The Good Samaritan: A New Look at an Old Story

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“The Good Samaritan” by Vincent Van Gogh

I was in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, to speak at a pastor’s conference. In an opening session, the Rev. Colin Woods, a veteran Christian leader from Northern Ireland, shared a brief devotional. For me personally, it was one of the highlights of my time there.

Like so many, I’ve heard numerous devotionals and sermons on the Parable of the Good Samaritan as recorded in Luke 10. This one was distinctly different. Although many years have passed, I still clearly recall the main points Colin presented. In the parable, Jesus told the story of a traveler and the different types of people he met on his journey. As the Jewish traveler was going up to Jerusalem, he encountered three types of people:

  • First, robbers met him. The traveler “fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead” (v30). This type of person says, “What’s yours is mine – I’m going to take it.”
  • Secondly, two religious men came by.Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (v31-32). This type says, “What’s mine is mine – I’m going to keep it.”
  • The third type that came by was a Samaritan. Samaritans were an ethnic group who were hated and despised by Jews. “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denari and gave to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back” (v33-35). This type of person says, “What’s mine is yours – I’m going to share it.”

Jesus spoke the parable in response to a lawyer who was seeking to trap and embarrass Him in public. The lawyer had apparently asked in derision, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus turned the tables by sharing the parable and then asking the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer now had little choice but to respond, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

As we journey through life, we encounter many people in need of our compassion. May I ask you which of these three are you? Your answer, in large measure, will determine if you inherit eternal life.

Prayer: Lord, may I be like the Good Samaritan. May I have compassion and show mercy even as you showed compassion and mercy to me.

~ Brother Roy

“Soon Come” / “Just Now”

watching the clockI love the two expressions, ‘Soon Come’ and ‘Just Now’. They come from two different parts of the world where I have ministered, but convey the same meaning.

Life moves at a slower and more random pace in many places outside of the USA. In both Jamaica and South Africa, the opening time of a business, the time of an appointment, or the beginning time of a church service is often little more than a loose approximation. Impatience or irritation means little when you call to someone’s attention that a scheduled time has come and gone. You generally get a smile and hear ‘soon come’ in Jamaica or ‘just now’ in South Africa. These expressions simply mean, “Calm down. Things will happen sooner or later” (generally later).

When Jesus spoke of the end of time and His second coming, His friends and foes alike questioned Him about when these events would take place. Succeeding generations have continued to question when these things would come to pass. Today, prophetic teachers and religious leaders are still trying to set the date. Hundreds have made predictions they claimed were based on scripture and research only to see those fail-proof dates come and go to the dismay and disappointment of their followers. People persist even today on trying to set a date in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

Is Jesus coming back? To this I answer a resounding, Yes! How can I be sure? I am sure because of what God’s word teaches. I am sure because of what Godly men and women have taught across the centuries. I am sure because of the witness of faithful people whose spiritual lives I have personally observed. I am sure because as a true believer “… we (I) have the mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16, NKJ). I am sure because of the witness of His spirit within me. I am sure because my personal experience of walking, talking and communing with the Lord has affirmed it.

Yes, I believe He is coming again! Ask me when, and I will respond ‘soon come’ or ‘just now’. And that’s just the way it is. I believe the fact that the events will take place is more important than exactly when. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40, NKJ).

He Will ‘Soon Come’ – He Is Coming ‘Just Now’

~ Brother Roy

A New Thing

new thingIn Isaiah 43:19, the Lord says, “Behold, I will do a new thing.” One of the greatest joys in my Christian life has been the ‘new things’ that He shows me almost daily. Words from the wonderful hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm echoes in my heart. How often I sing, “morning by morning new mercies I see.” I love the scripture on which the hymn is based: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, KJV).

A few days ago, while doing morning devotions, a new thing came to me. The writer of the devotional page mentioned a song with which I was not acquainted. It was Gordon Jensen’s beautiful song, “He’s As Close As the Mention Of His Name”. The song title has become one of those lines or phrases that plays again and again in my mind. Some things that stick in our minds can become irritating, but not this one. How wonderful to think that each time during the day that I mention or think of His name, He is right there! While I have been aware across time that His presence was with me, now it has a new expression.

Most things in life to which we devote time and attention have a tendency to grow routine and lose their luster. They may even become boring and cause our interest to fade. Not so when walking with Jesus. The relationship is meant to get richer, fuller, and deeper with the passing of time. After 50 plus years, I testify that another ‘new mercy’ just came my way. The expression, “He’s as close as the mention of His name” has brought newness and freshness to my spirit.

Are you walking in newness of life? Are you eager to greet the coming days knowing that new mercies await? If so, let us praise the Lord together. If not, please know that He is as close as the mention of His name. He will hear and answer your prayers for His presence in your life.

“Even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

~ Brother Roy

Wise Men Still Seek Him

wise men starEvery year at Christmas time, my high school social studies teacher, Mr. Cundiff, would write the phrase, “Wise Men Still Seek Him” on the chalkboard in his classroom and refer to it often during the season.

The story of the wise men has had a profound impact on Christian culture.  We barely get through Halloween before we start seeing advertisements on TV and in magazines about what to buy for friends and loved ones for Christmas.  All of that craziness, spending, and bustle to which we have become so accustomed during this season can be traced all the way back to the gifts given to Jesus in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago by some unnamed men who journeyed from afar to worship the Christ child.

There are many variations and apocryphal elements of the wise men’s story, but what we can glean from the Gospel account is this: these men came, following a star in search of a child born King of the Jews, and bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They went to Jerusalem and began asking around for the child born king of the Jews.  King Herod consulted his scholars, who identified Bethlehem as the likely location.  The wise men found Jesus and Mary in a house in Bethlehem, where they presented their gifts and worshiped Jesus.  Then, being warned by a dream, they returned home by a different route instead of returning to Herod.

I want to offer three observations that I believe illustrate ways in which these men were truly wise in their pursuit of Jesus, and how we may be able to apply those lessons to our own lives as we attempt to seek Christ wisely.

God drew the wise men with a sign they would recognize.  These men were astrologers – they sought answers to the great questions of life from the stars.  They were looking to the stars for a sign, and a sign was given to them.

If we took a poll of our fellow believers and asked them to share how they were introduced to Jesus, what range of answers would we get?  Though I suspect that many of us were introduced to Jesus in Christian homes, that is not always the case.  But everyone who comes to Christ must be led to Him in some way.  We call that prevenient grace – that when we did not know how to come to God, He by some way drew us to Him.  And God draws us to Himself in ways that we can recognize.

When seeking Jesus, the wise men took the counsel of Scripture.  There is a growing trend in American Christianity that values personal revelation over scriptural foundation.  You hear a lot of “I believe this” or “I don’t believe that” without any reference to God’s Word.

If you are going to explain who God is, if you are going to describe His character, if you are going to consider how He moves and operates in the world, you must study the Bible.  If you want to define what is moral, what is pleasing to God, what draws His wrath, what is the acceptable way to live, you have to consult His Word.

When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem and began asking around for the location of the child born king of the Jews, nobody knew what they were talking about.  So Herod asked his priests and scholars to consult the scriptures for the birthplace of the Messiah.  When the people had no idea what was going on, when they didn’t have the answers, they went to the scriptures – a wise move indeed.  Herod’s scholars turned to the prophecy of Micah, and, thus instructed from the pages of scripture, the wise men followed its counsel and continued on to Bethlehem.

Jesus is revealed to us in scripture.  That is how God has introduced Himself to us – through the pages of His Word.  And if we are going to seek Jesus in a way that is wise, the first thing we should consult is scripture.

When the wise men encountered Jesus, it changed their route.  The wise men had found what they were looking for.  And Herod had told them to come back to him after they had found the child.  He wanted to worship too, he lied.  (In reality he was planning how to find and kill the child to remove any threat to his throne.)  Before the wise men could return to Herod, however, they were warned in a dream not to do it, and they returned to their country by another route.

Do you believe that an encounter with Jesus can change a person’s path?  In Acts 17:30, Paul told the men of Athens that “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.”  And sometimes we understand repentance as merely asking forgiveness, but it really has deeper meaning than that.

To repent is a 180-degree turn.  The dictionary tells us that to repent is to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.  More than just a request for forgiveness, repentance is a commitment to begin walking the correct way.  This is a proof of what has happened in our life.  When we meet Christ, it should change our direction – once we were walking according to our own way, now we walk according to God’s way; once we did as we please, now we seek to please Him.

When we meet Jesus, we are faced with a choice – to accept Him or reject Him.  If we reject Him, then nothing has changed; we travel on as we had before.  But if we accept Him, we cannot remain unchanged.  If we come to believe that Jesus is who He said He was, if we believe His claims, we cannot continue living in the same manner as we had before.

The wise men were changed by their encounter with Jesus.  When they approached the house in Bethlehem, they were wealthy men – their expensive gifts tell us that, and some have suggested that they were kings themselves.  They were certainly confident, intelligent adults – they believed enough in their own scholarship to undertake this long and dangerous journey.  But when they entered that house and came face-to-face with the Christ child, they fell down and worshiped him.  Can you imagine?  These wealthy, wise men – bowing at the feet of a peasant girl and her little boy.  I think they knew that they were in the presence of something divine.  I think they realized that the world had changed forever.  I think they knew that they would never be the same.

Wise men still seek Jesus.  Let’s learn these lessons from the story of the wise men and follow their example.

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair

Bread – The Gift of a Wise Man

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Ridge Chapel, on Shoemaker Ridge, Lee County, Kentucky

The small congregation was devoid of the trappings of wealth or social status. I was preaching in a ‘church plant’ in the heart of the poverty pocket in Eastern Kentucky. Alcohol, drugs, and unemployment had decimated the community. The only church in the area had been deliberately set on fire nearly thirty years before. Now, we have rebuilt the small structure and are laboring to bring the light of the gospel to a spiritually dark place.

Christmas was approaching, and I was attempting to relate Matthew’s account of the visit of the Wise Men. I had just finished reading the Biblical narrative and was emphasizing the gifts the Wise Men presented to the Christ Child. I noticed one rough-appearing man whose thoughts seemed to waiver between what I was sharing and his own life circumstances. Attempting to bring him back in, I asked, “What do you think the Wise Men brought to baby Jesus?” He had apparently missed the part about the gold, frankincense and myrrh. Aroused to consciousness, he blurted out, “They probably brought him bread.”

Moments of silence followed as I tried to incorporate this man’s response into the message and not embarrass him. Fumbling for words, I was finally able to say something along the lines of, “That’s an interesting thought. The Wise Men brought treasures for a King that would later undoubtedly help finance the family’s flight from the murderous Herod. Perhaps one of them also thought of an immediate and practical need of something to eat”. I thanked him for his perspective. I realized this man’s world was often one of cold and hunger. I thought in that very moment of the scripture in which Jesus said of himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20, ESV).

In a Christmas hymn, C. Alexander pinned the words, “His cradle was a stall: With the poor, and mean, and lowly; Lived on earth, our savior holy.”  Poor, mean, and lowly seemed to describe the world my mountain friend lived in. What an amazing insight this man provided! Jesus meets us right where we are. He comes into our personal world to bring us hope and salvation. My brother, gripped by poverty and lacking an adequate home, thought that ‘bread’ would be a really good gift.

That day my sermon about the Wise Men had taken a different route than had I intended. The message became more of a conversation than a monologue. We talked about Jesus, the Son of God, being born in a stable, not a palace. We shared how he took on the life of a poor man and lived in this troubled world. He was called Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. We reasoned how He could understand the life of people like us who gathered in this little church. I asked the congregation what gifts we could give to the King of Glory. We decided we should give Him the best we have to offer. Some could give a little money to support the struggling church. In the name Jesus, others could give ‘bread’ to someone who was hungry. We decided all of us could share the message of hope because Jesus came to be with us in our world that first Christmas.

Like the Wise Men of old, we returned home that day “a different way” (Matthew 2:12).

~ Brother Roy

The Stable

the stableA stable is normally a dirty place. Animal droppings, potentially disease-carrying mice, dust, dirt, and germs associated with a stable make it less than sanitary. Yet, it was such a place where the Heavenly Father cradled His only begotten Son in a manger. The One to be called the Mighty God was born in a stable. Scripture says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The birthplace of the Savior was a lowly manger. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn(Luke 2:7).

A comforting thought came to me this Christmas season. Because of my sin, my heart was a dirty place. It was not a fit place for God’s son. But, then I thought if God chose a stable for His son’s point of entry into this world, perhaps my heart also might a place that could welcome Him. I wondered, “Is it not possible that the presence of Jesus made the stable a clean and acceptable place?” Yes! He can “make the foulest clean”. Because of this truth, I believe His presence can make even my sin-soiled heart clean. Joy to the world, the Lord is come! 

A Christmas Prayer: Lord may my heart be as clean as the stable where Jesus was born.

~ Brother Roy