The Parable of the Good Shepherd
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus’ teachings were revolutionary for their time and many of them, if taken seriously, would completely change the way we live today. But, you know they don’t hold the impact, that they should have.
Some of Jesus’ teachings don’t much make sense to us. We read and hear them, then file them away as not really relevant in today's world.
Then, there's the teachings that do make sense to us, we take them seriously, but still don’t hold their wow factor. And that is sort of where I am with the story of the Good Samaritan.
It's a story I’ve heard so many times and heard it preached about so many times. I think my challenge in reflecting about the Good Samaritan today is seeing if it has anything new to tell us.I thought maybe, it would help to put the situation in present day context.
You’re driving along a deserted back road. You’re all alone in the car. It's late afternoon in January and it's dark. There are no streetlights anywhere and the road is lined with thick woods on either side.
Suddenly, you see a car off the side of the road and there is a man standing behind the car waving for you to stop. He’s obviously injured; it looks like there's blood on his shirt. What do you do?
Recently you’ve read in the paper about a series of robberies and assaults on this particular stretch of road. Do you stop?
There's another complication. You're driving to a wedding and you're all dressed up for the ceremony. If you stop, you’re probably going to get dirty trying to help the man. What do you do?
You have a cell phone, couldn’t you just call police for help and keep going?
After all, they're trained to help in this kind of situation. My brothers and sisters, are you the Priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan?
Are you a neighbor to this man?
Maybe we can relate better to the situation in this context. But the situation is not all that different from when Jesus told this parable. I think the key to understanding this parable is not in the story itself. Nor is it in the response of the lawyer.
The key to understanding is in the very last line of the parable.
Jesus asks, "Who's the neighbor?" The Lawyer answers, "The one who treated him with mercy." But then Jesus says the one thing that the lawyer
—and we—tend not to hear clearly. And this is the key to the parable. Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
He doesn’t say, "Go and do likewise — unless your own life's in danger”, or “Go and do likewise — unless you’re dressed for a party” or “Go and do likewise — unless you can get someone else to help.” He simply says, “Go and do likewise.”
There's no qualification to what Jesus is saying to us; just “Go and do likewise.” Did the lawyer actually hear and do what Jesus said? We have no way of knowing, Luke never tells us.
However, we can take a look at how we hear what Jesus is asking. “Who was the neighbor?” After some reflection, I think there's an implied question that Jesus is also asking the lawyer and us.
The answer to “Who was this man's neighbor?” is obvious. And taken on face value —this parable preaches itself. But, Jesus is also asking us, “Do you SEE your neighbor?”
It's one thing to acknowledge the theory that we're neighbors to everyone else.
It’s something entirely different to “see” your neighbor. And “seeing” your neighbor loving that person as much as you love yourself.
Historically and culturally, the Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They had no contact with each other, if they could avoid it. But here in this parable,
it's the Samaritan who stops to help the Jewish man heading home to Jerichoafter visiting the temple in Jerusalem. Not the Jewish priest or the Levite.
The Samaritan SAW his neighbor and he LOVED him— despite their differences. So, when Jesus says, “Go and do likewise” to that lawyer — and to us —he means “Go and do likewise” for everyone. Challenging us to love everyone —accept everyone—welcome everyone—without qualification.
Just as Jesus opened his arms to save all, he’s telling us to open our arms and be healed with our neighbors.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior who welcomes us all and tells us TO DO, and DO LIKEWISE. Amen.