The Good Samaritan is one of the stories that could have happened but really didn’t happen. Jesus told the story to demonstrate what being a good neighbor means. Naturally, there is much more to the story than the surface level meaning.
Jesus took years of tradition and like a worn-out old rag, threw it in the face of the scholar of the law. The law was good and had served a purpose. Trouble was that followers of the law began to put the law above the welfare of people. Jesus told a story to illustrate the tension between the law and common sense. The Levite was of the priestly class—like Moses and Arron. The priest was ordained and offered sacrifices to God. Both men were law abiding Jews, which is why they could not touch the man who had been robbed, because he was bleeding. They could not defile themselves by coming close to him. Although we might think them to be unkind, they were not supposed to help a person who was bleeding. Then came a surprise, the least likely candidate was the one who came to the rescue. Least likely because he was a Samaritan. The Samaritan represents all the people whom we have excluded: the people with aides, doctor who performs abortions, the blacks, the reds, the yellows—the people whom we do want near us. That is how the scholar of the law and all who heard Jesus tell the story saw him. To hear the name Samaritan was like hearing a bad word. Never did folks imagine that a “nobody” would help a “somebody”, who was the guy in the ditch.
The guy in the ditch was a victim of robbers. The robbers not only took his possessions, they almost killed him. Crime is nothing new. There is violence on the streets, in our homes and in the womb. Recent mass shootings have drawn us to empathize with the victims and their families. We are reminded of our vulnerability, even on a global scale. The poor are the ones who suffer the most. The defenseless are literally in the ditch—victims of those who do not respect life. Who is going to help them? Who will come to the aide of those who are most in need? Very tempting to just pass by. Pretend that we do not see. We are certainly within our rights to ignore people who mean nothing to us. Perhaps they are not citizens of this Country. Maybe they have a contagious disease. We do not want to break the law.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is just as uncomfortable to hear as when Jesus first told the story. Consider that unless we have been helped by a person whom we have rejected, we cannot fully appreciate the flavor of the story. To rise above our prejudice is extremely difficult. In our hour of need our defenses must come down. We are forced to allow the person whom we would never want touch us—to touch us. That is the predicament of the guy in the ditch! Remember there’s more. The Samaritan not only renders immediate aide but goes far beyond normal expectations. Lodging, food, supplies and a promise to pay for all expenses incurred on his return. Do we know anyone like that? Have we ever encountered such charity? Kindness from a total stranger is rare. Kindness from a hated stranger is almost nonexistent. The Parable compels us to look at the people whom we have excluded in a different light. The story puts us in the ditch as the victim. Victims are usually undeserving of their tragedy, which makes the help indispensable. The man in the ditch would have died if not for the Samaritan. The good neighbor made all the difference. Our challenge is to look beyond the walls that keep us from loving others, particularly people who have hurt us, starting in our family. Truth be told, we are all damaged goods. We are all in need of healing. None of us gets what we deserve. Therefore, the mercy of God is indispensable for our salvation.
Jesus reaches out to us through the hands of the least expected. We want to see His face in every person.