THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
Dcn. Garry Salguero
This particular parable is so well known that it has become an idiom for unusual sacrificial kindness. We call people “Good Samaritans” who find people in need and help them in unusual ways. To call someone a “Good Samaritan” is to grant them a noble compliment. And so we can say that we know how the story transpired. But now let us look at the parable with a new perspective.
Verse twenty-five of the Gospel shows us that Jesus was teaching, the people were seated, and the setting was somewhat formal. In the middle of His teaching a certain lawyer (scribe, expert in the Law of Moses and the Jewish Law) stood up and put Him to the test saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Most Jews knew that the Old Testament promised eternal life, a resurrection unto life, and an eternal Kingdom in which they desired to live in the presence of God in complete fulfilment of the divine promises. This question was posed quite frequently to Jesus, appearing so many places in the gospels; and this was the main thought of Jesus when He narrated the parable. This was the topic. Jesus never changed His topic or His line of thought. The parable was about eternal life and God’s tremendous love for His people.
Going straight to the parable, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Jerusalem is approximately 3,000 ft. above sea level; Jericho, approximately 900 ft. below sea level. It’s a 4,000 ft. drop in 17 miles, a pretty severe angle. It is a dangerous road, filled with caves and rocks and crevices plunging 300 feet. Additionally, the way is fraught with hidden robbers. All in all, it was an ideal suicide road. This certain man represents us and our lives, reduced to destruction and death because of our sin. This sin robbed us, stripped us, beat us, and left us virtually naked. We would say today the man was in critical condition, in the process of dying, actually halfway there. With numerous broken bones and deep wounds, this man was not capable of moving. I like the way Jesus paints the scene, for this tells us that we are completely dependent on God’s love and mercy.
Skipping the priest and the Levite episode and going straight to the Samaritan: notice how this man loved. First of all he saw him (v 33), and then he felt compassion. Something in his heart just went out to the man: sadness, grief, sympathy, empathy, pain, a driving need to rescue and recover the man. The victim had open wounds and was bleeding; the Greek word is “trauma.” He was naked with broken bones, but the Good Samaritan covered the stripped body, bound up the wounds with bandages, poured in oil and wine, put him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
This Samaritan is no other than God Himself. What the Samaritan did was not minimal care, it was maximum care. The bandages, oil and wine are sacramental images for (1) the garment of baptism, which delivers us from the wounds of sin; (2) the oil of chrismation, which gives us new life in the Holy Spirit; (3) the communion of the divine Blood, which leads to eternal life. The animal or beast indicates Christ bearing our sins in His own body, and the inn reveals the Church in which Christ’s care is given. Two denarii is enough for 40 days of board and lodging.
This story is about limitless love. It is about the God who will care for His people with no limit. God loved us lavishly, sacrificially, generously, tenderly, limitlessly and kindly. Yes, this is still a story about loving your neighbor. Yes, you can still say to your child “Be a Good Samaritan, you can share your sandwich with a hungry classmate.” But remind them also that this story is about the limitless love of the Father to His people. It is similar to the story of the prodigal son, where we focus our attention on the repenting son, but its point is actually about the great love of the father to his lost son. (Notice the same lavishness and grandeur the father gave to the returning son.)
Finally, let us be challenged by what Jesus said to the lawyer in verses 28 and 37: “Do this and you will live.” “Go and do the same.”