Love People Unconditionally (25–28)
Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan to answer the question asked by an expert in the law, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers the question with a question. The expert then asked, “Who is my neighbor?” implying that he didn’t know who his neighbor was. One scholar calls the parable that follows “a mini-play with a colorful cast of characters; it is an action-packed drama. One scene moves quickly to the next. The story is not, however, designed to entertain but rather to communicate. The parable introduces members of the cast and then takes the listeners on a journey in which they come into contact with the internal conflict of the drama.” Jesus’ point is clear: Whoever is in need as you walk the well-beaten path of life, is your neighbor.
Overcome Self-Centeredness (29–32)
The priest and the Levite who pass by the robbed, beaten, near-death man symbolize the religious people who only talk the talk but do not walk the walk. The Levite was then what the music/worship minister is now. He represents all of us who sing “Wherever He leads I’ll go,” but when we’re asked to actually go on a missions trip we may say, “Here I am, send him/her.” We sing “I surrender all,” but when it comes time to give our tithes, the meaning of “all” means “a fraction of my all.” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that we have to do good “to the least of these” and not focus on ourselves. Someone wise once wrote, “I was naked, and you questioned my lack of modesty. I was in jail, and you debated the legal aspects of my case. I was poor, and you discussed if your donations are tax-deductible. I was sick, and you thanked God for your health. I was hungry and you formed a club that studies malnutrition. I didn’t have a home, but you said the love of God would cover me. I was alone, and you left me alone while you prayed with your friends. You seemed so holy and so close to God, while I am still sick, alone and afraid.”
Reach Beyond Barriers (33–37)
The main character of this parable is a Samaritan who stopped and took care of the man who fell into the hands of the robbers. The end of this parable shocked Jesus’ Jewish audience because of the religious and ethnic tensions that existed between Jews and Samaritans. John 4 tells us “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” The Samaritans were the descendants of the remnant of the Israelites who were deported at the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722/721 b.c. and the descendants of foreign colonists brought in from Babylon and Media by the Assyrian conquerors of Samaria. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews. The Samaritans put obstacles in the way of the Jewish restoration after the Babylonian exile. Also, in the 2nd century b.c., the Samaritans helped the Syrians in their wars against the Jews. As a result, the Jewish high priest burned down the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim in 128 b.c. They also had different theological positions. The Scriptures of the Samaritans included only the five Books of Moses, and they thought the main place for worship was Mount Gerizim. Despite these tensions, the good Samaritan reached out to help a Jewish brother who was in need. Likewise, we need to help those who are in need without regard for their religious or ethnic background. The story is told of a man who once fell into a pit and could not get out. A subjective person came along and said: “I feel for you, down there.” An objective person came along and said: “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.” A Pharisee said: “Only bad people fall into a pit.”
A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on his experience. A fundamentalist said: “You deserve your pit.” An IRS man asked if he was paying taxes on the pit. A self-pitying person said: “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.” A charismatic said, “Just confess that you’re not in the pit.” An optimist said: “Things could be worse.” A pessimist said: “Things will be worse.” Jesus, seeing the man in need, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit. May we follow the example of Jesus, our good Samaritan.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Tiberius Rata is professor of Old Testament Studies and chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist and is used with permission.)