Today we get to revisit one of the most famous parables that Christ spoke about: the Good Samaritan. In this parable Christ tells us who our neighbor is through a parable where an individual is robbed and then not regarded by two individuals: the priest and the Levite walks by, but the Samaritan stops and cares for the neighbor. The essence of the parable is: the most unexpected blessings on a perilous journey.
Here is the account from the perspective of Luke: Luke 10:25-37
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
As I have reviewed and meditated on this parable, I see it from a different and more profound point of view than I did as a child. I’ve noticed as I go older I need to see things in a certain way. I believe that to really understand the full essence and the impact of Christ teachings, sometimes we need to dig deeper to see how these parables were in their original form. We have the luxury of hindsight where we can see things differently, but we must readjust our understanding of Christ’s teaching these words to the crowds and we have to look at it from their point of view. Looking at it from the speaker’s point of view and the audience’s viewpoint is a shift that we must take to see the fullness of the story. We can get some amazing insights from the text but we really need to dig deeper for the true essence.
First tidbit: “going down from Jerusalem to Jericho”. At first glance this may seem like going from city to city. But upon further inspection this one sentence has so much of the weight of the entire parable. This one sentence spoken by Christ held so much gravity. Upon research it was found that when people “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho”. This was also known as “The Way of Blood ” because there was so much bloodshed that happened on this one road that it was stained red.
This road or path is 17 miles long. This is a substantial amount of space that can be inhabited by many different bandits and vandals. One of the most profound and interesting parts of this road is its elevation and height: the total change is 3,600 ft. As a point of reference for this height the third highest mountain in the Alps, which is the Matterhorn, is 3800 feet in elevation. This is the same mountain that many rides at Disney World and carnivals refer. It’s height is so substantial that people know it by it’s name alone. So by this short phrase so much is contained in going from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is a risky and scary place. Christ was making an allusion to the phrase of David’s: “The valley of the shadow of death.”
Second tidbit: This journey from Jerusalem to Jericho was know for many because it was major thoroughfare of travel and many people are on this path going up and down continuously. Because of the amount of travelers and the hidden alcoves this particular place had become a common place for robbers.
This particular traveler in Christ’s parable is so badly mangled and beaten that from a casual observation it looks as if the person was dead. In the Hebrew tradition there are many laws governing purity and cleanliness including us especially with dead bodies. The priest and Levite were too consumed with the right thing by the Law and decided not to concern themselves with checking on the traveler and assumed that he was dead. They allowed their own thoughts and presumptions to prevent them from even checking on the traveler, their “love” of the Law outweighed their love for others. The Law that was given by Moses in Numbers 19 details how to deal with a dead body, and the rituals that you had to perform before you were clean. Interestingly the period that you were able to be found clean was three days.
These new insights into the Good Samaritan makes it even more profound that a person would risk everything to take care of a person. This is a complete stranger to the other. We do not know the position of the stranger, which was completely left out on purpose. The stranger could have been a priest. The stranger could have been a Levite. The stranger could have been a rich merchant. The stranger could be a peasant. But no matter what the Samaritan, who in Jewish society was looked down upon, found mercy on the person regardless of their statute but because of their current need and position.
The stranger actually was the beneficiary of an expected blessing on this journey.
How many times are we strangers? How many times are we the Good Samaritans? How many times have we been the victim and everyone seems to walk pass us without the slightest of glances? How many times have we been affected to the point of death: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually and we wanted someone to notice us? If we have been through these similar situations, how can we not have empathy and compassion for our fellow neighbors.
- The picture is that of the Matterhorn. This is representation of the height of the trail that the traveler was on when the Samaritan found him.