It’s one of the most often told stories in the Bible – the parable of the Good Samaritan. There are some details that make this story very interesting:
– The hero of the story is a Samaritan, one of the hated half-breeds of the time. Told in a Jewish context, Jesus could not have picked a more unlikely protagonist than this one.
– The priest and the Levite, two religious individuals, passed by the man laying in the road. These religious people left the man for dead. Perhaps they did so because they were committed to ceremonial laws of cleanliness. The punch comes in that we often miss the forest for the trees – we can be so religiously committed that we fail to do the good right in front of us.
Typically the teaching on this passage ends in the way Jesus pointed the lawyer in Luke 10:37: “You go and do likewise.”
Go, and be like the Samaritan. Go the extra mile. Don’t be so caught up in your agenda that you forget about the people in front of you. Anyone in need is your neighbor.
Those are all fine points, but I wonder how to be like the Good Samaritan. Part of becoming like the Samaritan is by will. I choose to not be so preoccupied with my agenda that I miss the need in front of me. I open my eyes and see my neighbors all around me.
That’s all well and good, until you read back up in the passage:
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”27 He answered, “‘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.’”28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
The issue of love is a tricky one. I can MAKE myself help the man in the ditch, but can I MAKE myself love him? I don’t think so. You don’t manufacture love. But perhaps the answer to this question is in the parable, too.
I might be seeking to become like the Samaritan, but I don’t start off that way.
I’m not the Samaritan. Neither am I the priest. Nor am I the Levite.
I’m the man in the ditch. Beaten. Bloodied. Disregarded. And helpless. But at just the right time, when I am powerless, Someone passes by on the road and loves me. That person, despite the fact that I’ve never done anything to earn His compassion, bends low on the road, binds up my wounds, and pays the considerable cost for my care. In light of the great kindness and grace shown to me, I now actually begin to feel real love for others.
Jesus is first the Samaritan. I’m the guy half-dead in the middle of the road.