The good Samaritan parable (Luke10: 30:35) is about loving your neighbor as yourself and helping those in need irrespective of different parameters that divide us.
So, who is your neighbor?
Let us go through this parable in a bit more detail.
Jesus told the parable of the Samaritan as a response to a question by a law expert. This conversation starts at Luke10:25-29 when the law expert wanted to test Jesus and asked him about how one could inherit the enteral life. Jesus knew the lawman’s intentions and made him answer his own question i.e., to love God and to love the neighbor. However, the lawman wanting to justify himself further asked Jesus to validate who a neighbor was. Jesus choice of the parable of good Samaritan was not only simple to understand but also gives an illustration of who a ‘neighbor ‘ is and what ‘loving’ a neighbor meant.
Generally, one would view this parable as an example to highlight the two contrasting characters; one with compassion and the other without compassion. The stranger in the parable was robbed, severely beaten, left to die and was in a desperate need of help. Both the Levite and the priest who passed by that road saw the injured person but walked away without showing any compassion. But the Samaritan man took pity on the injured man and stopped to help him. The Samaritan’s compassion was beyond anyone could ask for. He not only took care of the injured man’s immediate needs such as treating wounds and providing water and food but also made sure he rested well and taken care of by the innkeeper.
There is more to this parable. Jesus’s choice of the three characters (the Levite, the priest and the Samaritan) in this triadic parable was incredibly apt for that situation. The targeted audiences of this parable were Jews and showcasing a Samaritan as a good man would have been a hard pill to swallow. This is because Jews despise Samaritans to such an extent that they feel defiled even by the shadow of a Samaritan.
This hatred goes back to around 730 B.C. When northern Israel was captured by Assyria and the Israelites were exiled to Assyria, some Israelites managed to stay back. These Israelites married non-Israelites creating Samaritans. After Israelites returned from the exile, they treated the Samaritans as untouchables because they were not completely Jewish. Also, Jews and Samaritans disagree on the place of worship and the scripture they read. Jews worshipped on Mount Zion in Jerusalem and Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim (an encounter between Jesus the Samaritan woman in John 4:4-42). Jews read the Torah (all the books of the old testament) and Samaritans read only the first 5 books of the Torah.
This stigma was clearly displayed in Lawman’s response when Jesus asked him “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” . The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him(Luke 10:36-37). He chose his words carefully and said ‘the one who had mercy’ instead of simply saying ‘the Samaritan man’ .
Another interesting thing is Jesus’s choice of location for the parable – Jerusalem to Jericho. In those days, the Levites and the Priests were treated as a higher class, more righteous and the only privileged to perform the rituals at the temple. So it was possible for the audience of the parable to conclude that the Levite and the Priest presumed that the injured man was dead or was from an untouchable status and touching him would defile them that would in turn not allow them to perform the temple duties until they completed the purification rituals. However, in the parable, Jesus did not mention if the person injured was a Jew or a Samaritan or other. And the important point was that the stranger was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. This implies the priest and the Levite were coming back from the temple in Jerusalem after completing the religious duties and did not have any valid reason not to help the injured man. Whereas a person with a lower social status, the Samaritan showed mercy and proved to be a neighbor to the injured man.
HOW CAN WE APPLY THIS TODAY:
This parable is an excellent illustration of who a neighbor is and how to be a neighbor to the person in need. And the person in need could be a person we know or a stranger or an enemy or a community of people too. This parable emphasis is on having compassion and mercy on our fellow beings. Some examples of how one can be a good neighbor;
- Helping the destitute.
- Helping a person in physical need.
Church(es) coming together to help a needy community or church within or outside the country.
- People going above and beyond to help others when natural or any kind of disasters happen.
- It may not always be a material or monetary help, for example;
- being there for a person who just lost a loved one
- spending time with a person/people not taken care of by their own family
- Teaching gift and talents to others for the betterment of their life
- praying for a needy friend, colleague, enemy, relative and etc
- sharing the gospel with person who is lost and need help
Now, are you a good neighbor?