30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:30-37
Jesus paints a picture of neighbor care in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The example was common among the Jewish pilgrims. The seventeen mile walk from Jerusalem to Jericho was a treacherous and dangerous hike. The path was quite narrow crossing the barren desert mountains of the Judean countryside. The region was well known for criminals. The goal was the oasis of Jericho. In fact as you neared Jericho descending into the Transjordan plane you could see the orchards and fresh water of this desert oasis. Even today, it is an impressive site to see.
It is in this common understanding that Jesus shares the parable (meaning, a story, not true, fiction with a moral meaning). Everyone grasped the danger of the walk and are captivated by the story. A man is attacked lying seriously beaten (half dead in the NIV text) on the mountainous desert ground. A priest and a Levite, the religious of Israel, walk past the man “on the other side.” They avoided him for fearing of being unclean. It was the hated Samaritan who stopped.
This would be very striking to Jesus’ audience. The Samaritans were despised and to have such a one pay an exorbitant amount of money for a Jewish man (although, the text doesn’t say he is Jewish. It seems to imply this.). He bandaged the man’s wounds, offered his donkey for a ride, and two silver coins for his care at an inn. One silver coin covered 2 months of care so he gave him 4 months to recover from the attack and was willing to do more. This is really remarkable.
The question: who is your neighbor? In verse 37, the expert in the law was pushed to think beyond his own cultural and religious bias. He knew the Samaritan was his neighbor.
For your Lenten reflection: How do you treat your neighbors at home? At work? Are you willing to get messy to care for your neighbors or will you walk on the other side of the road?
Prayer: Dear God, Create in me a heart of compassion that sees all people as my neighbor. Draw me to relationships where I can offer care and show my neighbor who you are in my life. In Christ’s name. Amen.