The Good Samaritan
Most of us have heard the story of the “Good Samaritan.” It is most widely known as a parable. Parables, as defined in the book How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, are “simple stories for those on the outside to whom the ‘real meaning,’ the “mysteries,” were hidden; these [belonging] only to the church and could be uncovered by means of allegory.” ¹
While the story of the Good Samaritan starts in Luke 10:30, we must first look at the reason Jesus bothered to tell this parable. The question asked by a lawyer was, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This lawyer was putting Jesus to the test. However, Christ answered and said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And the lawyer said, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responded affirmatively and answered, “Do this, and you will live.” The lawyer, wishing to justify himself, continued questioning Jesus by asking Him, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10 25-28).
It is in response to this encounter that Jesus begins His parable of the Good Samaritan to prove His point.
The story contains eight characters:
- A lawyer – an expert on Jewish law
- Jesus Christ
- A Jewish Priest – some say he was a Jewish temple assistant
- A Jewish Levite, a man of God
- A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho
- A Good Samaritan
- Robbers, and
- An innkeeper
A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Along the way, he encountered robbers (bandits) who stripped him, beat him, and left him half-dead along the road. A priest walked by along the route. When he saw the man, he chose to pass by on the other side of the road. When a Levite saw the man lying on the road, he, too, passed by on the other side of the path. Notice that these two men, from whom a more kindly-than-usual behavior is routinely expected because of their societal stations, intentionally avoided helping someone in need.
But then a Samaritan who was on a journey saw the beaten man; he felt compassion (pity). The Samaritan went to the beaten man, bandaged his wounds, poured oil and wine on them (which was considered medicine in those days), put him on his animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, the Samaritan paid the innkeeper. Then he asked the innkeeper to take care of him and told him that he would repay him when he returned from his trip.
After sharing this story with the lawyer, Jesus asked him, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
Finally, the lawyer was answering his own question. He said, “the one who showed mercy toward him.” Jesus then said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)
While we do not know the direction of this lawyer after Jesus commanded him to “do the same,” we can ask ourselves: how would we respond?
God does provide opportunities to see how we would respond.
A destructive “winter freeze” at the beginning of this year caused my husband John and me to spend 87 days in a hotel while our home was gutted and renovated. One day, as we were leaving the hotel, we saw a police officer help a lady in a wheelchair being rolled up to the hotel door. John and I both concluded that she was an abuse victim. We assumed the police officer was helping her to a temporary safe place.
However, in the evening, we returned to our hotel only to see this lady sitting in her wheelchair in the cold, pelting rain near the hotel entrance. Unfortunately, due to the hotel’s request, she was not allowed to sit under the canopy, designed to protect their guests from the sun and inclement weather.
My husband said he felt the Holy Spirit wanted us to talk to and help this woman. We introduced ourselves and asked her what was going on. She was very confused and we soon discovered she was suffering from a complicated mental illness.
While we chatted and tried to figure out how to help, the same police officer returned to the scene. The police officer told us she had been kicked out of another hotel for lack of payment. John asked the hotel clerk if we could bring this lady up to our room to help her get dried off.
John called her mother to notify her of her daughter’s location. Her mother would not allow her to return home or help in any way, presumably a result of the ongoing mental illness. This lady’s hands flurried all over—a sign of drug withdrawal. The police officer guessed she was under the influence of methamphetamine. She went into our restroom to get cleaned off, warmed up, and then changed into some dry clothes.
The police officer was unsuccessful in placing her at a women’s shelter. Fortunately, we were able to find a motel for her to safely spend the night. John and the police officer brought her to the motel, settled her in, and left money for the night’s stay.
Some might ask, “Did you witness to her?” No, not exactly. Her more immediate needs were physical rather than spiritual, although we told her multiple times we would be praying for her. We never saw this lady again, and I hope and pray her family eventually came to her rescue.
But what sticks in my mind is my husband wheeling this lady out of our hotel room. I stared as she was being rolled out, wearing silver pants and a green-and-black tunic shirt, both donated from my wardrobe.
My thought: “But, for the grace of God, that could be me.”
This lady was one night away from being homeless. I hope by our obeying the prodding of the Holy Spirit, she never reached a homeless status.
Compassion: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Sharing: Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you are not tempted as well. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
Neighbor: I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
Oh Lord, please let me be attentive to Your Holy Spirit when You want to use me for Your purposes. Let me obey, provide, and learn Your lessons. So many times, I might pass by opportunities. Change me now, Lord, to see and act on the situations where You need me to be Your hands and feet. Lord, if it were not for the winter freeze, we would never have been in a hotel, and we would never have had the opportunity to help this lady. Thank you, Jesus. You know the big picture of my life. Make me more like You. I surrender all to You. And thank You for a husband who heeds Your call as well. Love You, Jesus. Amen.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone you can help this week! God bless.
¹ Fee, Gordon and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic. 2014.
Edited by E. Johnson.
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