But a certain Samaritan …. had compassion on him (Luk_10:33)
No Help Came from Those He Expected It From
If ever a comforter was unexpected it was in the case of this poor wounded wayfarer. Half-dead though he was, he still had life enough to be surprised. Had the priest hurried to his help that would have been entirely natural. Had the Levite come to his assistance that was what anybody might have looked for. But a Samaritan was the last man in the world to succor a disabled Jew, yet here it was a Samaritan who did it. The Jews and Samaritans despised and distrusted one another. Between them, for long ages, had been religious and racial antipathy. And yet this man who showed such ready kindness was actually a Samaritan. It is a striking and suggestive instance of the unexpected comforters of life.
Paul Received Help from Barbarians on Malta
It is notable how often one discovers this in the biographies of Scripture. One thinks, for instance, of the earliest Christians. If there was one man they were afraid of it was Paul; his very name struck terror to their hearts. They never heard of his approach without dismay, for everywhere he made havoc of the church. And yet this man, whose coming made them tremble, and who lived to persecute and ravage, was to become their mightiest of champions. Similarly in Paul’s own life, when he was shipwrecked on the coast of Malta, one recalls that very charming touch that “the barbarous people shewed us not a little kindness.” Roman citizens were bound to help each other to the very extremities of empire: but here the comforters were the barbarians. Paul was finding what we all find, that comforters are often unexpected, that the folk who are kind to us in hours of shipwreck are the last folk in the world we should have thought of. He was like that traveler going down to Jericho who, to his own intense astonishment, was comforted and helped by a Samaritan.
Receiving Help from Unexpected Sources in Our Own Experience
Now what is true of the biographies of Scripture is also largely true of our own lives. There are few of my readers who have been without experience of the unexpected comforters of life. There are those to whom we look for comfort, and thank God, we generally get it. There is the mother of our childhood, or the father, or the wife or husband, or the friend. But, like the well of Hagar, or the burning bush, or the ladder of the sleeping patriarch, how often are our comforters and helpers the last folk in the world we should expect. Sometimes innocent and prattling children, sometimes people whom we hardly know, sometimes those we were jealous of in secret, of whom we never spoke except in bitterness—how they have helped us, poured oil into our wounds, perhaps put their hand into their pockets for us, as the Samaritan did for this sorely battered wayfarer. I recall a woman who came to church one evening hoping to get comfort from the pulpit. Well, she did not get it, for that night I was preaching upon sin. But a lady next to her in the pew spoke to her and was wonderfully tender, and that poor wanderer told me afterwards that peace and comfort flowed into her heart. There are unexpected wells in Hagar’s desert; there are unexpected comforters in life. They come to us when we never look for them, as the Lord did on the Emmaus road. All of us are like that Jewish traveler, for we all sometimes get oil and wine from the folk we never should have dreamed of.
Help from a Carpenter—One of long Ago So Different from Us
I venture to say that this unexpected ministry finds its crown in our blessed Lord and Savior. It is a strange thing that men should turn for comfort to One who was a Carpenter of Nazareth. A Carpenter! How can He comfort us, when the heart is heavy and the road is long? He was a child of a different race from ours: He lived some nineteen centuries ago. And the strange thing is that countless multitudes still turn to Him for comfort, and find Him the best Comforter of all. Priests disappoint us; Levites disappoint us. This good Samaritan never disappoints us. He comes just where we are (Luk_10:33), and pours oil and wine into our wounds. And He, too, was despised and rejected, and men were very contemptuous of Nazareth, for they said, Can any good come out of Nazareth ?
Help from Unexpected Sources Ought to Dispel Despair
This fact of life on which I have been dwelling ought always to help to keep us from despairing. How readily we say, when people disappoint us, “there is no eye to pity and no arm to save.” I think this wounded traveler said that when priest and Levite passed him by. He despaired; there was no help for him; there was no eye to pity and no arm to save. And just then the Samaritan appeared—the unlikeliest person in the world—and comfort was far nearer than he knew. Do I speak to any whose hearts are very sore in the bitterness of disappointment? To any who have hoped for help from certain people and, like this wounded traveler, never got it? My dear reader, courage! The oil and wine are nearer than you think, for, and very probably, they are going to come to you from someone of whom you would never dream.