In challenging His hearers to rethink their live, Jesus told a story about a true neighbor. You may have heard it called the parable of the good Samaritan. It’s found in Luke 10. A guy was robbed and left for dead. Three people came along. The first was a priest. He did nothing. The second was a Levite. He did nothing. The third was a Samaritan. He helped the man.
I have heard teachers teach that story many times. For the most part, they have said that it is about a man (the Samaritan) who does what was not expected of Him (because Jews and Samaritans were bitter neighbors), while two holy people (both of a priestly nature) who should have cared about the man, didn’t do a thing. Nothing wrong with that approach. Definitely true to the story. Here’s a different angle.
Let’s not forget the original question posed to Jesus. An expert in the law, in right and wrong, approached Jesus. He asked Him, “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” Jesus answered with a question, “What’s written in God’s law?” Pretty good question for an expert of the law. The man responded, basically saying to love God and love your neighbor. Jesus told him to do this, and he would live. Pretty simple.
So, the expert of the law asked the real Expert of the law if there might be a time when love for God and love for people might conflict. In other words, God might want me to do something found in the law that would prohibit me from having to show love to someone. It’s quite possible, based on the characters of the story with which Jesus responded, that the motive of the man was very selfish. He was looking for a loophole of sorts, because there were people he really didn’t want to show love to, like Samaritans.
Jesus answered with the story of the good Samaritan. What is obvious from the story is that the man whom the Jews despised helped out a Jew when even the Jews themselves didn’t help. Looking deeper, maybe we should give the priest and Levite a break. They were only doing what was written in the law for them to do. They were avoiding a man left for dead whom they thought was dead. According to the law, that man, if he was dead, was unclean. They were not to touch him. So, they passed on by. How would they have known if he was Samaritan or Jewish, as beaten up as he was? They did the right thing according to the law they knew.
What Jesus really seemed to be saying was this—while you guys (the so-called law experts) are spending so much time trying to find loopholes in your lists of do’s and don’ts, there is an entire nation of people who happen to be your neighbors (nationally speaking) whom you despise. The ones you despise understand “love your neighbor” better than you do. Quit looking for a concept of right and wrong in your ever-expanding lists of rules, and try determining right and wrong based on the very foundational commandment you claim to live by—love God and love your neighbor. Quit knowing your law so well, and get to know Me.
So Jesus closed the interaction, asking the man which person was a neighbor. The so-called expert in the law answered, probably begrudgingly, the Samaritan. Jesus said, “You go and do the same.”