We have now reached one the most popular parables told by Jesus. In fact, this is a parable that I have even heard told in secular settings. I just pray that our familiarity with this parable doesn’t prevent us from receiving a fresh word from God. This is a parable that we can use to remind us of who God wants us to reach and love. If you haven’t read the parable yet, please do so now.
An expert of the law asked Jesus who his neighbor was after telling Jesus that one of the great commandments was to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus answered him with this parable. He tells of a man that was robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest passed him on the other side of the road, and a Levite did the same thing. These people were highly respected and honored in this culture, and they were very familiar with God’s law. Jesus used these people to show that position on earth does not exempt us from doing what God wants us to do. Finally a Samaritan (Samaritans and Jews disliked each other) saw the man and took care of him and paid for his stay in an inn until he got better.
There was a lot of animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. If you notice the expert’s reaction when Jesus asked who had acted as a neighbor, the expert said, “The one who had mercy on him.” He wouldn’t even call him a Samaritan. I find it interesting that Jesus wasn’t just showing that the person who we considered the least was the one showing God’s love by showing mercy on a person that he didn’t necessarily like. The Samaritan was able to see pass whatever prejudice he was raised in and help a fellow human. The other thing that I find interesting is that Jesus used people who should have known better that refused to help.
I find that very convicting. I know better, but how many times have I turned away when someone needed help? It is easy to justify why I turned away…”I’m late for work…,” “I’m tired…,” the excuses are endless. The problem is that the crisis for the other person still exists. Let’s dig a little deeper and touch on the spiritual needs around us. The justifications become even greater when we don’t share the solution to eternal death. It makes us very uncomfortable to share with a person in a spiritual crisis the very thing that will save them! How many times have I invited someone to church? How about the difficult neighbor that needs a listening ear? Jesus was telling us that we need to step out of our comfort zones to be a “good neighbor.” We need to share God’s love with EVERYONE around us, even the people that can be difficult to love.
I also want to point out that the Samaritan showed love to a person that would never be able to repay him, or even say thank you. We don’t need to ever expect anything in return for showing love. We shouldn’t expect a pat on the back from the people around us; in fact, sometimes you may be asked how you could be so nice to a particular person. Are you as convicted as I am?
Have you been a good neighbor?