“In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:30-37
Travel can be pretty dangerous. The news is filled with reports of accidents. It is also filled with reports of some who inflict harm and death. And so it was during Jesus’ day. That is why when He began with this story to answer the expert’s question; it rang true in the hearts of the audience.
A man set out on the eighteen-mile trip from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers waylaid him and beat him, stripped him of anything of value and left him lying in the dirt. He was just so much trash to be discarded at the side of the road.
There he was, half dead when a priest came upon the scene. The priest was a religious leader, one of the ones we assume would help. But this priest passed by, moving to the other side of the road.
We cannot know his reasons for sure, but we can examine what some of them might have been. Maybe he had an appointment and was running late. He had to get somewhere and stopping would have delayed him more. Maybe he thought he simply could not take the time to help, he was, after all, a busy man. He had religious things to do. Or perhaps he pondered that priests were supposed to remain ceremonially clean. If they touched something unclean, then they were unclean as well. Here was a man, bruised, bleeding, barely alive. What if when he stopped to help, the man died and he touched him? Touching a dead body would be bad. He would then have to go through the cleansing process. No, he could not take the chance on that. Or what if the robbers who had hurt this man were still lying in wait just looking for another victim? No, it would be best to cross over and get as far away as possible.
In reality, his motives don’t matter. What matters is that he crossed over to the other side and kept going.
Then another religious person happened to walk down the road. This man was a Levite. The Levites were followers of the law. Surely there would be room in the law to reach out to help someone. But no, he crossed over as well.
Then a Samaritan came along. There was so much animosity and hatred between Samaritans and Jews. They did not interact. The two groups stayed apart. So, we can certainly understand why this Samaritan would have crossed over and hurriedly departed. But he did not. He stopped. Not only did he stop, he was filled with compassion and he moved into action. This Samaritan did everything he could do to insure that this Jewish man would live. He ministered to his physical needs, he gave his own resources, and he planned to go back again later to the inn to make sure the debt was paid in full.
Which of these was a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?
The expert in the law knew the answer. “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
And what of us? Satan and his band of demons are the robbers. They come to steal, kill, and destroy. They leave their victims bruised, bleeding, and broken in the dirt. Are we passing by on the other side of the road, too busy, not willing to be made unclean by the filth of the world, or too afraid to get involved?
Or are we like the Samaritan, willing to attend to those who need to hear that there is a Savior who can heal their brokenness and tell them that He has paid their debt in full?