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 assistant walked 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 10:30-37 NLT)
In the book of Luke, an expert in religious law one day stood up to test Jesus by asking him, on what he should do to inherit eternal life? Jesus [knowing that he was a religious expert] replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How you read it?” The expert answered,
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Jesus affirmed his answer, but the expert was still not satisfied. So, he then asked, “And who is my neighbor?” And that was when Jesus recited the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The word “Samaritan” comes from a ethno-religious group of the Levant, descendants of Israelites from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. They are closely related to the Jews, and the Palestinians, and still exists today–having connections to ancient Samaria. The Samaritans, however derive their name not from this geographical designation, but rather from the Hebrew term Shamerim: “Keepers [of the Law]”
During the time of Jesus, Samaritans were hated by the Jews; and in return The Samaritans hated the Jews. The hatred was so intense that Samaritans desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones. But today it is interpreted as a benign allegory to explain the importance of helping the less fortunate–regardless of physical orientation.
I was quite fascinated to learn that the word “Samaritan” came from a religious group that was once despised in the eyes of many–clearly I thought it was an American or Christian term to describe a noble act. Anyways, the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us all that we must love our neighbors by ACTING on it and not just PREACHING on it–remember the Priest and the Temple Assistant walked past the half dead man on the Road to Jericho.
This week’s spiritual lesson is to give a helping hand. Give a hand up; and not a hand out. Help because you want to; not because you have to. In order to inherit eternal life we have to help each other out (regardless of what we feel of each other) on this long road to Jericho.