Luke 10:30-36 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
Everyone loves a good news story about an ordinary person coming to the rescue of his fellow man. We are awed by people who put their own lives on the line to save another. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things make a difference and become somebody’s personal hero. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is a Bible story many of us learn early in Sunday School. Even those who are not Christians are familiar with the principles behind the story and have heard of the Good Samaritan laws. Most states have Good Samaritan laws that provide legal protection to people who come to the aid of others in distress so that the thought of being sued won’t cause them to withhold assistance. It’s sad that you have to have a law like that, but it is unfortunately needed in today’s litigious society.
When Jesus tells this parable in the Bible, it is important to know who He is telling the story to and who the people in the story are comparatively. Jesus had been asked a question by a lawyer, a man who was an expert in Jewish law. Having established that you should love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself, he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” This is such a great question because it is a door opener. The man had opened the door for Jesus to teach an important principle – everyone is our neighbor.
The man in the story had been robbed and wounded. Left for dead. He probably didn’t look very good. Can we be real here for a minute? If you were driving down the road and saw a dog that had been hit and was trying to get off the road, you would stop and help it. You would try to find the owner. If you were driving down the road and saw a possum that had been hit, you would probably just keep on driving. You might swerve to miss it, or not. Apparently the priest and the Levite who were walking down the road saw a possum. They didn’t want to get involved so they swerved around him. But the Samaritan man saw a person who needed help -- a person who was somebody’s son or who maybe was a husband and father. He stopped and helped him out of the road and even paid for his care. So, Jesus asks, who was his neighbor?
What makes this story more interesting was the fact that the merciful man was a Samaritan. This fact would have been hard for Jesus’ Jewish audience to swallow. The Jews would have nothing to do with Samaritans (people from Samaria). They were dogs, or worse, to them. Jews would not even travel through Samaria, which is why it was a big deal when Jesus went there. Remember the woman at the well? She was a Samaritan. So who were these people? Here is the brief description: After King Solomon’s reign, Israel was divided into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom was known as Samaria and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. The Northern Kingdom had evil kings who led the people into idol worship and into bondage under other countries. Eventually, the kingdom was taken over by the Assyrians who took nearly all of the Jews out of the country and dispersed them throughout the Assyrian empire. Then the Assyrians brought in foreigners from their other conquered nations and settled them in Samaria. These foreigners brought their various gods and idols with them and intermarried with the remaining Jews. Samaria was then made up of foreigners and half-Jews that were looked down upon by the Jews in Judah.
So who is your neighbor? Is it the person living next door to you? Is it the person you know and love? Do they have a certain religion or have a certain skin color? If your life was in danger would it matter who came to your aid? Jesus’ parable doesn’t say who the wounded man was, but I am sure it didn’t matter to him that a Samaritan was his hero that night. He was grateful that mercy was colorblind.
Some in Jesus’ audience that day may have said, “well I guess there could be one good Samaritan, but that doesn’t mean they are all good.” People still make those kinds of statements about groups of people out of ignorance. There is good and bad in everyone. I could tell you some of the “good” things I have done. I wouldn’t want to, but I could also tell you about some of the “bad” things I have done. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. God knew we were not perfect, so He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
After Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer recognizes that it was the Samaritan – not the religious men – who showed mercy. Jesus says to him, “Go and do likewise.” Long before Mr. Rogers, Jesus was promoting a bigger, kinder neighborhood. We cannot share the love of Jesus just with certain people because of prejudices or preconceived ideas we have about them. It’s His will that all should come to repentance and know Him as their personal Savior. All. Everyone. Every single person. If there are any “Samaritans” in your life, ask the Lord to help you overcome those prejudices and love them as He does. As Mr. Rogers used to sing, “Won’t you be their neighbor?” Jesus commanded it.