The Samaritan’s Compassion

Luke 10:25-37
Gal 1: 6-12 / Psa 111

“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
(Luke 10:25)

Jesus is our Good Samaritan
Who came to save mankind from sin;
May we also lend a helping hand
To one in need, stranger or kin.

An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replied, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Jesus replied, "You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied: "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 treated him with mercy." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10: 25-37)

Reflection

We can imagine how controversial this parable must have been to the Jews when our Lord chose a Samaritan as the third character in His parable to help the robbers’ victim. It was hard enough for them to hear Jesus do a smear job on the honor of the priests and Levites in His story, but to make a Samaritan the hero of the parable must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The priests and Levites were considered by the Jews as a privileged class of their citizenry whom they held in high respect. The Samaritans, on the other hand, were a tribe of “half-breeds” who inhabited the northern region of Israel when it was overrun by the Assyrians, and who also claimed to be descendants of Abraham. The Jews hated this people and considered them as their enemies, if not third-class citizens in their country.

Our Lord was sending out a powerful message to the Jews of His time regarding the stark difference in the observance of the Judaic laws (which the lawyer represented), and the grace of God (represented by the Samaritan’s compassion) as the means “to inherit eternal life”. By showing the attitude of the priest and Levite, who, because of their fear of “being defiled” refused to extend acts of mercy to the suffering man along the road, it was evident that it was virtually impossible to obey the law perfectly in order to be saved. Salvation can only come as grace from God, and not as obedience to His laws interpreted by men.

One can only be saved if he follows God’s commandment of love. Not by sacrifices, nor by being faithful to the law. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Mt.5:43-45). This teaching explains why Jesus used the Samaritan (the enemy) as the favored protagonist in His parable, to show that when it comes to God’s love and mercy, there is no enemy. Even those we consider as our enemies are loved by God, Who “makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt.5:45). When we have learned how to love our enemies, then we will have earned God’s grace of salvation.

Dear God, Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan has convicted our selfishness, our pride, and our prejudice. May we “go and do likewise” whenever a situation requires acts of mercy from us. May Your compassion flow freely out of our hearts for friend or foe in need. Amen.

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