The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”Luke 10:29-37
The title I gave to this segment must have been what went through the mind of the expert in the Law after Jesus explained who his neighbour was. I am sure you are all familiar with TV programmes relating to neighbour disputes and therefore the term “neighbours from hell”. When the Jewish expert in the law tried to deflect Jesus with his question, “Who is my neighbour?” there was no way he could have predicted the shock contained in Jesus answer. Well his story which contained his answer at least. He thought his response to Jesus’ question related to what he must DO in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Suddenly it became an issue of what he was doing personally. So he tried to do what experts in the Law were good at: blocking transparency and practical application with tedious questions focused on the minutiae of the Law. He wanted to move away from the personal nature of this discussion and have more control. But it didn’t work. He made matters worse with his next question – who is my neighbour? Notice how “me focused” this question is. i.e. Who will be a neighbour to me?
Jesus answers the man’s question with a story. As I said yesterday it is not a parable. But note how he begins the story. “A certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho . . . ” This man could be anyone, but you will see in the NLT translation above the translation says “a Jewish man”. Literally it is “a certain man” but it is mostly likely a Jewish man and as the story unfolds it demands a Jewish man. The audience would automatically assume the man was a Jew. The likelihood of a man being robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was high. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho descended 1,000 metres over 27 kilometres. It passes through a desert area and some rocky barren country. It was a favourite hiding area for thieves and bands of robbers. But the way this story is couched it is not a parable, it was something that happened frequently in those days. This story is structured in a series of escalating stages each one adding to the horror of the situation.
he was attacked by bandits.
stripped of his clothes,
beat him up,
left half dead beside the road.
They take his clothes (probably to ensure they get all of his possessions) and they beat him and left him half dead (the sense of which is more dead than alive)
Now by chance . . . The road was lonely and isolated and if you were trapped on this section of the Jerusalem – Jericho road with robbers who beat you with an inch of your life the chances of someone coming along at just that moment were remote. It is more likely you will lie there a long time before anyone comes along and whether they see you or not is another matter. Well by chance a priest comes along. Who better than a Jewish priest to minister to a Jewish man. But what if he doesn’t see Him. Well look at that, by chance he also sees him. So the man is very fortunate; he is Jewish and he has been seen by a Jewish priest. It is most likely that the priest is riding on a donkey or some such animal. He is pledged to serve the children of Israel, but when he sees the man and his situation he crosses the road to avoid him and passes by on the other side of the road. Why? Touching a bloodied man made the priest ceremonially unclean. Or perhaps he thought the man was dead already and didn’t want to become involved. Maybe he was afraid of being attacked himself in an area prone to attacks by robbers. Hence he passed as far away as possible from the man so there is no chance of any defilement. But essentially this priest is heartless and lacking compassion for a fellow Jew, a neighbour.
Likewise, by chance . . . along comes a Levite. The Levite wasn’t such a good prospect as a rescuer as the priest, but he was at least commissioned to carry out lesser tasks in temple service. He was still someone who was likely to help a fellow Jew. Here was another neighbour, not nearly as good as the first but still potentially held his salvation in his hands. He could still be rescued on this remote road. But no, when the Levite sees the man he too passes by on the other side.
But then a Samaritan came along! Adversative, contrastive to the other two and the word Samaritan is placed in the emphatic position in the sentence, stressing his Samaritan-ness. He is the last person on earth who could be expected to help. The Jewish leaders excluded Gentiles from the category of being a neighbour, but even more strongly they excluded the Samaritans from being classed as neighbours. It was unthinkable that God would suggest the Samaritans be classified as neighbours to His chosen people. Much less to be neighbourly to any Jewish person. The man’s hopes are all gone now. Notice the same “when he saw him” element, and by inference the Samaritan is even more likely to do the same as the other two. But notice what happens. The same escalating pattern as before.
When the SAMARITAN sees him he:
- Had compassion
- Washed his wounds with wine to disinfect them
- Bathed his wounds in soothing oil
- Bound up his wounds in bandages
- Put him on his own riding animal (and assumedly the Samaritan walked)
- Took him to an inn
- Took care of him (including clothes [remember he is naked] and provisions
- Gives two denarii to the inn keeper to cover costs (Jeremias says 1/12 of a denarii covered a days board) so that covers the man for almost a month. (24 days)
- Keep taking care of him
- And I will reimburse you when I return.
What a contrast ! Now that is going the extra mile and so different from the JEWISH NEIGHBOURS.
Can you imagine the shock on the part of the expert in the Law when he hears Jesus tell him that Samaritan was the one who cared for a Jewish traveler? Beaten by thieves while two highly respected, upstanding Jewish citizens pass him by? This totally defies reality as the expert in the Law would perceive it. “How can there be a GOOD . . . SAMARITAN?” That is a collocational clash. The two words don’t belong together. It boggles the mind. It reminds me of the lawyer jokes going around. ‘The only good lawyer is a dead lawyer.” [With apologies to the lawyers who get this Gem] This is the way the Jew thought of the Samaritans. The only good Samaritan was a dead Samaritan. Just take in the shock of this for a moment. This story causes the expert in Law to go through a paradigm shift of immense proportions. In his attempt to deflect him feeling uncomfortable in the way the discussion was turning he has only succeeded in bringing a more radical challenge.
Who is my neighbour? No, it is not divided into people groups, cultural groupings. The loving your neighbour concept cuts across all those classic boundaries and modes of thought. Love the one at your elbow. Love the one close to you. The Samaritans sure are close to you. LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. Love the ones you despise. They are your neighbours too.
Notice how abruptly the story ends and the focus switches in the last two verses.
- “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
- The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
- Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
We will deal with this in the next Gem and sum it all up. But I warn you there is a further surprise in the way Jesus asked the last question. See if you can find it.
How can you love the world if you can’t love the one at your elbow?Ian Vail
If you judge people you will have no time to love them.Mother Theresa
If we cannot love the person whom we can see how can we love God whom we cannot see?Mother Theresa
Sympathy = I’m sorry you hurt.
Empathy = I hurt with you.
Compassion = I’ll pay any price to stop your hurt. Love like Jesus today.Rick Warren
“Love thy neighbour” is not a piece of advice, it’s a command.Bono
If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate.Nikka, age 6