S. LUKE x.30.
"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves."
The scene of the parable is a wild, lonely road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It is a road with an evil name for murder and robbery, and is called the red, or bloody way. The mishap of the traveller was common enough in our Lord's day, and is common enough now. But I would take the scene of this parable in a wider sense; I would ask you to look at it as the wayside of life. The road through this world is a dangerous way, leading through the wilderness, stained by many crimes, haunted by many robbers. Travelling along this highway of life, I see crowds of persons, of all sorts and conditions of men. And I see moreover that all of them bear scars upon them, as though they had been wounded, and many I see are lying by the wayside in sore distress. All have at some time or other fallen among thieves. There is a famous picture by the great French painter which illustrates this. It represents a number of different people journeying through the valley of this world. The way is rough and gloomy, and all bear signs of having known weariness and sorrow. The king is there in his royal robes, and wearing his crown; but his brow is furrowed with care, and he seems to ask, like our own King Henry --
"Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade
The poet is there crowned with laurel, but his eyes are sad, as though he felt how poor a thing is fame; how valueless the garland which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven. He looks with a yearning glance, as though searching for something not yet found. Even like the great poet Dante, who, when asked in exile by the monks, "My brother, what are you seeking?" answered, "I am seeking peace." The soldier is there, his sword hacked, and his armour marked by many a blow. But he seems "weary with the march of life," and looks sadly upon the glittering stars and crosses which adorn him, remembering how soon they will only serve to decorate his coffin. There, too, is the minister of state, who directed the fortunes of empires. "Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive." But his head is bowed with trouble, and he seems to look wistfully to the time when "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Among the crowd there are women; the widow with veiled head, and tearful eyes; the mother clasping her dead child; the poor slave, cowering beneath the lash of the taskmaster, and stretching out her chained hands for pity. There, too, are many sick folk. Blind men sit in darkness by the wayside; cripples drag their maimed bodies wearily along; beggars grovel in their sores and raggedness. And all these different people seem to turn their faces longingly to one place, where a bright light breaks over the dark valley, and where there stands One with outstretched arms, and loving smile. It is Jesus, the Good Samaritan, who is ready to help these travellers on the road of life; it is the Good Physician, who has medicine to heal their sickness; and who says to every suffering heart, king and beggar, desolate widow, weary warrior, childless mother, "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
My brothers, this life is a pilgrimage through the vale of tears, a journey along the robber-haunted road. Everywhere we see the traveller of the parable who has fallen among thieves. Some have fallen among Satan and his followers, thieves and murderers of souls. I see young men who have thus fallen. My brothers, where is the white robe of your Baptism, the shining armour of your Confirmation? Is that troubled face of yours the same over which a pure mother wept and prayed, and which she sanctified with holy kisses? Can you recall a time when you went through the world "wearing the white flower of a blameless life?" And now, your white robe is stripped off from you, your armour is broken and cast aside, there are ghastly wounds upon you. Your conscience is wounded, your good name is wounded, your purity is all stained and foul, you have trampled on the white snow of some innocent life. You have wandered out of the right way, and strayed into bad company, into the drunkard's haunt, or the gambler's den, or the house of shame. You have fallen among thieves, and they have stripped you, and wounded you, and left you half dead.
Young men, is not this too true of some of those who hear me now? What will you do? Will you lie there in the dangerous path, and die, die in your sins? No, look for help -- but where? The world cannot aid you. The world is selfish, the world is hard upon those who have fallen, the world will pass by on the other side. Money will not help you, it cannot purchase clothing for you, or procure medicine for your disease. Your clothing must be bought without money and without price. Turn to Jesus, the Good Samaritan, He alone has medicine to heal your sickness. Turn to Him in weeping, in praying, and He will give you wine, which maketh glad the heart of man, even the wine of pardon; and oil to make you a cheerful countenance, even the oil of comfort to your wounded spirit. He will clothe you once again, and make you in your right mind. O wounded wayfarer on the road of life, cry out to Jesus, the good Samaritan. Some have fallen among the thieves of bereavement and loss. As they lie there in their sorrow, they tell us how their money was lost in the bank, or their savings swallowed up in bad times of trade. There are poor widows lying there, who say to us, "We have buried our husband, the bread-winner, how can we feed and educate and clothe the children? How can we struggle on through a hard world?" To them I say -- Listen for the footsteps of Jesus, the Good Samaritan. The same love which comforted the widow of Nain will comfort you. The same Hands which wiped away her tears will dry your eyes. Only believe, and turn to the Good Samaritan. Some have been beaten in the battle of life, and are nearly heart-broken. I have tried so hard to get work -- they say, but there seems no room in the world for me, disappointment has been my meat and drink day and night. Ah! my brothers, have you not been trusting to the Priest and the Levite, rather than to the Good Samaritan? The world has passed you by, but Jesus will not. He will bind up your broken heart, and show you that there is room in God's world for all who will do their duty. But there is another lesson for us to learn. If Jesus does so much for us, we ought to help each other. "Go thou and do likewise." The common, popular idea of religion, is utter selfishness. We are taught that the great end and aim of religion is to get our soul saved, as cheaply as possible sometimes. Now this teaching is utterly wrong. It leads us to think only of ourselves, it makes us go to Church from a wrong motive -- that we may get good. True religion teaches us to be good Samaritans, to do all to the glory of God, to love Him with all our heart and strength, and our neighbour as ourself. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." The great lesson of the parable is this, that every man is our neighbour when he needs help, and we can give it. The Jews, as we know, had no dealings with the Samaritans, and our Lord's story showed how that middle wall of partition should be broken down. The Good Samaritan did not stay to question the fallen traveller about his religious views, or his political principles -- he saw him in trouble, and he helped him. May we all go and do likewise. We Christians are all too ready to build up a wall of separation between ourselves and our brethren. One of these walls is that of religious difference. We disagree about some point of doctrine or ritual, and allow the disagreement to embitter our feelings, and to shut out our sympathy. Politics form another wall of separation. We differ from a neighbour in our political views, and we refuse to recognise any good in him because he does not think as we do. There are some among the rich who look down with contempt upon the poor, as though poverty were the unpardonable sin. And there are endless prejudices of rank and class which shutout man from man. Against all these things the parable of the Good Samaritan is a protest and a warning.
It is the way of the world to leave a fallen man to his fate, but it is not Christ's way. It is the way of the world to speak very hardly of those who are in want and misery, for as nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure. But again, that is not Christ's way. He never breaks the bruised reed, or quenches the smoking flax. My brothers, let us learn to look on all men as our neighbours, let us stretch out a helping hand to those who have fallen among thieves, let us pour the wine and oil of sympathy, and kind words where we can, let us be gentle in our judgment of another's fault, since "blessed are the merciful."