We often repeat the title without even thinking about it: The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke, chapter 10). Today the title “Samaritan” has become synonymous for “compassionate person”. There are even hospitals named after this figure that appears in the parable. But the Samaritans were actually hated by the Jews in Jesus’ time.
Jesus used this parable to respond to questions presented by an expert in the law. This person represented the spirit that eventually crucified Christ.
The expert was trying to trip up Jesus. The lawyer first asked Jesus how one inherits eternal life. Jesus turned the tables and responded with the question, “What does the law say?” The law expert’s answer:
“‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Pretty simple, right? But, the legal expert, wanting to justify himself, goes on to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” And there Jesus responds masterfully with his parable.
Let’s try a modern day rendition…
There was an indigent man that was mugged in a city street. The street thugs stripped him and beat him nearly to death. A priest/pastor/minister saw the beaten man and hurried to the other side of the street. A Christian youth group leader, seeing the half-dead man, also scurried to the other side of the road. Along came a Muslim. The Muslim took pity on the man and helped him. He placed the beaten man into his car, took him to the local Good Samaritan Hospital and waited with him until the doctor came. At the desk, the secretary asked for the ER visit payment. The Muslim paid. When the victim was moved to a hospital room the Muslim stayed by his side all through the night. Later the Muslim provided his name and address for all medical bills to be sent to his home.
Who was the victim’s neighbor? The one that had mercy on him.
Jesus says, “Go and do likewise”.
The teachings of Christ are revolutionary. He is the Almighty Healer and Savior, but his lessons were never sugar coated. They are designed to make us think outside of our narrow perspective. Think about it. I might know a lot about the Bible and pray a lot, but do acts of love and mercy overflow out of my heart?
I know in many ways my selfishness limits my usefulness to God. I know in many ways my heart remains hardened to Him and to others. Thankfully I also know that His love and mercy can conquer and heal my fears. I pray to the Lord to give me a merciful heart.
Photo credit: M.O. Stevens; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Legacy_Good_Samaritan_Hospital_-_Portland,_Oregon.JPG