A FRESH LOOK AT A WELL-KNOWN PARABLE
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” – St. Augustine
Is this not a perfect picture of our Lord? Ever aware of the suffering and the needy. Ever seeing their anguish and hearing their pleas for help. Always reaching out with deep love and compassion. Jesus epitomizes all we could ever need or want in a Savior.
One day, Jesus is posed a question by a Jewish expert in the law trying to test Him…
“Teacher… what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?… How do you read it?”…
“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.”
“You have answered correctly… Do this and you will live.”…
“And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:25-29
Jesus shares a parable in answer to his question…
A traveler on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho is attacked by thieves. He is robbed, beaten and left “half dead” by the side of the road. A priest traveling the same road sees the man and passes by on the opposite side. A Levite traveler also sees the man yet offers no help, passing too on the other side of the road.
A Samaritan then meets upon the man and is “moved with compassion”. He pours oil and wine on his wounds and bandages them up. He places the hurting man on his donkey and takes him to an inn to care for him. When the Samaritan is set to leave the next day, he gives the innkeeper two denarii to look after him, promising to reimburse him for any extra expenses.
Jesus then poses a question to the expert in the law…
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”…
“The one who had mercy on him.”…
“Go and do the same.” – Luke 10:36-37
Who are the Samaritans? They are a mixed race that came about when the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria in 721 BC. The people not taken into captivity intermingled with the pagan Assyrians. In Jesus’ day, Jews despised the Samaritans, considering them even lower in status than Gentiles due to the pagan influences of their religion.
Jesus turns the Jews’ way of thinking upside-down when He accepts all people equally including Samaritans. The merciful one in His parable is not the priest or the Levite as expected by His listeners. The one who shows mercy to the ill-treated traveler is one of Samaritan race. This is the one Jesus says to model.
Imagine the reaction of the expert of the law when told to behave as the Samaritan. Here is a man steeped in religiosity, believing himself to be an upstanding citizen, following all the rules of the Law. Yet he lacks love… love for his “neighbor” as defined by Jesus… love for his fellow man without exclusions.
“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
Jesus can be viewed as the Good Samaritan in this parable. He is the outcast, the despised One, who the Jewish religious leaders seek to ostracize. For He threatens their reign, their prestige, their power. He exposes their hypocrisy. The leaders are jealous of Jesus’ popularity. Too many are following Him.
Believers are the ones attacked and beaten by the enemy, by evil… left “half-dead” in our sins… with no hope. Jesus does not “pass by on the opposite side of the road”. He is moved with compassion to save us. Compassion speaks of more than just pity or sympathy. It understands another’s ills with a desire to alleviate their suffering. This is the heart of Christ.
Jesus comes along to save us from death. He pays the price. He ransoms His life for us. Samaritan means “guardian”. Our merciful Savior guards us and cares for us. He heals us, the brokenhearted, and binds up our wounds (Isaiah 147:3). He blesses us with His Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and protect until He returns for us.
“Do for others just what you want them to do for you.” – Luke 6:31
In this world, we are to “go and do the same” as Jesus… to live out His heart of mercy… to follow in His footsteps. We are not to follow in the ways of the religious ones who claim to be “experts in the law”… who know the Bible yet do not allow it to change their hearts or their lives… who “do not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3), as Jesus said of the Jewish leaders.
We are to live out the law of Christ… the law based in love. Touched by His life-changing love and compassion, we are to do for others as He has done so graciously for us. To be Jesus to those in need. To point them to Christ… the only Hope for life eternal.
We are not to pass by the broken, the hurting, the suffering “on the opposite side of the road”… giving no thought to the lost all around us. We are not to be like the priest and Levite in the parable… not wanting to take the time to get involved… believing our schedules to be of more importance.
What would we want others to do for us? Would we not want them to act like Jesus? Let us “go and do the same”. Let us look around us with eyes like Jesus… to see the lost, the troubled, the downtrodden. Let us model the mercy and compassion of our Savior.