Christianity, I've Been to the Mountaintop, Israel, Jericho, Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth, Levite, Luke, Martin Luther King Jr., MLK Jr., morality, Parable, Philosophy, preaching, Sermon, The Book of Luke, The Good Samaritan
“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.
One day a man came to Jesus; and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters in life. At points, he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew, and through this, throw him off base. Now his questions could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled his questions from mid-air, and placed them on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him.
And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy.
Jesus ended up saying that this was the good man because he had the capacity to project the ‘I’ into the ‘thou,’ and to be concerned about his brother. Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that one who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony. And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jericho to organize a ‘Jericho Road Improvement Association’. That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.
But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me: it’s possible that these men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road.
I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, ‘I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable.’ It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing… In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the ‘Bloody Pass.’ And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around.
And so the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
That’s the question before you tonight.”
Martin Luther King, preaching his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon on April 4th, 1968, the night before he was murdered.
The parable of the “Good Samaritan” is mentioned in only one gospel, Luke’s, the sole book of the Bible written by a Gentile.
- The next section of the Mountaintop sermon, where King applies the Samaritan’s lesson
- King’s stellar advice for conquering self-centeredness
- King outlines when dissent against government isn’t disloyalty