Our passage today might be one of the most famous passages in the Bible. If you need an example, we have a hospital in our city named after the Good Samaritan—it’s called Good Samaritan. The problem with a lot of church people is that they think they understand the story of the Good Samaritan. However, what they lack is the context. The story isn’t simply an admonition to do a good thing. It is that, but it’s much more than that.
We must realize that this parable is in response to a question asked by an expert in the religious Law. This Lawyer sought to “test” Jesus (10:25). The word “test” is probably better understood as “entrap.” Do not be fooled, this was not an intellectual quiz, this was a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. I won’t rehash yesterday’s passage, but as a very wise professor said to us in seminary, “I have a couple doctorates, I know many wise and wonderful things, and one such thing is this, verse 30 comes after verse 29.” You see, Jesus’ telling of the Good Samaritan is in response to this Lawyer “wishing to justify himself” by asking “who is my neighbor?” This is a critical element, because the story isn’t really about the characters, it’s about this Lawyer and all that he represents.
Jesus chose the most hated of hero’s for his parable—a Samaritan. The question of “Who is my neighbor?” for this Lawyer really means, “Who is worthy enough to be considered my neighbor.” This guy was among the religious elite after all, and while most Jews only considered other Jews to be their neighbor, the elite often looked down on the non-elite Jews. Thus, the idea of a non-Jew was intolerable, but a hated half-breed, Samaritan, was vomit-inducing.
Jesus’ parable flips the statement of the Lawyer on its head. The priest and the Levite did not, according to the conversation before the parable, exhibit a love for God and love for others—despite their religious service, they did not fulfill the Law. Instead, it was the Samaritan who fulfilled the Law and appears in this story to answer the question of the Lawyer, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
This also harkens back to Jesus statement in 10:21 that, “You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” The Lawyer wanted to know who was good enough to be his neighbor, while Jesus illustrates that a neighbor has more to do with your heart towards people than anything else—proximity, race, culture, status, etc. A neighbor is not a peer, but someone that you can help, someone you can elevate, someone for whom you can show tangible love with no expectation or hope of repayment. The question “Who is my neighbor,” is not the right question. Really, the question is “Who do I hate and how can I serve them?”
This story is a GREAT example of what I mean when I discuss the idea of the “heart of God.” In the comments share how this story challenges you personally today to love someone in your life—maybe even someone who is harder to love? “Go and do the same.”
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate