Luke is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Jesus has entered Samaritan territory we are told. It's enemy territory for Jews. What would be our equivalent? The story invites the question can a Samaritan be good? “Can a Muslim be good? Can a migrant be good? (migrants are often linked to criminal acts, especially asylum seekers in the media).
Jesus is approached by a legal expert in Biblical law who asks what a person must do to gain eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer/theologian what he thinks the scriptures say. The theologian gives the answer, "love God, love your neighbour." Jesus replies "Indeed, do this and you will live." Yet, here lies the problem, doing God's law is no easy matter, and it does help if our neighbour belongs to a group of people we like. So, the theologian asks Jesus "who is my neighbour?" Jesus doesn't actually answer the theologian's question (my neighbour is even my enemy), rather he illustrates in a parable what it means to love "your neighbour as yourself".
The "going down" expresses movement from a high place to a low place, the low place being Jericho. The road drops 3,300 feet in 17 miles and was notorious for its hazards!
The priest does not stop because of a fear of the robbers, or fear of defilement from a corpse.
A Levite, came up to him, quite close, and passed on.
A Samaritan, who was travelling when he saw him, took pity on him and attended to his wounds. Oil was used on wounds as a liniment, while wine (alcohol) was used as an antiseptic.
Then he put the man on his own donkey took the man to the inn, staying the night with him to care for him (rather than just dumping him there) and payed for ongoing care the next day. As a neighbour, the Samaritan did everything he could The next day he gave money to the innkeeper to look after him.
When I return (like Jesus), I will reimburse you any extra.
Who seems to you of the three to have become neighbourly to the one who fell into the robbers?
Go and do likewise.
The lawyer when asked by Jesus recognizes that the Samaritan has acted properly, but he can’t bring himself to say the word Samaritan. The lawyer must see behind the Law, laws to love. Even non-Jews who demonstrate this kind of love can enter the kingdom.
Jesus' extension of the obligation to love even our enemies gives it new, radical perspective. Our Christian faith calls us to the love of the Samaritan, Muslim, migrant, asylum seeker.
Luke emphasizes that Christ came for all: all sectors of society, all peoples, and both sexes. Samaritans, despised by Jews, are welcome in the Kingdom. The lawyer has learnt that his love should be for everyone; if it is, he has eternal life.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus confronts the expert in the law with the simple fact that eternal life is not secured by righteousness, by being good.
The point we learn, is not who deserves to be cared for but rather the demand to become a person who treats everyone encountered - however frightening, alien, naked or defenseless – with compassion. We must take the same risks with our life and possessions that the Samaritan did.
Religious Jews, legalists, of the day believed that by obedience to the law they were able to perfect their standing before God and thus guarantee their place in the kingdom. The law forces the believer to rest on God. This religious Jew did not need a legal definition for "neighbour", he needed to act in a neighbourly way, with mercy, to inherit eternal life. The
problem was he had never loved as the Samaritan loved! Therefore, he stood under the condemnation of God and was in dire need of Gods mercy. Jesus deliberately shocks the lawyer by forcing him to consider the possibility that a foreigner might know more about the love of God than a devout Jew blinded by preoccupation with petty rules.
Jesus illustrates what it means to love "your neighbour as yourself", what it means to be neighbourly. Elsewhere in the gospels Jesus states this summary of the law, here it comes from a Jewish expert on the law and Jesus agrees with it.
We need to rediscover the Samaritans theology of kindness. The theology of kindness creates a welcome environment , practical hospitality and signs we care. Gospel kindness feeds us physically or spiritually. True welcoming is more interested in the needs of the stranger. It’s entertaining angels unawares.
The image of a man "left for dead" is a perfect illustration. How often does the church, knowing people have real terrible needs leave them for dead. Everyone around the beaten man in the story allowed him to be "left for dead." We must be like the Good Samaritan, love our neighbour, and reflect Jesus' command to "Go and do as he did."