality. Their code of “Leave no man behind” is reflected in the way they take action.
The man in distress was worse off by the time the Samaritan got to him than he had been when the Priest and Levite had passed by. More time had passed. He had been unconscious longer. Who knows what kinds of bugs were now helping themselves to his wounded flesh. Upon seeing him, Scripture doesn’t suggest any hesitation. We read that “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.”
Many opportunities to show God’s love are lost because Christians fail to take action. You know you can be a first responder
First Responders Go Above and Beyond the call of Duty
Be reminded that it was a dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Taking responsibility for a half dead man was going to slow the Good Samaritan down. He would be putting himself in greater danger as his journey on this dangerous road would take even longer. We read:
“The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
I hadn’t noticed this nuance before, but the Good Samaritan, the first responder, spent the night with the injured man, his enemy. It was the next day when he took out some money to give to the innkeeper to make sure the injured person wasn’t only rescued from danger, but he was attended to long enough to insure he would make it.
It was noble for him to bandage the man’s wounds and get him to a safe place to sleep. He could have left him there and expected the injured man to figure out a way to pay for his hotel room later. But he stayed with him and promised to come back and pay whatever the cost was for the man’s stay—no matter how long it was.
Remember, the commandment the man recited to Jesus was that he would love God and his neighbor as himself. But the man in the story Jesus told went beyond loving what we would call a neighbor. He loved his enemy. Talk about going beyond the call of duty.
You can be a first responder if you are willing to meet needs. You can be a first responder without having any special skill. You can be a first responder if you are willing to take action. You can be a first responder if you are willing to go the extra mile to see that people can get the help they need. There is always a personal cost to people who were first responders. But if you will trust God to use you and to supply your needs, you will become a channel through which His blessings can flow to those around you.
Jesus was and is the Ultimate first responder. He was focused on needs. Everywhere He went He healed people, talked to people no one else had time for, and gave people the courage to follow God. The reason He came was because He was the only One qualified to meet a need you and I have. We need to have our sins washed away. The Bible says the way to deal with sin is through a perfect blood sacrifice.
He wasn’t focused on rules, but needs. He took action. Soldiers didn’t kill Him by nailing Him to the cross. He willingly laid down His life. (John 10:17) So many first responders on 9/11 laid down their lives ten years ago in order to save others. Jesus did so, on the largest possible scale. He went all the way for you and me in order to rescue us.