Unlike the governing Jews in ancient Jerusalem, Samaritans were more secular Jews who intermarried within other groups, causing multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural traditions to be practiced and conveyed within their group. It was the belief of the governing Jews that Samaritans were inferior due to their “impure” bloodline and cross-cultural traditions. On both sides, those within each group considered avoidance to be the only discrete way of dealing with each other.
This makes the parable Jesus offered in Luke 10:25 to the lawyer who asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” so remarkable. Lawyers, like Pharisees, were students of the law. And, like the Pharisees, Scribes, Priests and Levites; lawyers were considered part of elite of society. Their knowledge of both governing law, and doctrinal law gave them the opportunity to commune with all members of the social elite, and similarly, a common person or peasant could not simply evoke an audience with any of them, much less a Samaritan.
Jesus responds by asking the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How have you interpreted it?” The lawyer says to Him, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commends him by saying, “You have answered right, do this and you shall live.” But like any good attorney, he has to ask God’s Holiest Witness to clarify His statement; after all, we are talking about eternal life. So, knowing that he does not interact with the “common folks” of society, the lawyer asks for a specific clarification, asking, “And, who is my neighbor?”
Today when we read this, we have to laugh, because, it is so easy to hear our own voice saying, “Uh, uh. (hands folded across your chest.) And, who exactly is my neighbor? It better not be Shirley down the street or that guy Rodney in apartment 3-B! You know I can’t stand them! I would sooner walk over them in the street!”
So, just like the rest of us, he forgets that he cannot entrap God. He forgot that questions posed to God, although entertained when asked, were created and already answered by our omnipotent, omniscient Creator. Jesus entertains his question by offering the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36), where a man, robbed, wounded, and left dying in the street is passed over by both a Priest and a Levite.
At first I wondered why Jesus chose a Priest and a Levite; but then, I realized that the man who lay wounded in the street was their social peer—himself a member of the social elite. How do we know? The Bible says the man’s clothing was stolen. Even by today’s standards, if you are the victim of a robbery, the crooks will take your money; however, if they take your clothing, it’s because you have something they truly cannot afford. The priest sees the man in the ditch and crosses the street. The Levite comes over, looks into the face of the man, and then crosses the street!
A Samaritan sees the man, tends to his wounds, takes him to an inn, and pays the proprietor to take care of him, promising to take care of any further expenses the proprietor incurs upon his return to the area.
So, the question Jesus asks is, “Which one of the three do you think were the wounded man’s neighbors?” We can imagine Jesus watching the lawyer as he arrives at God’s desired conclusion stating, “The one who showed compassion on him.” Jesus, probably looking at the lawyer directly in the eyes, charges him by saying, “Go and do likewise.” This too is our charge!
Interacting with others who are culturally and socially different can bring you social enlightenment and new friends, stretching your love and compassion far beyond your own preconceived capabilities. Not to mention, it just may be that very last component that actually moves you closer to God and gets you into heaven. L.
Study Reference: Luke 10:25-36
From:"Loving Your Neighbors." In The Master's Hands: 365 Daily Devotions for Everyday Living.
Copyright © 2014 by Lavona E. Campbell