I am grateful to Darrell R. Bock for using his commentary to point out the obvious regarding this parable. Jesus told the parable in answer to the question “Who is my neighbour that I should love?” If that was all the information we sought in this parable, the answer is simple, “the man in the ditch is the neighbour that needs to be loved.”
But Jesus doesn’t really address the question, “Who should I love?” Rather, he challenges his listeners to BE good neighbours. He regards as a given that we should love all we come in contact with. We should best understand the parable of the Good Samaritan as describing HOW we should love our neighbours: even though that’s not the question he was asked.
Interestingly, Jesus never articulates the applications of this parable. At its conclusion he asks, “Who was the loving neighbour?” I suspect I would have responded, “the Samaritan”, but the Jewish lawyers identifies the Samaritan by his character, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus then concludes with the instruction to “Go and do likewise.” Is that the ultimate application of this parable? That if we love our neighbours, we will demonstrate mercy in our relationships with them?
In my sermon, I emphasised the need to put our love into action. Here are a couple of ways I see the Samaritan love his neighbour.
- The loving neighbour takes action. Godly love doesn’t stop at nice, but empty, words.
- The loving neighbour goes out of his way for others. I presume his journey was slowed down by helping a badly injured person.
- Loving others may (will?) cost us something. The Samaritan paid for the care and accommodation of the man who’d been robbed.
- Loving neighbours take risks at times. If one traveler’s already been robbed, is it safe for anyone else to stop?
I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t making all those points when he first told this story, but I believe it’s the responsibility of Bible students today to apply this parable to our own lives, times, and circumstances. Can you think of some more applications of this parable? How can churches enact these principles? How can individuals embody the example of the Good Samaritan? Be as specific as you like.