This parable basis was Jesus’ response to a Jewish religious leader who was testing Jesus and trying to trap him.
“What shall I do to inherit eternal life? he questioned
“What is written in the law? Jesus asked
The lawyer’s reply was the two great commandments to love God and love your neighbor.
“You’ve answered correctly, do this and you will live,” Jesus acknowledged.
But that was not good enough. Further seeking to ensnare Jesus and justify himself the lawyer, asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
Denny characterized this story as “The Parable of Four Men on the Road to Jericho”. This description reminded me of a sermon many years ago on this text by Robert Jackson.
(1) The Hurt Man
He was traveling a treacherous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This 17-mile stretch drops 3300 feet in elevation. It was virtually uninhabited. Marked by cliffs and gullies on each side of the road. Thieves often took advantage of unsuspecting travelers. In Bible times it was called “the path of blood.” Good judgment suggests you don’t travel this road alone. But he did. As a result, was beaten, bloodied, and left dying on the side of the road.
There are many today who are suffering. They are either hurting physically, mentally, or emotionally. The road is littered with abandoned children. Abused women. The homeless. Handicapped. And others with addictions. It’s a reality we don’t like to think about.
(2) The Heedless Man
The Priest saw the wounded man but was inattentive. He passed by on the other side. Maybe the man was dead. He didn’t know. But touching him would make the Priest unclean according to the law. And unable to serve. Or possibly it was a trick. And an accomplice was waiting to rob him. So, he decided not to be bothered or get involved.
How often are we like the Priest? Busy. Going somewhere. Preoccupied with our schedule. We don’t have time to be bothered. We know we ought “to do good to all people.” But not now. Not today. Maybe later.
(3) The Heartless Man
The Levite was worse than the priest. He stopped. Walked over. Looked at the bruise and bleeding man. Then passed on. What was he thinking? Feeling? Wondering? We don’t know.
But we do know there is too much insensitivity in the world today toward the needs of others. People who are indifferent. Uncaring. And apathetic.
(4) The Helping Man
The Good Samaritan is the hero in Jesus’ story. The Bible says he felt “compassion” for the wounded stranger. He knew what needed to be done. And did it. His actions represented a sacrifice of time and money. Not to mention the possible risk of his personal safety.
Interestingly, Jesus uses a Samaritan as the good guy in the story. Samaritans were hated by the Jews as a half-breed race. But the one despised by others came to rescue and render loving aid.
While this parable has been analyzed, allegorized, and sermonized, but unfortunately not often enough actualized in our lives.
“What kind of neighbors are we?” is the important and probing question, Denny asked.
The repeated refrain this week was asked by Jesus to both individuals in the parables and to churches in the book of Revelation: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Denny further challenged us with these sobering thoughts:
“We live in a world where prejudice often clouds judgment and guides actions, a world in which people are despised because of skin color, national origin, or economic conditions.
I have little interest in the political and sociological approaches to these questions, because the Lord has simplified it for me: “Go and do the same.” His words challenge me to be the neighbor that I should be as a follower of the One who, loved and loves, the world.”
This parable stands as a timeless example to apply the Scripture “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It challenges us to reach out beyond our circle of friends and fellow Christians. To get outside our comfort zone. It’s a call to show mercy to the unfortunate lying beside the Jericho road of life. It’s a cry to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).
“You be the Good Samaritan,” pleads Jesus. Open your heart. Give your time. Share your resources.
“Go and do likewise.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman