Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 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’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Most of us are familiar with this parable.
Both Jewish and Samaritan religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the opposite group, and neither was to enter each other’s territories or even to speak to one another. During the New Testament period, although the tensions went unrecognized by Roman authorities, Josephus reports numerous violent confrontations between Jews and Samaritans throughout the first half of the first century. Wikipedia.com
For a little insight into the parable –
Luke 9:52-56 (NIV)
52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[a]?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Here’s what we do know about the story:
- The road between Jerusalem (2550 feet above sea level) and Jericho (850 feet below sea level) was going northeast, but it fell in altitude between 3300 and 3400 feet in a distance of only 16 or 17 miles. That’s a reasonably steep incline. If you hike, you know what I mean. Going down a steep path is almost as difficult as going up.
- The road wound its way between rocky outcroppings, creating easy locations for thieves to attack and making it especially treacherous. Most people traveled in groups for protection but you’ll note that all the characters in this story are traveling alone.
- There are six characters or character groups-
- A man traveling who we know nothing about – we don’t know his nationality whether he was a Jew or Gentile. Everything was stolen from him, including his clothes
- The thieves who stole his stuff and then nearly beat him to death
- The priest who probably didn’t want to become ceremonially “unclean” by touching a potentially dead body or at least a one with bodily fluids on it. But should have known what the law expressed about helping a person in need.
- A Levite, a teacher of the law and keeper of the temple, who should also have known clearly the requirements of the law to help
- A Samaritan – an outcast in this society who we will come back to
- The innkeeper, charged with caring for the man by the Samaritan
Remember that this parable was told in answer to two questions:
- What must I do to inherit eternal life?
- Who is my neighbor?
One clear fact that Jesus was trying to illustrate is that race and status are not important to God, but mercy is. We have all been told from childhood that the priest and the Levite were not good neighbors because they did nothing to help the injured man.
What are some facts that we can discern about the Samaritan? Foremost is that he had no business being in this story. Jews and Samaritans had a mutual hatred for each other. Neither would travel through the other’s country. So how is it that a Samaritan was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? I can only think of two possible conclusions: a) He was in a desperate hurry and didn’t have time to go around, as in it was an emergency. b) He was incognito and did not wish to be discovered. Either one would have given him sufficient reason to not stop and help. If there was an emergency and he took time to help, then he might risk the outcome of the emergency in order to show kindness to the injured man. If he wished to be unnoticed, he would have been discovered when he got to the inn. The innkeeper would have recognized his accent and attire. In either case, he was putting himself in potential danger in order to show mercy.
Not only did the Samaritan’s kindness cost him monetarily, he stayed with his patient personally the first night to make sure he was stable. And he intended to come back to check on the man in the near future. But maybe the most overlooked fact is that the Samaritan risked his own safety, possibly his own life, in order to extend the grace of God and show pity on the injured man.
So in answer to the two questions – Eternal life can’t be earned by good behavior, we are saved by grace. But the evidence of one who has been truly saved is a heart that is willing to risk bodily harm in order to show mercy because they understand the mercy they have been shown. Secondly, everyone is your neighbor ………… even a penniless stranger on the street.
My mug is up! In view of God’s mercy to us, let’s be merciful to others.