What makes a modern day good Samaritan? I read this phrase in the newspapers recently, when journalists were reporting on an unexpected act of kindness. In a hostile situation, with two people on opposing sides, one man went out of his way to help another. The press labelled him ‘a modern day good samaritan.’
The original ‘good Samaritan’ of course is a character created by Jesus in one of His parables. When He was questioned about who we should regard as our neighbour, Jesus used a story to talk about mercy.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
In Luke’s gospel an expert on the law, questioned Jesus regarding what should be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered by asking him what was written in the law, and the man’s reply was:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.Luke 10:27
He then asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
In reply Jesus told this story about a man – a Jewish man – travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho.
On this lonely road the man was attacked, robbed, beaten and left for dead. But there were other people also travelling on this road.
The first person to encounter the injured man was a priest, but he didn’t stop to help, he passed by on the other side of the road. Next to come along was a Levite, but he also ignored the wounded man lying on the roadside and hurried on. The people who would have been expected to stop and help did nothing.
An Unexpected Act of Kindness
Then a man from Samaria came along the road, the person least likely to help as the Jews looked down on and despised the Samaritans. Yet he was the one who had compassion for the injured man, and setting aside any differences, he put himself out to help with considerable effort and personal expense.
The Samaritan did what he could at the roadside to treat the injured man, and then loading him onto his own donkey, he took him to the nearest inn. He took care of him that night and the next day when he needed to continue his journey, he paid the innkeeper to continue to look after the wounded man. The ‘good Samaritan’ took full responsibility to care for this injured stranger. Even to the point of saying he would call at the inn again on his return trip, and if needed, would cover any extra costs incurred.
Jesus then asked the expert on the law:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The man answers “The one who had mercy on him”
Jesus replied “Go and do likewise”
The Good Samaritan Message
Jesus’ commands to love and forgive one another can be difficult to live out. There may be deep hurts and wounds in our lives which need healing and restoration, difficult situations and impossible people to deal with. But mercy is a gift of grace given by the Holy Spirit in response to a need. We have all received God’s mercy, this is what Jesus did for us at Calvary. He brings a gentle reminder to give out of what we have received – for all that we need has already been made available to us.
Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power….So devote yourselves to lavishly supplementing your faith with goodness, and to goodness add understanding, and to understanding add the strength of self-control, and to self-control add patient endurance, and to patient endurance add godliness, and to godliness add mercy toward your brothers and sisters, and to mercy toward others add unending love.
2 Peter 1:3, 5-7 TPT
What is the Moral of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?
In answer to a question regarding what should be done to inherit eternal life, Jesus points us back to the greatest commandment, to love God, and then to love one another. He then uses this parable to teach us about mercy.
For a long time I had understood mercy to mean forgiveness and the withholding of a justly deserved punishment, which it is. But in this story, Jesus redefines mercy and takes it one step further. He shows that true mercy is more than withdrawing punishment, it is also about bringing an undeserved blessing!
Mercy is a love that knows no boundaries.Tweet
Mercy is love in action, a love that reaches out even with a small act of compassion, to those with whom one might strongly disagree. A limitless love, knowing no boundaries, which has a powerful impact on all those who witness it!
What Type of Person is a Good Samaritan?
We all have the potential to be a modern day good Samaritan, if we are willing to respond with compassion to those in need and set aside judgement. Because the phrase means more than acts of kindness to our friends and family, to those who will return the gesture. It is when we are willing to help those who might oppose us, who do not know us, and who may never repay us.
In June 2020 our national newspapers all showed a picture taken at a Black Lives Matter event, which had descended from a peaceful protest into a violent riot with the police. The picture was of a black man carrying over his shoulder an injured white man. He had responded with compassion, and was doing all that he could, to rescue and save someone else’s life. Political affiliations and different views were set aside in response to the need. Among the anger and rage, a glimmer of hope, a modern day good Samaritan making front page news!