Summary: The parable of the good samaritan gives us more than a contrast between love and indifference. It gives us a contrast between two kinds of religion.
This morning, we continue our mini-series on the parables of Christ. Parables are stories intended to convey spiritual truth. They’re not historical; they’re not accounts of actual events; they are fictional narratives involving made-up characters. The situations they describe never really happened, and the people involved aren’t real people. That’s why the characters in parables aren’t named; they’re just identified by their occupations – a farmer, a merchant, a shepherd, a priest. But they could be real, and that’s the point. The characters in parables are instantly recognizable by everyone, regardless of time or culture, because they are based on a deep understanding of universal human nature.
Jesus knew people, better than anyone before or since. He is the most astute observer of the human condition, the most profound philosopher, who ever walked the face of the earth. And that’s why these deceptively simple little stories are so full of wisdom, so strikingly memorable, so true to life. Because they come from the Master himself; the one whose understanding of reality surpasses all of history’s greatest minds. Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato – each of them achieved, at best, a partial enlightenment. But Christ’s understanding is absolute and comprehensive. He understands what makes people tick. He understands how the world works. And he’s given us that knowledge in the form of parables. Let’s listen, then, to this story from the gospel of Luke, chapter ten, the parable of the Good Samaritan.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: "`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, `Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ’Look after him,’ he said, ’and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"