The Good Samaritan
There is no doubt that
sometimes some of us are very self-centred, and concerned only with our own
lives. Others are content to retire into a comfortable corner, shut their
eyes to the miseries of others and become so absorbed in their own personal
affairs that they even forget that they have any neighbours, let alone
consider that they have a duty to them. Then it seems that 'look after
yourself, no-one else will' is the attitude of the majority.
Jesus, on the other hand,
set us a very different example. He was also an excellent teacher, and
particularly fond of using parables to give added emphasis to his teaching.
The word 'parable' is derived from the Greek 'parabole', which literally
means 'putting things side by side', and this is what Jesus did. Parables
can be regarded as a form of teaching which presents the listener with
interesting illustrations from which can be drawn moral and religious
truths. A parable is a somewhat protracted simile or short descriptive story
with a hidden meaning. It was usually designed to teach a single truth or
answer a question. Many of Jesus' parables were not used to illustrate
general principles but rather they embodied messages which perhaps could not
be conveyed in any other way. They were certainly an effective means of
communication and through them the people could learn the gospel message.
Their function was often to jolt them into seeing things in a new way. In
addition, they encouraged the hearers, particularly the inquisitive and
those who looked earnestly, to seek for the meaning and thus affected the
person's spiritual as well as his practical development.
Even those unfamiliar with
the Bible know the term 'the Good Samaritan', for it has become proverbial
for someone who is always ready to lend a helping hand, particularly to
those in trouble. This parable, as told by Jesus and recorded in Luke
chapter 10, and the circumstances that led Jesus to use the story as an
illustration, were the result of a simple and yet profound question put to
him by one who is described as an expert in the law. ‘Master', he asked,
'what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'' Luke 10:25 Anyone who is
disillusioned with this life, who believes that the world's problems are
insoluble by man and who accepts that there is a future life, must be
anxious to know the answer to this question.
Luke says that the lawyer
was tempting or testing Jesus, but whether his motives were good or bad is
seen by the context. Many of the questions put to Jesus were asked with a
view to humiliating him, but all were always suitably answered. However, in
this case, the care Jesus took in answering the lawyer indicates the
importance of the question.
Jesus replied ' What is
written in the law?' Luke 10:26. The man answered confidently:
'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. Jesus replied,
'Thou hast answered right: this do and thou shall live.' Luke 10:27-28
It can be seen immediately
that these two commands are all-embracing. Interestingly, on another
occasion (Matt 22:36-40) when Jesus was asked what the first commandment
was, he gave a similar reply to the one given by the lawyer, together with
the second commandment to love your neighbour. These two encompass all
Christ's teaching and if kept will bring to the doer the promised reward of
eternal life — a place in God's Kingdom which is to be established here on
earth when Jesus returns. But at this point the lawyer betrayed the weakness
of those who concentrate on a meticulous observance of the law. He was
anxious to know the exact limits of his obligations, for the meaning of
'neighbour' for the Jews was restricted to fellow Jews, ruling out non-Jews
or Gentiles as undeserving of inclusion in the term.
THE STORY OF
The record states that he
wanted to justify himself; and so he asked Jesus 'And who is my neighbour?'
Luke 10:29. Surprisingly enough, the parable does not introduce a next-door
neighbour or a fellow countryman, but a total stranger. Jesus told a story
of a man who went down the desolate road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was
set about by thieves who stripped him of his clothes, robbed him, wounded
him and then left him bleeding and half-dead on the roadside Luke 10:30.
This was not an unusual experience in those days. Now here was a wonderful
opportunity for someone to demonstrate his obedience to the first
commandment and his love for God by keeping the second commandment, and thus
finding the eternal life that the lawyer sought.
The first to arrive on the
scene after the incident was a priest, and he saw the man lying there. But
his important service in the house of God apparently made it quite
impossible for him to defile himself and he 'passed by on the other side' —
another expression in use today.
Next came a Levite. He
stood and looked down on the wounded man, and then he crossed to the other
side as well. No doubt he reasoned that the Pharisee had ignored the man,
and anyway the robbers must still be in the vicinity and he would be in
But then a Samaritan came
down the road. Now the Samaritans were a people originally transported by
the King of Assyria to the northern Kingdom of Israel to replace the exiled
native population after the fall of Samaria in BC 722. Therefore this group
and its descendants were hated by the Jews and there was continual animosity
between them. When the Samaritan saw the wounded traveller, he had pity on
him and went and bandaged up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, the only
things available to soothe and sterilise. Then he put him on his own donkey
and brought him to an inn, where they took care of him. Not only did the
Samaritan do this but he provided for his board and lodging, and added as he
'Take care of him, and
whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.'
Then Jesus made the lawyer
answer his own question. 'Which of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour
unto him that fell among the thieves?' Luke 10:36 There could be only one
answer, and yet the expert in the law could not bring himself to acknowledge
the good work of the hated Samaritan. 'The one who had mercy on him' he
said. Then Jesus told him 'Go and do likewise'. Luke 10:37
The parable had shown the
lawyer that a Samaritan could be, and must be, included as a neighbour. The
Samaritan had performed a neighbourly act when two Jews had failed in their
responsibility; and now this man was told to follow the Samaritan's example.
Feed the hungry, visit those that are unwell, help the poor and, as Paul
said, Vis we have opportunity let us do good unto all men'. Gal 6:10
The lesson is clear. Good
deeds are absolutely necessary if we wish to obtain eternal life: we must
love our neighbour as ourselves. However, we must not forget that Jesus said
that we must keep the first as well as the second commandment, and the
parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates the second. The first, however, is
to love God. The order is important; God first, neighbour second and self
last. Today, however, many people have taken the liberty of reversing the
order and put self first, neighbour sometimes and, for some, God — never.
It really depends on
whether you wish to have eternal life. The kind of life we should lead and
the neighbourly way we should behave is summarised in the well-known 'Sermon
on the Mount'. (Matthew Ch. 5) Here the standard set by Jesus is even
' Ye have heard that
it hath been said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies . . . and pray for them who . .
persecute you' Matt 5:43-44. But having told us how we should behave,
Jesus says 'seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness' Matt
There really is no
alternative if we want the eternal life promised by Jesus — we have to put
God first and then by keeping His commandments show our love for Him by
loving our neighbour. In case we are uncertain how that love should be
manifested, we can remind ourselves of Paul's words to the Corinthians:
'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is
not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices
with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always
perseveres. Love never fails.' 1Cor 13:4-8 (NIV)
work, but well worth it in the end