Churches all around my area are preparing for Vacation Bible School. Along with the crafts, cookies, and Kool-Aid, I remember learning the basic Bible stories during this time. As homage to VBS, I thought we would look at one of them this week and see that there is much more to the story than what we learned as a child.
The story I want to focus on is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus used this parable to respond to one person’s question “Who is my neighbor?”
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 denariiand 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.’”(Luke 10:30-35) (NIV)
Jesus used this story to show this man that the true neighbor was the one who had mercy on the wounded man and that his status didn’t matter. The Samaritans were despised and looked down on by the Jews, yet the Samaritan had been more compassionate than the priest and the Levite. The priest was a religious leader. The Levite was a member of the tribe of Levi that had been set apart to serve.
The Bible calls the man that asked Jesus the question an expert of the law. He was trying to use his knowledge of the law as a means to inherit eternal life. Jesus was telling him that knowing the law wasn’t enough.
We must be careful with this scripture also to know that Jesus is not telling this expert of the law that doing good works is a means to eternal life. The parable was in response to the question “Who is my neighbor” not the man’s first question of “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” To answer this question, Jesus asked the man what the law said, and he replied, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The only way that we can love God completely as the law tells us to do is to embrace the mediator between the law and us. God sent Jesus to us to atone for the laws that we cannot keep. Jesus is the only way that we can gain eternal life, and he is the only way that we can have true compassion for those in need.
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” (Romans 8:3) (NLT)