If you had called a Jew, in the time of Jesus, a "Samaritan" it would have been the dirtiest insult you could have thought of. But if you were to call me a "Samaritan" today, it would be one of the highest compliments you could pay me! I should be flattered. You would mean that I was full of the milk of human kindness and bursting with practical zeal.
Who changed the meaning?
Jesus changed it.
He told a story. He tossed it off one day in the midst of his preaching. A simple story about a robber-infested road, a bleeding victim, a callous Levite, a despised Samaritan, a wondering innkeeper, and a receipted bill. Jesus told it - and picked the word "Samaritan" out of the gutter and washed it clean. He took it from the vocabulary of the brothel and made it adjectival of the saints. This same Jesus, who, at the end of his tired day, and in great stress of soul, came to a Samaritan village and said: "May I come in?"
[i]"And they did not receive him, Because his face was as though he were going to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:53).[/i]
They shut their doors in his face. My friends, here is a mystery! Why did they with such unanimity turn away our blessed Lord? Why? Because he was Jesus? No, not because of that.
"Oh," you say. "I know. Because he was a Jew!"
No, not even because of that. They were flattered more than they were embittered by that. They must have said to themselves, "Aren't we getting on now? The Jews want to stay with us!"
No, no. Not because he was a Jew.
The scriptures give it to us in the phrase: "They did not receive him, because his face was as though he were going to Jerusalem." Strange phrase! Did he carry his destination on his face? They knew where he was going. He was on his way to Zion. And they knew he was staying only a night. They were saying this, in effect: "We don't mind you being a Jew. We want to get rid of this old trouble between our peoples. Stay with us. Make your abode here. Worship on our holy mount! Be one with us and we'll have you. But if tomorrow morning you will arise and display a heart yearning for Zion - we don't want you. There is no room for you here."
All through his earthly life, and all through his ministry in this world since, Jesus Christ has come to men and women where they are; just where they are. But he will never stay where they are. He wants men and women to march with him. He has plans. He can change lives; he can change societies; he can change the world. He wants them to march with him. But so many of them won't march with him. They like him, but they don't like the things that he stands for. They would keep him at their level, and they will not travel where he goes. That is why I say that this experience with this Samaritan village was no unusual experience for our Lord. It has been his experience a million times since.
For instance, he comes to a man living for money, and he says, "May I come in?" And the man says, "Welcome, Lord! If you are content with things at my level..." Then the luminous eyes of Jesus search his soul, and the man sees what Jesus will do with him and his money. He will give him a sense of stewardship, of tithing, of giving with large generosity. The man fears - and shuts the door in his face. He will not receive him because "his face is as though he would go to Jerusalem."
Or Jesus comes to some younger man who is out for a good time, and arrests him with these words, "Any room for me?" The young man has heard about Jesus, strange things, that Jesus is the one that would have us serving others, that he demands the maximum for all who take his commission, that he will wander into every dirty recess of one's heart and clean it out and examine every shabby motive and make it pure. The young man is fearful. The price is too high. He shuts the door in his face. He will not receive him because "his face is as though he would go to Jerusalem."
I have never found it hard to get a cheer for Jesus in the open air, or, at least, a warm sense of approval. People will stand around, and when you say a good word for Jesus Christ they will cheer. Oh, my friends, it isn't a cheer we want for Jesus; it wasn't a cheer he asked for himself. He said: "If anyman would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
It isn't a cheer - it's discipleship. It isn't admiration - it's consecration. Will you march with him on to Jerusalem? Will you go on with him to the cross?
- W.E. Sangster
Paul Frederick West