Jesus said, “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. … When a Samaritan saw him, he was moved with pity.” - Luke 10:29-30 & 33 (NRSV)
As I was taught this parable while growing up in the church, I was encouraged to see myself as the priest and the Levite (the ones who pass by the beaten man) on my bad days, and to see myself as the Good Samaritan on my better days.
Now I believe that totally misses the point.
Jesus told this parable to his own people. They would not have identified with social elites like the priest or the Levite. They definitely wouldn’t have identified with a despised, outcast Samaritan. His listeners would have identified with the man who was assaulted and left for dead.
Therefore, the burning question of the parable is not: “Are you willing to be like the Good Samaritan?” The parable asks a much harder question: “Are you willing to be rescued by someone you despise, someone you’ve been conditioned to ignore, fear, hate or reject?”
Christians already have that experience.
We were once left for dead when along came a person of a different religion, a different nationality, a different language, a person who was despised and rejected. That person stopped, poured wine into our wounds, carried us to safety, and restored us to health.
Who has been that sort of neighbor to you?
Jesus. If you have received his mercy, the same command comes: “Go and do likewise.”
Gracious God, when I asked for help, I was expecting someone like me. Thanks for sending Jesus instead.