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This is one of the more interesting parables that Jesus taught His disciples. It has profound meaning as it relates to practical Christian principles of showing compassion to someone in dire circumstances. Before I get to unpack some of this, a little comparative analysis might serve as a necessary background. This life lesson taught by Jesus comes after He successfully refutes the Sadducees about the resurrection, which they don’t believe in.
Matthew 22: 34-40
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Cp. Deuteronomy 6: 5). ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Cp. Leviticus 19: 18b). ‘All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
NOTE: Matthew’s version omits the “Shema” found in Deuteronomy 6: 4.
Mark 12: 28-34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a]"> Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Cp. Deuteronomy 6: 4-5). ‘The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Cp. Leviticus 19: 18b) is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
NOTE: Mark’s gospel expands the narrative even more, including not only the ‘Shema’ but adding the word “strength” as well as mentioning the connection with or the superiority over ‘offerings and sacrifices.’
Now the main text for our study a in the following below:
Luke 10: 25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “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.’”D)" data-cr="#cen-NIV-25391D"> “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denariiand 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 mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
NOTE: Luke’s gospel expands the story even more than mark’s version to include this parable. This account omits the “Shema’ (Deuteronomy 6: 4) but it includes narration that seems unexpected here. It is interesting that one event can have such variation, especially when comparing Luke with the other gospels of Matthew and Mark.
Now that the theological musings are out of the way, let’s see what spiritual nuggets of wisdom can be uncovered. At first glance it doesn’t go unnoticed that there is a stark cultural tension between two of the most pious religious officials of the Jewish religion, and a person who is despised. The identity of the victim is unknown, which adds more intrigue to the story. The Levite was assigned the work of ministering in the sanctuary and the function of the priests was primarily concerned with offering sacrifices on the altar. These two men who represent the piety and holiness of Israel see a person wounded and distress but show no empathy at all; they don’t even speak to the person but avoid him by walking on the other side of the road. I would not be surprised if either one of them wasn’t going up to Jerusalem to perform some service to God at the Temple/sanctuary. So, what does this story have to do with believing Christians today? Jesus asked a poignant question in verse 36: “Which of these three do you think was the neighbor?”
It is very possible that many Christians are so busy traveling down the road between Jericho and Jerusalem so that they can get to Bible class on time; or choir rehearsal; or to make the altar call; or to hear the homily, tithe, partake of the Lord’s Supper, and other Church functions that when they see a man holding a “HOMELESS” sign they pass by on the other side. There are believers who attend Christian worship but rely on public transportation, and yet after the conclusion of the closing benediction, walk outside to wait at the bus stop during adverse weather conditions but not one of the fellow parishioners who previously shook your hand and smiled in your face, greets you lovingly, and yet, neven thinks about offering you a ride. Of course, there are some congregations who, upon learning of your circumstances if you volunteer the information, will provide for you to ride in the church van or bus; just so long it is not their personal vehicle. That’s a little different from the ‘Samaritan’ who put the wounded and probably bloody person on his own donkey. This would also imply that this caring person had to be inconvenienced all the way to the inn; let alone pay for the victim’s lodging, meals, and whatever other charges he might have incurred.
It is more than just being religious because in Hosea 6: 6 God says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
1 John 3: 17, 4: 20
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Hebrews 13: 2
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers (your neighbor??), for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Matthew 25: 44-45
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
As you travel down the road of Life ask yourself this one question, do you want to live it as the Levite, Priest, or the Samaritan?
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