St. Luke 10.vv.25-37
~ A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher", he said, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?". He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?". He answered, "You shall 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 your neighbour as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this and you will live".
But wanting to justify himself he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?". Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds having poured wine and oil on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend". Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?". He said, "The one who showed him mercy". Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise". ~
So vivid are Jesus' parables that it is hardly surprising to see on the roadside between Jerusalem and Jericho a "khan" (Inn) of the Samaritan. Standing alone outside the ruins during the 1939 - 1945 war, I realised also how vulnerable a traveller would be to a would-be mugger in that desolate terrain.
The teaching of this parable is so plain that we need constantly to remember the significance of the words "compassion" and "neighbour".
The Samaritan showed compassion. He did not merely have pity on the wounded man; probably the previous passers by pitied him too, for we can feel pity and look on from above, but compassion comes "where he is" and takes action. Compassion is a glorious word. In its original Greek, the word "compassion" denotes the movement of the bodily organs, "bowels" in some versions, "heart" in most. Compassion, as the word implies, means "suffer with", "come alongside"; today we more often use the word "empathise". Compassion is a Godlike quality; if God stopped short at pitying us, where should we be? All too often those who read or hear this parable wrongly assume that there was a tolerably good relationship and neighbourliness between the Samaritan and the wounded man. The Old Testament teaches concern and compassion for the neighbour. In Deuteronomy we read, "Leave some corn and grapes after harvest for your needy neighbour", a lovely idea. "Do not steal from, cheat or oppress your neighbour, love your neighbour as yourself". This is all very praiseworthy - but there is here a limited liability for the neighbour who is a Jew not a foreigner and certainly not an enemy.
In the New Testament St. Paul bids his hearers to show concern for one's enemies; bless them, don't curse them, overcome evil with good. How does this arise, that love is to be shown in this indiscriminate manner? The answer is simply that St. Paul has imbibed the teaching of Jesus Christ and followed his example, for the Jew and the Samaritan were not neighbours except in a territorial sense; the Jews were expected to despise or even hate the alien race of Samaritans; no love was lost between the two communities. Jesus, however, had an all-inclusive compassion for mankind. For Jesus there were no bounds; even "outcasts" were acceptable. "He came where we are" in the Incarnation. He died for all. By his cross he heals the hurts of all mankind and gives life by his death.
The message for us is plain - all too many are "half-dead", there is appalling human need, the "Jericho" road is everywhere. Sooner or later we find ourselves confronted by wounded brothers or sisters, wounded in body or spirit, and then we hear Jesus say, "Go thou, and do likewise".