The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.’ Luke 4:18-30 NIV
Like a re-working of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the drunk lay semi-conscious against the wall, getting soaked under a leaking gutter dripping dirty, cold, rain water. The night’s revellers walked on by, nobody cared to help. He was helpless, undeserving, marginalised.
The Good Samaritan is not the only time Jesus shows someone reaching out beyond normal boundaries, even to those considered enemies. Here, Elijah is the good neighbour, in Sidon of all places, home to the evil Jezebel (see 1Kings16:31). Jesus highlights how Elijah overlooks all those who might be considered deserving of his help in his own community, to bring succour in the very heart of enemy territory. Lots of nuances to this story, not least that it almost gets Jesus killed! One of them is the challenge for us to reach beyond our comfort zone to those who are not like us, do not strike us as being deserving of our help, who give us every reason to regard them with suspicion and even revulsion.
Like our poor drunk, still getting soaked under a dripping gutter. Until the Street Pastors arrive, moving him into the recovery position in a dry spot, putting a blanket over him, praying for him. And that’s when it happens: those revellers passing by, suddenly crowding round, wanting to help. An off-duty nurse, a trainee doctor, each offering expertise to this needy man, no longer marginalised but embraced. One small, neighbourly act of kindness, unlocks not just help to one afflicted individual, but the beginnings of a transformation of a whole community.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, and has anointed us, to be proclaimers by word and deed of good news for everyone, whoever they may be. Small kindnesses make big differences – how can I make a difference today?