Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Good Samaritan

The story of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the best know of all parables attributed to Jesus. It is found in Luke 10:30-37.

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

"A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Where to begin?

Several historical notes. The road to Jericho was a lonely one. There was a great chance of robbery or worse for travelers on this road. Call Jericho the first literary mean street?

And what of the scribe and Pharisee? Scribes are we learned types, those, such as lawyers, who live by applying our wits to other people's problems, compassionate advocates for a fee. Pharisees were those who placed great stock in ritual purity, folks confusing looking good with being good.

And the Samaritan? He's from the wrong side of the track. But inspite of opportunites and appearances, the Samaritan is best able to respond to raw human need. He comes to the rescue of the victim, assures for his recovery and then pledges himself to meeting the basic needs of a stranger.

I love this parable, even though I heed its message all to infrequently. We're all outsides to others. Yet we have the ability to make the other one of us. The lines that divide are arbitrary. Compassion and courage can blur them.