The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistantwalked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:29–37)
Jesus wasn’t responding to a sincere seeker. He was responding to an “expert” in religious law who was attempting to test Jesus. There was no good motivation in the original question. But our Good Shepherd is able to take even what the enemy intends for his evil purpose and turn it for good. A question that was intended to trip up Jesus was masterfully turned into one of the greatest lessons for you and me as we continue our journey walking with the Master.
Jesus never said that this story was a parable. It could well be the report of an actual occurrence. It could well be an actual occurrence in the life of one or more of the people that Jesus was addressing at the time. In that day, a story that made the Jews look bad and the Samaritans look good, at best would have put off the Jews from hearing the truth Jesus was communicating. At worst, it would have been dangerous. Thus, it was very risky to tell a story like this hypothetically. But don’t forget, Jesus knew everything about everyone who was within the sound of His voice. The same Jesus, who had written in the dirt the secret sins of the religious leaders who had brought forth the woman caught in adultery, was able to use actual events in the lives of some of theseto teach a truth. Perhaps it was an experience straight out of the life of the “expert”. Perhaps it is an experience straight out of one of our lives!
A few years ago, i had the opportunity to visit this treacherous path between Jerusalem and Jericho. From a topography standpoint, the route isn’t much better today. It’s a narrow, winding path through some rocky and barren landscape. Back in the first century, it apparently was also a “high crime” area that neither the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders cared enough to police.
The first persons to come upon this Jewish man who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead were a Jewish priest and a Levite. The priest had been serving God at the temple all week, and he was anxious to get home. He had put in enough time ministering to others for one week. Surely there was someone else who could take care of this poor fellow. (i’m ashamed to admit that i can relate to him.) Also, perhaps the robbers were hiding out just waiting for the next person to stop. He didn’t want to take that risk. Anyway, the man was not a member of his synagogue. So he left it for the next person coming along to help him. Then the Levite did exactly what the priest did — nothing! Warren Wiersbe writes, “Such is the power of the bad example of a religious man.”
The fact that the “hero” is a Samaritan made the point of the account so much more poignant to the Jews. It would have been one thing if a Jew had stopped to help a Samaritan, but a Samaritan stopped to help a Jew that two Jews had already passed by. The Samaritan was showing love to someone who hated him. He was risking his own life and spending his own money. And he wasn’t seeking any credit or honor for what he was doing. Instead, he felt compassion and “showed him mercy.”. There was no earthly reason for him to do what he did — giving of his time and his resources — without expecting anything in return.
The “expert” had wanted to have an intellectual discussion of “who is my neighbor”. Jesus forced him to consider one in need. How easily do we talk about abstract ideals and never personally provide any practical help? Getting involved personally will require getting your hands dirty. It will require allowing yourself to be inconvenienced. And there’s a good possibility that your effort won’t be appreciated. The “expert” wanted to make the issue philosophical; Jesus made it practical!
A year or so ago, my son and daughter-in-law took a now 12-year old young man into their hearts — and in many respects, into their home. This young man happens to be a different race and skin tone from my son and his wife. Though he lives with his grandmother, mother and siblings, he has been in great need of a godly male influence. A few weeks ago, as LaVonne and i were visiting with Justin and Amanda, we had the opportunity to see this lived out up close and personal. We witnessed a selflessness and genuine love on the part of our kids that made us deeply proud of them — and personally challenged. They’re living life with this young man — warts and all! “Personal space” is “sacrificed”. Schedules are rearranged. But the dividends are huge! The love that is being shared — and the example of Christ’s love that is being shown — are making Kingdom impact in all of their lives… and rippling out to others from there.
Ministering to the Jewish man on the side of the road cost the Samaritan two silver coins and some time, but not helping, cost the two Jewish religious leaders much more. It cost them the opportunity to invest the time and resources with which God had entrusted them. It cost them the opportunity to be better men and caring neighbors. They could have been a good influence in a bad world, and yet they chose to be a bad influence. The Samaritan’s deed of mercy has inspired sacrificial ministry across centuries… and across the world.
As you walk with the Master, don’t ever think that your efforts in ministry are wasted. Do so as unto the Father, and He’ll make sure that no act of loving service in the Master’s Name is ever wasted. “Love the LORD your God with allyour heart, allyour soul, allyour strength and allyour mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).And as Jesus said, “now go and do the same.”