Vol. 9 No. 11 – July 2012
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
In Luke 10:25, we read of a certain lawyer who tempted, or tested, Jesus with a question. The question was, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking the lawyer to tell Him what was written in the law. This question should have been easy to answer by this lawyer. Herbert Lockyer, in his book “All the Parables of the Bible,” says, “By profession a ‘lawyer’ was one occupied with the Mosaic Law. It was his official business to interpret the law and guide people on how to relate their life to it.” The lawyers, or scribes, were typically well versed in the law. The lawyer answered Jesus’ question by quoting from the law which said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus told the man that he had answered correctly. The lawyer, however, seeking to justify himself, asked, “and who is my neighbor?” It seems that the Jews had a very limited picture regarding who their neighbor was. They would exclude people such as the Samaritans and would then not feel compelled to love and to do good toward them. Jesus answered the second question by relating the story of the good Samaritan which is found in Luke 10:30-37.
Jesus presented the case of a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of around 20 miles. The road that connected these two cities is said to have been very dangerous, being infested with thieves, and there were many places for them to hide along the road. While on the journey, the traveler was beaten, robbed, and left half-dead by the thieves.
Priest and Levite
The first man to pass by was a priest. He saw the wounded man but would not stop and help. Verse 31 says that he passed by on the other side. The second man to pass by was a Levite. The Levite was also unwilling to stop and help the wounded man. These two men might have reasoned that they did not have enough time to stop, or perhaps they felt that it was a dangerous situation as the thieves could still be nearby. Nevertheless, they showed a lack of compassion for this injured man.
The third man to come along was a Samaritan. Samaritans were looked down on by the Jews. In John 4:9, the woman at the well indicated how things were as she asked Jesus, “…How is it that thou, being a Jew, asked drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” Most likely, the injured man was a Jew.
Verses 34-36 point out that the Samaritan bound up the man’s wounds and poured oil and wine on them. (Oil and wine were commonly used for medicinal purposes at this time.) Next, he took the man to an inn and cared for him. The next day the Samaritan left, but he left provisions for the injured man to be taken care of further. It might be noted that the Samaritan’s help consisted not only of the use of his money but of the donation of his time.
Jesus then asked the lawyer which man of the three was a neighbor to the injured man. The lawyer had to reply that it was the one who showed mercy, i.e., the Samaritan. The answer of Jesus shows us that the Jews were wrong in limiting their love and good deeds only to their fellow Jews. Whoever was needy was their neighbor, and they should be willing to help the person.
There are many passages which teach us the importance of helping others. Galatians 6:10 points out an important responsibility that the individual Christian has. It says, “as we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men….” Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 7:12 has what some call the “golden rule.” It says, “therefore all things, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them . . . .” The actions of the Samaritan show such an attitude, and this should be our attitude today. Christianity is a daily religion, and we ought to be willing to have sympathy, to show love, and to serve others.