Good Samaritan (Luk 10)
Out of the crowds that followed Jesus , a lawyer stepped forth one day with a
question to test the new rabbi: "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal
life?" (Luk 10:25). Was this a sincere question or another attempt to catch him
at his words? Whichever it was, Jesus treated the question and the questioner
respectfully. His first answer, however, was not really an answer at all, but
rather another question, which turned the testing back upon the lawyer. It would
lead him, if he had an open mind, to a searching self-examination of belief and
practice: "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" (Luk 10:26).
It was an excellent answer, showing an insight into the law
born of deep and prayerful study. He had thus linked together two commandments
from separate parts of the Torah (Deu 6:5; Lev 19:18). On a later occasion Jesus
himself did the very same thing in response to the query as to what was the
greatest commandment (Mat 22:39).
"And he answering said, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy
neighbour as thyself' " (Luk 10:27).
"And Jesus said unto him, 'Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt
live' " (Luk 10:28).
There is a great gulf between reason and response, between
theory and practice, between hearing and doing. To so answer was relatively
easy; to do was another matter altogether. And so it is for all of us: Love as a
Biblical concept, and the mystical expression of love for God, are often on the
lips of His children. But the practical expression of that love is a difficult
The lawyer now sought "to justify himself" (Luk 10:29): "Who
is my neighbour?" Evidently he thought the first part of the great commandment
was no problem for him; after all, what right-thinking, religious person did not
love God with all his being? But the penetrating gaze of this rabbi and the
finality of his admonition -- "This DO!" -- left even this confident lawyer a
trifle uneasy at his position in regard to the second half. In so asking he
betrayed the weakness of those who concentrated upon the meticulous observance
of the law; he was anxious to know the exact limits of his obligations. Who were
those who in his particular situation had claims upon him? Was it not possible
that he was already obeying the law -- even in this matter?
As he so often did, Jesus answered a question with a parable
that at first glance was not an answer at all. It was a story, however, which
would be very familiar to his listeners.
A certain man was descending the dreaded "Way of Blood" that
led from Jerusalem to Jericho. Though it was a dangerous journey -- for the
twists and turns of the rocky path offered numerous places for brigands to hide
-- he traveled alone. And, sure enough, he fell among cruel thieves and was left
It so happened that a priest came down by that way, and passed
by on "the other side"; likewise, a Levite. These paragons of sacrifice and
ritual would not be detoured from the fulfillment of their duties; with averted
eyes they hastened on. One can imagine the many possible ways by which they
would have sought to justify themselves in such neglect. Perhaps they were even
so close together that each was aware of the other's failure as well as his own.
The priest might have thought: 'My work is most important; I
will let this lesser Levite behind me tend to this rather unpleasant business.'
And the Levite might well have said to himself: 'The priest did not bother; and
his calling to keep the Law is higher than mine; why should I?' None of us are
such strangers to the act of self-justification that these excuses or a dozen
like them would seem totally unreasonable. No doubt we can all recall "reasons"
for failing to do our duty that were just as flimsy when later held up to the
clear light of Scripture.
And looking upon him, they both passed by on the other side!
The lesson is obvious: this man was a "stranger" to them; why should they be
inconvenienced by someone who might be a grievous sinner? Indeed, perhaps they
feared defilement! 'We might be partakers of this man's sins.' In Christ's
analogy they plainly loved self more than they loved any "neighbor". This was a
fault no less to be rebuked simply because it was induced by a rigid doctrinal
view of "holiness". Their special Bible interpretations added to their
legalistic duties ("Touch not, handle not the unclean thing"), but those same
interpretations sadly detracted from what they should have readily recognized as
practical duties. The lesson must not be lost on us. (A few years ago an
ecclesia planned a special lecture, with considerable advertising. A large
number of visitors attended, but of them all only one finally accepted the Truth
and was baptized. And she did not attend because of any media advertising, but
solely because -- on the very day of the lecture -- a brother played the part of
"Good Samaritan" to a motorist in distress.)
But a certain Samaritan -- one of the race despised by the
"elite" Pharisaic Jews -- happened also to come that way. Having compassion upon
the fallen Jew, whom he might have left to his fate with more justification than
did the other two, he went to him. Binding up his wounds, setting him on his own
beast, he brought him safely to the inn. In so doing, the Samaritan brought upon
himself grave personal danger -- the thieves might have still been around.
Furthermore, it was a messy and troublesome job to bind up the man's wounds. And
also, he experienced a real material loss; two pence was not a small sum (by Mat
20:2 it would represent two days' wages).
Christ himself is to be seen in the parable. Surely it is
worth noting that his enemies at least once denounced him as a Samaritan (Joh
8:48), perhaps in reference to the peculiar circumstances of the marriage of
Joseph and Mary, or perhaps because of his fearless association with that hated
nation (Joh 4:40). Christ is our neighbor, coming near to us in our fallen
condition, showing mercy to those who do not deserve it. We have all descended
the road of blood toward the city of the curse (Jos 6:26); we have all been
wounded by sin and we have all lain near death. At great personal risk and
inconvenience and loss, even at the expense of legal defilement, Christ has
stopped, and stooped, to help us. He has reinforced that lesson: "Go, and do
The Samaritan in the parable is pictured as telling the
innkeeper, into whose hands he committed the wounded man: "Whatsoever you spend
in his care, even if it be more than I have given you, I will repay you" (Luk
10:35). Those who follow his example, even at risk to themselves, who go the
extra mile to bear with and help a fallen brother, to bind up wounds in the
ecclesia, pouring in the oil of kindness and love... those who do such things
will never lose anything. There is no danger in such a policy of self-sacrifice.
"I will repay thee", are the words of Christ.
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as
God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph
"Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps"
And now the lawyer's question is put to him: "Which of these
three was neighbour to the man who fell among thieves?" The answer was
inescapable, but even then the fastidious Jew could not bring himself to name
the man by race. So instead: "He that shewed mercy on him." A neighbor is one
who shows mercy, who offers help and love to those who do not deserve it. Even
the most blatant self-interest leads us to love those who love us; there is no
special sacrifice in this. True love that emulates the Master must stretch out
to include those who may be separated from us. Ceremonial purity may pass by on
the other side, holding its garments aloof, that it be not touched by the fallen
condition of others. But true love looks upon misfortune, stops to help, binds
up wounds, pouring in wine and oil, and walks step by step with those who have
fallen, until they all come safely to the inn.
Before we go too far afield to find the neighbors we should
love, let us look around us, at a divided, problem-riddled Christadelphia. Let
us consider the brethren who hold the Truth just as we do, but who need a
helping hand to be bound again to the brotherhood. Let us consider our attitudes
toward those "other groups" who may be so close to us in beliefs but whom we put
so far away in practice; are they our "Samaritans"?
"The Samaritans were neighbours in the most literal sense, but as for loving
them, that seemed impossible. Christ loved them and caused his disciples to
marvel at the manner in which he spake to the woman at Jacob's well and
afterwards to others who came out to hear him. The Jews as a whole almost made
it a part of their religion to hate the Samaritans, and if they were able to
analyze their own feelings they would probably have to admit that the hatred was
directly traceable to the fact of their being such near neighbours. This is a
common weakness of poor human nature. Those who are near but not quite with us
arouse more bitterness of feelings than complete strangers. Then when such an
evil feeling has been once started, the deceitful heart begins to build up
fancies to justify the hatred, thus further traducing those who have already
been wronged" (GL 66).