Summary: Sometimes the most 'Christian' person is one who does not follow Jesus, but cares for his fellow man
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. Teacher, he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the law? What do you read there? He answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. And he said to him, You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live. But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor? Jesus replied, A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend. Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, The one who showed him mercy. Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise. (Luke 10:25-37)
Today’s Gospel of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best known of all Jesus parables. There probably isn’t anyone who ever attended Sunday School who can’t repeat this parable.
On the surface, this parable seems to address Jesus teachings that we are our brother’s keeper; we are to take care of others whenever they need help.
But there is much more in this little story than appears at first glance.
Let’s look at each of the characters:
The lawyer asks Jesus how he could have eternal life. Being a lawyer, he wanted a concrete list of dos that would guarantee he gets to Heaven. Jesus asks what the Jewish law says. Being a lawyer and a learned man, he recites the law:
• love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind;
• love your neighbor as yourself.
This fundamental law can be recited by most Christians and exists in similar form in almost all religions. It is the primary requirement for our relationship with God.
But, is being able to recite the law enough to get to Heaven?
The thieves saw an easy mark in the man on the road. They beat him, stripped him of his belongings and left him for dead. Maybe they were loving their neighbor as themselves, but I don’t think that is exactly what the law meant. Do you?
Along came a priest, someone who should be have been a living example of the law. Did he help the poor man? NO!! he crossed the road so he would not have to see him. Whether he didn’t want to get his hands dirty or perceived he had something more important to do, he crossed to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t have to see him.
Enter the Levite, a member of one of the original tribes of Israel, the tribe who was responsible for religious functions. Now, wouldn’t you think that he would come to the aid of the man? After all, a Levites primary purpose in the community was to judge actions against the Jewish law and remind people of their obligations to God.
So, did he? NO he crossed to the other side of the road so he would not have to deal with him.
(Like being out of sight was out of mind and therefore he had no responsibility for his neighbor).
The innkeeper saw the injured man, not as his neighbor, but as a source of revenue. Had the man appeared at this door without the Samaritan, he would have been turned away. The innkeeper had better things to do than care for a battered, bloody man. And this poor mangled man lying around the inn would give his inn a bad name! This kind of trouble he did not need.
Then a Samaritan came along. Samaritans were the lowliest of all people to the Jews they evolved from the intermarriage of the Jews with idol worshippers when they were exiled in the north. They were a reminder the Jews would prefer not to remember. They were so hated by the Jews that most would not even say their name.