The Good Samaritan

The following is known as the story of the Good Samaritan.  Luke 10:25-37 “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’  So he answered and said, ‘’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’’  And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’  Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’  And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”   We too are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Let us consider what this story is teaching.

A certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus.  A lawyer would be one versed in the Jewish law and possibly a scribe and a rabbi.  The question of how to inherit eternal life was likely a controversial issue of the day so he wanted to see what Jesus would say and possibly get Him in trouble with some of the other religious leaders.  But Jesus threw the question back to the lawyer who answered correctly.  Loving God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind is the greatest commandment of all.  And to love your neighbor as yourself is the next greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40).  Interestingly enough, neither Jesus nor the lawyer addressed here what it means to love God that much.  Jesus taught in John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”   My understanding of loving God with all of my heart, soul, strength and mind is to seek with my whole being to do what pleases Him in all things.

The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  But the lawyer likely didn’t want to feel obligated to love everyone, so he asked “And who is my neighbor?”  So Jesus tells a story.  A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Jericho is down by the Jordan River whereas Jerusalem is up in the mountains.  To travel from one place to the other required going through some lonesome mountains and hills where robbers might hide out and attack the travelers.  In the story, the thieves robbed the man, stripped him of his clothes, wounded him and left him half dead.  He was obviously greatly in need of help.

First to pass by was a priest.  This was one who was generally respected by the people since the priests served in the temple and were therefore considered holy and close to God.  The second to pass was a Levite.  Priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests.  Still, the tribe of Levi was separated to God and the Levites were servants to God.  Perhaps the Levite served also in the Temple.  Both of these men would be considered by most Jews as holy men of God.  But they saw the man who had been robbed and was wounded and naked and they chose not to get involved.  Maybe they were in a hurry.  Maybe they were afraid that somehow they might also be injured.  Maybe they thought it was going to be costly to help the man.  But it was obvious that neither the priest nor the Levite had much compassion or love for the injured man.

Then along comes a Samaritan.  Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were a mixed people and not pure Israelites.  While the Samaritans believed in God, the Jews found many faults with their beliefs and practices.  I am confident that Jesus intentionally chose to tell about a Samaritan to illustrate the principle that loving your neighbor is not about who you are but what is in your heart.  The Samaritan did not know the man, but he saw that the man was injured, naked, and obviously in need. He had compassion on him, went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  That all required time and effort by the Samaritan, but he acted out of love and compassion.  He even gave money to the innkeeper to take care of the man and offered to pay for all expenses. 

Jesus then asks “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”  The correct answer was “He who showed mercy on him.”  Notice that the Samaritan showed mercy and compassion.  Both are part of love.  Jesus said “Go and do likewise.”  John said in 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

My encouragement to you is to learn from the story of the Good Samaritan.  Love your neighbor as yourself.