Black man helping injured white man

Compassionate? Or Complacent?


The Parable Of The Good Samaritan

This parable has long been one of my very favorites. I have come to the conclusion that there were (are) two general groups of people that Jesus had little patience with: 1) the religious, and 2) the legalistic.

“But he (religious leader) 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 was attacked by 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii 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?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:29-37 NIV

The Characters

To set the stage, let me identify the characters Jesus presents in this story. First, a man (more than likely of Jewish descent) had been beaten by robbers and lays nearly dead on the side of the “road” (actually a path about 8-10 feet wide). Then there is the first man who came down the mountainside – the religious man – who passed by on the other side of the road (other side? That’s only about 2-3 big steps away). A second man then cam down the mountainside and noticed the person laying beaten on the edge of the road. Because of his legalistic traditions and man-made rules, he could not allow himself to stop and offer aid to the wounded individual. Finally, there is the man from Samaria.

Why Did Jesus Choose To Include A Samaritan In The Story?

Samaria was a region positioned between Galilee to its north and Jerusalem to its south. To travel south from Galilee to Jerusalem, an individual would have to descend along the side of a steep mountain, where the “road” was only wide enough for two animals to pass in opposite directions. So it was very likely that a Jewish man might travel this way often.

A Samaritan was someone who was a product of one Jewish parent and one Gentile parent — a half-breed. This individual would have been detested by both groups. And for this reason, all of these half-bred men and women created a community in the region of Samaria. So the label “half-breed” and “Samaritan” became synonymous.

For the Samaritan to stop along the way down the mountainside, care for the injured man, put him on his donkey, and take him to the inn (combination of hotel, restaurant, entertainment venue, and social center) was radically unacceptable and hard to imagine in the time this parable was written. The parable tells us that the Samaritan man committed to pay the inn-keeper whatever it might end up costing for him to care for the injured man, and to allow him to stay in a room and have food until the Samaritan man returned.

Jesus Stepped On Toes

For those hearing Jesus speak this parable it must have been pretty unsettling. A Samaritan of all people. Why would Jesus choose to use a Samaritan to play this role in the story? To make a point! No other reason. Jesus wanted to Pharisees (religious leaders) and Sadducees (political leaders) to see how their rigid, man-made dogma was interfering with their ability to love and care for people in the very way their religion taught. In essence, Jesus was telling the, “the person you may hate the most is actually the one who most characterizes the heart of God towards his fellow man.”

Point taken.


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