Thursday: The Good Samaritan, Part II
You may recall from yesterday that Jesus has just been asked by the lawyer, “And
who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the
hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half
dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him,
he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and
saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near
him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and
bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on
his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him (Luke 10:30-34).
When the story begins, the hearers no doubt already had a sense for where the plot was headed.
• What is surprising is that the priest and the Levite, who knew the Torah inside and out (remember the lawyer’s question from yesterday), do not stop to help the
wounded man. In pondering their reactions, do not forget that the point of a
parable is not primarily a critique of the characters who show up in it, but how the
parable turns its sharp gaze on you and your usual thoughts and actions. When are
you the priest? When are you the Levite? When are you the injured man? When
are you the Samaritan?
• Some people have excused the priest and the Levite, because of their need to
remain in a state of holiness, in order to carry out their duties in the Temple. But
notice that they are going in the opposite direction, from Jerusalem toward Jericho.
It is perhaps difficult to tell whether the man is dead (and thus “unclean”) or alive,
but that issue should not have stopped either of the religious officials from
carrying out the kind of compassion toward the neighbor that the Torah teaches.
• It is the Samaritan, the long-time enemy of the mainstream Jewish community,
who carries out self-giving compassion, in fulfillment of Torah. Samaritans were
descended from the people of Israel who were left in the land when the aristocracy
was exiled to Babylon, and who were shunned by the returnees and not allowed to
participate in the rebuilding of the temple in the 6th century BCE. Though
Samaritans and Jews worshiped the same God, there were centuries of bad blood
between them. There is evidence in several of the Gospels that Samaritans were an
important focus of early Christian mission.
What is most important for us to note, however, is a clue hidden in the words of the text that will guide us toward what we need to learn about being a faithful neighbor.
• Look back at the story, and see the repetitions in how each person responds to the
wounded man. The priest and the Levite each “see” the man and “pass by on the
• When the Samaritan “sees” him, however, he “has compassion.” The word for
compassion in the original Greek (splanchnē), refers to a person’s guts, or entrails.
We might say that the Samaritan experiences “gut-wrenching compassion” for the
• This is the same compassion that God has had for the world, the compassion that
resulted in God’s sending Jesus to embody God’s care: “In the tender compassion
of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us…”(Luke 1:78). When God
sees how many human beings are struggling and suffering, God has gutwrenching
compassion. In Jesus, God has crossed not just a road, but the divide
between heaven and earth, to come to be with us and to bind our wounds.
• Part of the shock value of this parable is the fact that the Samaritan (an outsider to
the Jewish community) did what God would do, while those who had the official
position of caring for the things of God revealed their lack of insight into what God
really requires. Remember that in Jesus’ time, his critique is that of an insider to the Jewish religious system.
Questions for Reflection
• In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we reflected upon the needs of our
nearest neighbors. This story calls us to think about how to be a neighbor to people
who are separated from us by some divide, whether physical (like the road) or
social (like the split between Samaritans and Jews). What do you most often allow
to be a barrier, so that you do not feel the responsibility to care for someone in
• Imagine being the wounded man, lying bleeding in the dust, seeing an enemy (the
Samaritan) coming toward him on the lonely road. How do you respond when the
Samaritan comes close to you? How to you respond as he begins to dress your
wounds? How are you changed by the event?
God of compassion, give me your eyes to see the neighbor who needs me, and the
courage to cross whatever boundary might stand between me and the neighbor who
is mine to serve. And if it is I who stand in need, let me graciously and gratefully
receive the care of anyone you call to my aid. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.