Bible Text: Luke 10:25–37
Lesson Focus: Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors without boundaries.
Big Question: I know my enemy, and I know my neighbor, so how can they be the same person?
Key Words: PRIEST, LEVITE, SAMARITAN, NEIGHBOR
• We are each called to love God and our neighbor.
• God’s love extends beyond religious differences and all human boundaries. We should not place limits on whom we call our “neighbor,” because God does not.
• When we truly love our neighbor, both our words and deeds will reflect our love. Jesus instructs the lawyer—and us—to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
• Loving our neighbor can put us at personal risk and may be costly.
• Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan probably shocked his audience, since Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other and were religious enemies.
A lawyer questions Jesus how he (the lawyer) can inherit eternal life. In response, Jesus asks him what is written in the law. Love God with all your heart and soul, and your neighbor as yourself, says the man, who then questions whom he should call his “neighbor.” Then Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan, a story unique to the Gospel of Luke. This parable tells of two Jewish holy men who each pass by a man left for dead on the road. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid the body. Yet the Samaritan, considered an enemy of the Jews, stops to care for the man without consideration for his own safety or personal expense. The point of the story is that we are each called to love God with our whole heart, to recognize all people as our neighbors, and to care for them out of love and mercy. Jesus instructs the lawyer—and us—to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
Since they served in the temple, the first two travelers on the road would have put themselves at risk of contamination if they had touched the body. Rules from the book of Leviticus prohibit a priest from coming into contact with a dead body, unless it is a close relative (Leviticus 21:1–2). The two travelers would have risked being unable to fulfill their service in the temple if contaminated. However, the third traveler, the Samaritan, was already considered unclean by the Jews.
This story undoubtedly shocked Jesus’ audience since Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other. In fact, earlier in Luke 9:52–53, Jesus attempted to enter a Samaritan village but was barred from doing so since he was headed to Jerusalem. One of the points of contention between the two groups was the fact that the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim in Samaria. It may have been taken as an affront to their religion that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem.
In the parable, not only does the Samaritan go out of his way to help the injured man and transport him to safety, but he also donates what would be equivalent to two days’ wages to provide care for him. The Samaritan promises to cover any additional costs for the injured man’s care.
Jesus uses this story to redirect our thinking. The question is not how to identify who is our neighbor—everyone is our neighbor. Instead, we need to reflect on how we will respond on a daily basis to the needs we see around us. It’s easy to come to the assistance of a person we like, or who is like us. But how easy would it be to assist a bleeding accident victim if it might put us at risk of contracting an illness transmitted through contact with blood or other body fluids? Is it safe to approach an injured, homeless person lying in the street? With that kind of thinking, we suddenly understand the dilemma of the priest and the Levite. We walk in their shoes. Yet that is the kind of risky love and mercy to which Jesus calls us. Being a neighbor requires more of us than “safe” contributions to Thanksgiving and Christmas food or gift drives. Being a neighbor is a full-time call.
This story offers the opportunity to discuss the human boundaries that divide us, be they social, religious, cultural, racial, or political. What does being a good neighbor mean to us today? How can we reflect God’s boundless love in a world divided by social class, war, and hatred?
Peer groups are central to the lives of young adolescents. They seek to fit in, not set themselves apart. Being a neighbor to a person outside their peer group may seem threatening because in showing love and mercy to that person, they risk becoming an outcast themselves. Help your students to know that as they struggle with the question of how to be neighborly, God loves them, too. Knowing that can help them during their times of confusion.
I know my enemy, and I know my neighbor, so how can they be the same person?
Relating this powerful story to today’s time is critical for a deeper understanding of its meaning. Youth have people that they perceive as their “enemies.” This perception may be based on bullying, rivalry in sports, dating, grades, or one of many other pressures and challenges they face in daily life. Since perception is reality, if they believe someone is an enemy, that’s the way it is. Helping them to understand that going out of their way to help someone they perceive as an enemy is what it is all about.
Anyone can help a friend. It takes the guidance and teachings of Jesus to feel love and compassion for an enemy. Bringing the story home by making it “up close and personal” will help youth to relate and respond in healthy and helpful ways. In this way, they can connect more readily with the story in an emotional way.
Welcome and Review
Help kids dive into the Key Words by asking for definitions and/or providing these definitions:
PRIEST: a person of a religious group who performs sacred duties and acts as a mediator between God and humans. Priests concerned themselves with following the laws of God.
LEVITE: similar to a priest, a religious leader who worked in the temple. All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests.
SAMARITAN: a person from Samaria. Jews disliked Samaritans and considered them foreigners and social outcasts.
NEIGHBOR: a person we are called to love. Anyone and everyone can be called our neighbor.
Choose one of the following options to introduce the lesson. Then lead students in the Opening Prayer.
Option 1: Game Option: Trust Leans
Have students pair up with one another. If you have an odd number, form one group of three. Tell the pairs to stand face-to-face with the toes of their shoes touching. Have the pairs hold hands and begin to lean backward, trying to balance each other’s weight. When they are fully leaning back, they will be supporting one another. If one student lets go, the other will fall. They have to trust each other to not let go, just like the injured man had to trust the Samaritan to take good care of him.
Debrief the game with these questions.
• What was it like trusting your partner? Did you fall? Why or why not?
• How would you feel if you had to do this activity with someone you really didn’t like or trust?
• How can we learn to trust and care for all people, whether we like them or not.
Pass out pencils and paper. Ask students to take one minute to write down names of all the people they’ve encountered during the day. Encourage them to think about how they have interacted with everyone on this list whether they are friends, enemies, family members, or strangers. After a minute has passed, teach the response to the group: “Help us to be a neighbor to all.” Then pray together.
LEADER: God, we confess our shortcomings in how we treat others.
GROUP: Help us to be a neighbor to all.
LEADER: You call us to see your face in the faces of everyone we meet.
GROUP: Help us be a neighbor to all.
LEADER: Give us the courage to reach out to our enemies and the people nobody cares about.
GROUP: Help us be a neighbor to all.
My Faith Story
Ask kids to respond to the Big Question: I know my enemy, and I know my neighbor, so how can they be the same person.
Then share a part of your own faith story using the suggestion below or another way to share about neighbors, enemies, and loving without boundaries.
Think of a time when someone offered unexpected aid to you in a time of need. Perhaps it was when you were a child in need of help, a student in college or seminary, or an adult in a tough situation. How did the person show kindness? What was at stake for you and for the one who helped you? Did the act of kindness have any long-term effect on you? How was the person a neighbor to you, in the way that Jesus talks about being a “neighbor” in the parable of the good Samaritan? What was your response to the act of kindness?
Open the Bible
Make sure each student has a Bible. Have students turn to the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37. Select four students to read the parts of a narrator, Jesus, the lawyer, and the Samaritan. Encourage the rest of the class to follow along in their Bibles. After the “reader’s theater” has ended, write “NEIGHBOR” on the board or on chart paper.
Ask the class to brainstorm a definition of this word. Affirm answers that remove any limitations or borders of who is a neighbor.
Ask students what they think about the lawyer who asked Jesus the questions.
• Why do you think the lawyer wanted to “justify himself” (Luke 10:29)?
• Put yourself in the lawyer’s place. After hearing this parable, why would it be challenging to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37)?
• What do you think Jesus is asking us to do by telling this story?
Find Jerusalem and Jericho on the map. Have students draw a line between the two locations and talk about how this is the path the man was traveling. Have them locate Judea and Samaria and point out that there is no clear border between the two lands on the map, so it’s not unusual that a Samaritan and Jew came across one another along the road.
Ask students to underline verses 27–28 of Luke 10 in their Bibles. These are the key verses for this story. Ask the students to read verse 27 aloud together. How can we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and still be able to love our neighbor, too? (When we love our neighbor, we love God at the same time.) Love here is not an emotional feeling that one manufactures; rather, it is the act of caring for your neighbor and valuing his or her life as much as you value your own. Jesus shows us that the heart of Scripture is the twofold love command and that our behavior is to be based on it.
Have students turn to Leviticus 19:18. Ask the class to read this passage aloud. Using their fingers to keep their place, ask students to turn to Luke 10:27. Point out that Jesus cited this law from the Old Testament and combined it with the notion that when we love our neighbor, we are loving God, too. How is Jesus breaking down prejudice with the story of the good Samaritan? Even prejudice cannot be a barrier to love of neighbor.
Open the Catechism
Write the initials C.S.I. vertically on a whiteboard or chart paper. Ask what that stands for. Students will probably reply, “Crime Scene Investigation,” the popular TV series. Tell them that today these initials stand for “Catechism Supplies Insight.” Write the words after each letter then reconstruct the scene of the story of the good Samaritan as though it were a crime scene investigation . . . gather the list of usual suspects and then ask the question: “Who could be accused of attempted homicide on the basis of this story and why would you say that?”
Student Book page 297: Invite students to turn to the Fifth Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism. Talk about the difference between sins of commission—committing a sin—and sins of omission—failing to care and help.
Student Book page 299: Invite students to read the first article of the Apostles’ Creed. Ask students how Luther’s description of God the Father reveals the ways God is our good Samaritan.
Host a quick quiz show to review what you’ve covered in the lesson so far. Project the PowerPoint® presentation where your contestants and other students can easily view the questions and answers.
Ask for three contestants to stand in the front of the room. Each contestant will need to come up with a distinctive sound to make when he or she wants to answer a question. Have each contestant practice the noise before the game begins.
The host will ask a multiple-choice question. The first contestant to make his or her noise gets to answer first. If the answer is correct, that person receives two points. If the answer is incorrect, the other two contestants have the opportunity to “ring in” with their noises. If either of those people answers the question correctly, he or she receives one point. Keep score on a piece of paper or chalkboard. The winner of the game is the person with the most points after all the questions have been asked. You may want to have a small prize for the winner.
1. Jesus told a parable commonly known as . . .
a. the good Samurai.
b. the good Sandwich.
c. the good Samaritan. (Correct)
d. the good Samson.
2. The neighbor in this story was . . .
a. the priest.
b. the Levite.
c. the Samaritan. (Correct)
d. the lawyer.
3. Samaritans were . . .
a. considered holy in the religious community.
b. notorious do-gooders.
c. excellent cooks.
d. outsiders and enemies of religious leaders. (Correct)
4. A parable is a story . . .
a. that illustrates a religious lesson. (Correct)
b. based on historical facts.
c. told only after supper.
d. that makes people sleepy.
5. The parable of the good Samaritan teaches us that our neighbor is . . .
a. someone who lives next door to us.
b. an enemy and outcast.
c. a person who believes in Jesus.
d. all of the above. (Correct)
6. After telling the parable to the lawyer, Jesus says . . .
a. go and sin no more.
b. go and sell all your possessions.
c. go and do likewise. (Correct)
d. go tell it on the mountain.
7. When we take care of sick people, it’s important to . . .
a. pray for them.
b. visit them.
c. fix them some comfort food.
d. all of the above. (Correct)
8. When we show God’s love to others, we should . . .
a. share it with all people.
b. make sure we only love other Christians.
c. be generous.
d. both A and C. (Correct)
Take a Break
Select one of the options below to explore in your small group. Then finish with the Best/Worst activity and prayer.
Option 1: Music Option: Lean On Me
Play the song “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau (from Life, Love, & Pain, Warner Bros., 1986).
Please preview this content to determine its appropriateness for your setting.
“Lean On Me” is a classic song about friendship and love that has been recorded by different artists since the 1960s. Just like the story of the good Samaritan, the song shares a timeless message of acceptance of one another and love without limits.
Once you listen to the song, ask these questions about the song and its connection to the lesson’s Bible text:
• Why is the story of the good Samaritan so important?
• In what situations do you have the opportunity to be a good Samaritan?
• When is it easiest to let someone lean on you? When is it more difficult?
Option 2: Field Trip Option: Safety Search
Plan a quick field trip in your church to look for first aid kits, AEDs, fire extinguishers, fire escape routes, extreme weather shelters, and other emergency-related places and things. Review what to do in case of an emergency in the church. If your church’s emergency plans could use more signage or visibility, plan a service project to help make this happen!
• What did you learn about how our church is prepared for emergencies?
• How could we help someone in our church who needed medical attention?
• How can a church create a safe place that is welcoming to neighbors?
Option 3: Science Option: Mix It Up
Before the lesson, assemble the supplies, read through the experiment, and do a trial run.
Prepare the following supplies:
A clear glass
Do a demonstration with oil, water, and dish soap to show that soap can bring opposing sides together—like Jesus does. Fill the glass a third full with water. Then add oil to fill another third of the glass. Stir the two together, and then watch while the two separate out. Explain that oil and water—like the Samaritans and the Jews—do not mix together. They don’t get along with each other. Add some dish soap to the mix and stir again. Notice that the liquids no longer separate.
Dish soap is like the love Jesus wants us to have for those we are separated from—our enemies, not just our friends. The soap brings the oil and water together, like Jesus’ love brings people together.
Best/Worst and Prayer
Go around the group and have each student share the best and worst thing from his or her week. Remind students to pay special attention to (for example) the person on their right, as they will be praying for that person in a moment. Alternate prayer partners from week to week.
Have your group get together with a prayer partner. Tell them to touch the soles of their shoes against the soles of a partner’s shoes and get ready to pray. Talk about how God is with us as we walk through life and encounter times when we can be a neighbor to others. Introduce the prayer and allow students time to pray for their prayer partners, either aloud or silently.
Dear God, we bring ourselves together now to learn more about your word. Be with us as we walk in your ways. Teach us how to be a neighbor to all, even when it’s really hard. Be with us as we pray for each other now. (Allow time for partners to pray aloud or silently for each other.) In your name we pray. Amen.
Pass out pencils and Student Sheets. Look at the front of the Student Sheet together. Pick a volunteer to read each bullet point aloud for the group. Talk about the points with students.
• What is the most surprising point on this list?
• Do you think it’s fair to believe that another person can make you “unclean?”
• What lesson did Jesus teach with this parable?
Turn to this week’s activity called “The Good Samaritan Word Scramble.” Let your kids pair up to work through the activity page together. After a few minutes, discuss the answers as a group.
Use the cartoon and questions on the Student Sheet to kick off a conversation.
• Along with the people living next door, who are your neighbors?
Expand on the idea of neighbors to include not just those in physical proximity to where we live. Talk about ways we can offer time, money, and prayer support for our neighbors who live all around the world.
• How have people been good neighbors to you?
Invite kids to share experiences in which people have acted as good neighbors to them.
• What is a boundary that separates you from loving and caring for a neighbor right now.
Talk about boundaries that separate us from neighbors and lead us to thinking about them as enemies. Those boundaries could be geographical distance, different beliefs, or aspects of physical appearance.
Student Book Connection
Student Book page 212: Read together “How to Care for the Sick.” In today’s lesson, we learn how the Samaritan cared for the injured man. Give students a few minutes to skim through these two pages. Ask them to think of a person they know who has recently been sick. This could include anything from a sibling with a cold to a parent with cancer. Ask students to share ways that they can care for these people.
Ask someone to read aloud point 2 on page 212. Emphasize the importance of faithful prayer for the sick or injured. On the Student Sheet, ask kids to jot down three ways they could care for the sick. Take time to pray for anyone the students name as being sick and needing healing.
Student Book page 195: Read together “How to Work for Peace and Justice on Behalf of People Who Are Poor and Oppressed.” Even though we don’t know if the man who fell into the hands of robbers was poor or oppressed, it is clear that he was in need of aid. Jesus calls us to help all people in need—because they are our neighbors. Emphasize points 2 and 4. These are great ways to be a neighbor to others in need.
Student Book page 39: Read together “The Three Most Rebellious Things Jesus Did.” Choose students to read each item aloud. Then invite all students to add a fourth point at the bottom of the page: The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). Even though it was just a story Jesus told, it certainly made many of the religious elite angry with him. After all, the hero of the story was a religious enemy, and the religious leaders in the story did not provide good examples of neighborly behavior. The telling of this parable would have been reason enough for Jesus to be jailed or killed. Ask the students how they could be rebellious like Jesus. What could they defend in God’s name that society might not approve of? Are there any leaders today who fit this description?
Kids this age have lots of questions about right and wrong, stories in the Bible, and faith and life. Provide time for them to ask questions. Remember, there isn’t always a right answer, but encouraging discussion is great! Questions help kids explore their faith. Help them explore on their path to confirmation.
After their questions, ask one or more of the following questions to connect your conversations with the Lesson Focus:
• Who in your life needs a neighbor?
• How can you see God in others this week? How will others be able to see God in you?
• Whom can you thank for being a neighbor to you?
Form a circle together and pass out a bandage to everyone. Invite kids to place their bandage somewhere so they can think of the injured man who was helped by the Samaritan. Ask someone to offer this prayer.
God of mercy and love, thank you for the people in our lives who stoop down to help us in our times of need. Help us to respond by caring for our neighbors, no matter who they are. Give us courage and strength to seek out those who are lost, lonely, broken, and outcast so we may speak a word of love to them. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Before students depart, offer the following blessing to each one, or ask small group leaders to give this blessing to each one in the group. Leaders trace the cross on each student’s forehead as they say the blessing.
May you be bold in sharing the love of God with your neighbor. In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.