Consider that we who will come to hear the word of God on Sunday are both in the ditch and lifting up the one in need. What does that give the preacher to say? Here are some thoughts from commentaries in Homily Service from 2007. Wise words retain their help for preachers who want to dig deeply into these rich stories.
I'd be surprised if the Samaritan were the next traveler to pass by. There may have been a caravan of hard-working traders, just starting on their voyage home to the Far East. . . When they saw the man in the ditch, they shook their heads, wondering who would have been so unwise as to travel this road alone: he only got what he deserved for being so foolish.
There could have been a group who laughed at him, and said, if he would only stay sober, he wouldn't find himself lying in ditches. . . Or another who stopped and mumbled that helping this man would just encourage him to depend on others. There are always people getting themselves into some kind of predicament and expecting someone else to get them out. He just needs to crawl out of that ditch and help himself. . . .
Most of us haven't been beaten up and left for dead. Our ditch might be defined in broader terms: deep business troubles, lost marriages, nose-diving children; drugs, alcohol, gambling; anger, hatred. . .
Finally, a traveler stopped. Did the beaten man recognize the Samaritan by the hem of his garment? Did the man give up hope at that recognition, or fleetingly think it would be better to be left to die? What could the man have thought as this hated Samaritan cared for him with oils and bandages, helped him onto his animals, found an inn? Who in this world would you least expect to stop and help you? That's who the Samaritan was to this man. . . .
Can we remember, or imagine, what it is like to be in a ditch? Who was it who soothed our wounds and provided a place of healing? Then we can begin to understand Jesus' description of our neighbors. Can we imagine, when we are the Good Samaritans, what it feels like for the one in the ditch to be so in need of help—how difficult it can be to ask for help? Then we can understand why charity is not always graciously accepted. – Hilda A. Parks
How difficult it is to ask for help. Maybe we can imagine that as the beaten one by the side of the road, we do not readily accept the gifts of healing and nurture we receive from the Good Samaritan who came to us as God-with-us full of mercy and compassion.
Some Christians may feel uneasy about Deuteronomy's straightforward assertion that the law is not too difficult to obey, and that God delights to bless the people who are obedient. They may wonder whether these affirmations conflict with Paul's claim that the law is unable to give life (e.g., Galatians 3:21) and that it is not possible for any person to so fully obey the law so as to gain favor with God.
The preacher will want to make it clear that Deuteronomy is not concerned with the question of gaining salvation, but of how to live within the salvation God has already given. Deuteronomy does not state that Israel will earn covenant relationship with God by obedience to the law. Instead, Israel receives the covenant as a gift. The law is given as a further gift to guide Israel in faithful living with God. – Aaron Couch
The theme of this sermon might well be words from Paul: “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the dominion of the beloved Son of God, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (vss. 13-14)
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Hilda A. Parks, ordained in the United Methodist Church, holds a PhD in Liturgical Studies from Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.
Homily Service 40, no. 8 (2007): 21-30.