In my previous blog I quoted Mark 12:30-31 where Jesus says to Love God with all your heart… and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus was asked the question in my heading and he came back with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Most of us have heard this parable and could give a quick synopsis of it, but there are some interesting things that I’ve learned about this parable that brings it right into our time.
Do you know who Samaritans were in Jesus’s day? They were the hated, the outcasts the “dregs” of Jewish society. There was a long history between the Jews and the Samaritans, that will not go into. In the first century, Jews who were traveling from Galilee (where Jesus was based in Capernaum) to Jerusalem, they would go miles out of their way to go around Samaria. It wasn’t considered safe to travel though Samaria.
With this information in mind, let’s look at the rest of the parable. A man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho (about a days walk, through some rough land) and was beaten, stripped of his clothing and robbed of all his possessions. A priest (Jewish priest from the temple) happened by but didn’t stop to help the man. A Levite (a person who served in the temple) passed by but didn’t help the man. Both of these men would have been highly esteemed by the general public in Jesus’s day. They certainly knew of the directives from God to help others that were in trouble. But they didn’t stop. I have read some commentaries regarding this and one thing that they may have been worried about was becoming “unclean”. If a jew happened to get blood on their bodies anywhere they were considered “unclean” and would have to go through the purification process before they could work in the temple. They might have not wanted to “defile” themselves by helping this person.
A Samaritan comes along and “took pity” on the man. He bandaged his wounds (using oil and wine, fairly expensive stuff) and then put the man on his own donkey. Now, think about this; this is a Samaritan with a beat-up Jew on his donkey. He could have been yelled at, or worse, if any one around him saw what he was doing. The man really had no business in helping the hurting man, but helped him anyway.
The Samaritan took the man to an inn and continued to take care of him. Just taking this man to an inn was hard for this man; the inn may have not even served Samaritans. The man needed to continue on his journey and gave the innkeeper “two denarii” to take care of him. A denarius (single) was about one days pay in Jesus’s time, so the man gave the innkeeper about two days pay. Then tells the innkeeper that when he comes back he will reimburse him for any additional charges. The Samaritan not only took care of the man, but paid to have someone to continue to help him. This was out of his pocket with no expectation of return.
We are to be like the Samaritan. Helping others without expecting anything back. Doing good things for others. Going out of our way to help someone. Loving them, regardless of who they are, what they believe or what they look like. This is what “Loving your Neighbor” looks like.