Doing Good Friday - The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The great commandment of ‘Love your neighbour,’ is perfectly presented by Jesus, with characters and a context that would have been very familiar to his antagonist, an expert in religious law.
The message is simple: If there is someone in need, help them.
In fact, it is so simple and so obvious that one wonders why Jesus had to tell the story in the first place. Surely human instinct and our God given empathy pushes us to help the victim anyway. Why do we need the parable to tell us something that we know instinctively to be true as human beings?
The commandment is to ‘Love your neighbour’. The lawyer asks, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ And here’s the rub. The answer he gets is ‘The Samaritan’, the one he hates.
Yes, the lawyer, a first century Jewish man hates the Samaritan. The lawyer can’t even bring himself to say the word ‘Samaritan’ because it is so vile to him. In John 8:8 the pharisees use the word ‘Samaritan’ as a curse on Jesus, alongside the accusation of being demon possessed as well.
Shockingly, Jesus is telling the lawyer, ‘your neighbour is the one you hate, love him.’
It is the same commandment as Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
And the same in Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
The message we normally land on is this: Be the Samaritan, do good, respond to the wounded, and you will be saved. And of course, that is the message we should all hear, but it isn’t the only one.
Jesus is prompting the lawyer to consider himself as the wounded man, and thereby encouraging him to recognise his own woundedness. The lawyer is effectively confronted with his weakness, but learns in the process that the one he regards as his enemy – the Samaritan, the one who he despises and hates, is the one who will actually save him.
That is the gospel right there my friends. The One that God’s people despised was the one who saved us. The one who was pinned to the cross, hated to the death by God’s own people was the one that sets us free. If you take the parable with the seriousness it deserves, it’s not just about ‘Doing Good’, but ‘Doing Good Friday’ – you end up at the cross of Jesus.
It is easy to make people into enemies. We do it all the time, the way we might talk about someone, treat someone, disagree with someone. It is easy to villainise those that we don’t like or have a problem with. It’s even easier to only care for those that care for us, and disregard those that have little power to return the generosity. To love your enemy is much harder, but that really is the call of the Christian. To recognise that we are in need, that our own wounds might be tended to by the one we don’t care for.
Revd Jeremy Putnam