The Good Samaritan (Public Domain)
Reading the Word
Luke 10:25–37 (ESV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Understanding and Applying the Word
We always try to justify ourselves. We go to great lengths to explain why we make the decisions that we do and why we are rarely, if ever, wrong. The lawyer who spoke to Jesus in this passage was no different. He knew the requirements of the law, but he wanted to justify himself by defining the word “neighbor” in narrow sense. So, when he asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ response was surprising.
In response to the lawyer’s question, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The shocking elements of the story are that the religious leaders failed to show compassion towards a man in need and a Samaritan man is the hero. Samaritans and Jews did not get along (cf. John 4:9). The Samaritans were half-Jew and half-Assyrian as a result of intermarriage after the Jewish exile at the hands of the Assyrians. The southern Jews, who had maintained their Jewish bloodlines, thought of them as second class. The lawyer who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” certainly did not think of the Samaritans as his neighbor.
Jesus’ parable taught the lawyer that we should love and show compassion towards all people, regardless of race, religion, social background, or anything else. We too must learn this lesson. Who is our neighbor? What group(s) of people do you find it hard to love? Jesus will not allow us to justify being unloving towards others. May God soften our hearts to love all people as he loves them.
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