But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion.
In Luke 10, we see how the lawyer tries to restrict the term “neighbor” so it would be easy for him to obey the command to love his neighbor as himself. So in answer to his question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus told a story we call the parable of the good Samaritan.
“Jesus replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead’” (v. 30). The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a seventeen-mile road that descends 3,300 feet and has a lot of winding curves. And along that road are caves where thieves would hang out to rob travelers and leave them for dead. That’s apparently what happened to this guy. But this story isn’t as much about the victim as it is about the people who saw the victim.
The first one to see the injured man was the priest. “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side” (v. 31). He just walked by, never stopped. We don’t know what his motivation was. Maybe he had just finished his duty in the temple in Jerusalem and he was eager to get home. Maybe he saw this guy on the road and thought, This guy could be dead and the law says if I touch a dead person, I have to go all the way back to Jerusalem to the temple and purify myself. So I will pass on by. Or maybe he thought, I studied to be a priest, not a doctor. That’s not my calling. Or maybe as he looked behind him, he saw somebody else coming and thought, I will let him take care of this. I have more important things to do.
In verse 32, we see the assistant priest, the Levite, was behind him. The Levite also saw the injured man and passed by on the other side. Maybe as he saw the priest pass by, he thought, My boss must know something I don’t know. If he didn’t stop, then surely I shouldn’t stop. And he, too, walks by. Now at this point, I think Jesus’ audience was smiling, perhaps even laughing out loud. They loved it whenever the priests were the villains in the story. They realized that Judaism was bankrupt. They were delighted to hear that these religious leaders were the villains.
But their delight turned to dismay when Jesus revealed the hero of the story. “A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion” (v. 33). Remember, the phrase “good Samaritan” was unthinkable to this audience. As we have seen, it would be like today, calling together family members of those killed on September 11 and saying to them, “Today I’d like to preach a message about ‘The Good Terrorist.’” There is no such thing in their minds as a “good” Samaritan.
You see, Samaritans were a mixed race: half Assyrian, half Israelite. And for hundreds of years full-blooded Jews hated the half-breed Samaritans because they were the product of their forefathers who had been sleeping with the enemy. But when this Samaritan who was on the journey came upon the injured man, something bubbled over, compassion that he couldn’t contain, and he stopped and did what was necessary to take care of that need.
Notice exactly what the Samaritan did for this person who was left for dead. Verse 34 says that “he came to him and bandaged his wounds.” We tend to think he stopped, got off of his donkey, and reached into the saddle to pull out a bandage. However, the only way he could bind up this man’s wounds was to rip up his own garment to wrap the wounds. Not only did he do that, but he also poured oil as a balm that soothed the pain, and he poured wine on the wounds as an antiseptic. Then he put the injured man on his own donkey and brought him to an inn to receive care. The next day, which means he must have spent the night there, the Samaritan took out two denarii—two days’ wages—and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him and whatever more you spend, you can bill me. I will be responsible for whatever cost he incurs.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Stranger in Need Meets a Neighbor in Deed” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.