Ridiculous! There’s no way those dirty, filthy outsiders can be considered my neighbor!
I had heard of this Jesus fellow’s teachings, so I wanted to test him to see if he really knew the Law, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
In turn, he asked me what was written in the Law, but I knew the answer to this one! Most people just think it’s hundreds of rules to be holy, but I’ve studied the deeper meaning.
“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 neighbor as yourself.” I recited confidently with pride in my knowledge.
“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Jesus stated bluntly.
Wait, he just agreed with my conclusion? What is he trying to get at? Is he implying that I’m not loving God or my neighbor? Exactly who does he think I’m not loving that I should be?
“And who is my neighbor?” I retorted. I knew he couldn’t possible expect me to love those horrid Roman invaders or all these other outsiders invading our lands.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” he began. Okay, I know that path well. It’s a rather long cliff that circles down south and then back around north to Jericho.
“and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” he continued. Yep, I knew it, those filthy robbers, I bet they were Samaritans. Those good for nothing outsiders. They need to be driven from our land.
A slight smile creased Jesus’ face as he continued his story. Was he responding to what I was thinking? Did my expression give away my thoughts?
“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” he said, still with a slight grin on his face. Well of course the priest couldn’t help—he has a duty to the Temple! He must remain ritually clean so he can perform the constant task of cleansing sin. If he were to touch the bloodied man, he would be doing a great disservice to the rest of Israel by shirking his sin management duties….Wait! How did the priest pass on the “other side?!” There is no “other side” on the path to Jericho! It’s a sheer cliff!
Again, Jesus with the smiling! What’s he thinking?!
“So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” he continued, still with a slight smile across his face. Yeah, of course the Levite couldn’t help either. He too would become ritually unclean and would not be able to perform his duties to the Temple and the priests….Wait! Again with the “other side” business! Does he not know the path to Jericho, or is he being intentionally facetious?! Maybe I should correct him…
Jesus, though, interrupted my thoughts as he continued, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was.” What?! Why is he including Samaritan filth in this story?! I guess he’s going to show how cruel the Samaritan is by comparison. The priest and Levite at least had legitimate reasons for not helping. This evil Samaritan will probably torture the poor guy some more just for the fun of it.
Jesus continued on though, again interrupting my derailed thoughts, “and when he saw him, he had compassion.” He glanced in my direction, again with a grin. I could feel my blood begin to boil! How dare he say such a thing! A Samaritan of all people having compassion. He didn’t even mention the priest or Levite having compassion—they just passed right on by, avoiding the victim! As my anger continued to rise, Jesus went on to explain that the Samaritan bound up the victim’s wounds, took him to an inn, paid for his stay, and offered to cover any other expenses!
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Jesus stated now solemn at my disposition.
I was now fuming with disgust and refused to even say the name aloud. “The one who showed mercy.” I sneered, unintentionally displaying the anger that had been building inside me.
Jesus nodded and a huge, beautiful smile erupted across his face. Suddenly my heart melted as all my anger faded away in his loving presence. I felt the tears begin to well up as his warmth gently penetrated through my core.
“You go,” he stated softly in the midst of his loving gaze, “and do likewise.”
Suddenly, it all made sense. I knew the Law, and even the deeper meaning of loving God and neighbor, but I still didn’t quite get it! Not until he showed me—my neighbor is everyone. I’ve always labeled and categorized, only loving those that I was taught I should…while hating everyone else. Yet, the Samaritan was a neighbor whereas the priest and Levite, though they were trying to uphold the laws of cleanliness, failed the spirit of the law—love!
But why would Jesus do that? I was trying to trap him, but instead of revenge, he loved me into an entirely new reality! Anyone else would have destroyed me had they gotten the upper-hand. But he…he loved me instead and showed me how to truly live—how to truly love my neighbor!
It’s true what they’ve all said—it has to be! He really is the Messiah! He really is going to change our world!