The Parable of the Good Samaritan
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”Luke 10:25-37
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Seeing God in the Enemy
As rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), divine mercy heals all without discrimination. But what if God’s agent of mercy is a despised enemy?
Hostility between the Jews and Samaritans became entrenched after Israel’s split into the northern and southern kingdoms. Each side claimed to possess the true orthodoxy of the Abrahamic faith. “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” the Samaritan woman asked Jesus at Jacob’s well (John 4:4). The fraternal foes also disputed the true place of worship—Mount Gerizim vs. Jerusalem (John 4:20). From the Jewish perspective, the Samaritans who intermarried with Gentiles became idolatrous half-breeds.
Yet in Jesus’ parable, the unexpected hero turns out to be a Samaritan. A man assaulted on the infamous road to Jericho—a steep, rocky path infested with bandits—is deserted. Sidestepping the bloody scene, a priest and a Levite avoid responsibility for the victim. The audience expects the third person to be an Israelite, but instead a Samaritan enters. Moved with compassion, he cleanses and soothes the wounded man with his own hands. At great personal cost, he entrusts the man to an innkeeper to care for him.
The Face of Mercy
“And who is my neighbor?” The scholar who identified the essence of the law with the love of God and neighbor moved from abstraction to reality. By the end of the parable, he recognized the true neighbor to be the one who acts mercifully. The face of mercy is divine, transcending ethnic, political, and national boundaries.
God’s face shines through an enemy
Who manifests love and mercy.