A priest, a Levite, a man and a Samaritan were traveling on the same road. No, this is not the opening statement of a “priest and Rabbi” joke. It is a life teaching spoken by Jesus, the Son of God.
First let’s review terms so we can understand what Jesus is teaching us.
- Priest – The word for priest in this passage is “hiereus” and refers to one who offers sacrifices to a god.
- Levite – A Levite was a member of the tribe of Levi, a descendant of Aaron, (Moses’ brother) the first priest appointed by God. The tribe of Levi was assigned by God to perform certain duties associated with the tabernacle or temple and worship.
This passage does not indicate anything further about the priest or the Levite. A Levitical priest or any other priest were considered righteous and therefore doers of righteous acts.
- Samaritan – In the days of Jesus the term Samaritan had a very negative implication. At one time the Samaritans were people of the Jewish nation.
Around 721 BC, the Assyrians conquered and captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They carried off many people to Assyria. Those who were left behind eventually intermarried with the Assyrians and other foreign nations. They created their own system of worship and used a version of the Pentateuch as their scriptures.
These practices caused the “Samaritans” to be forever scorned by the Jewish people. They were no longer considered members of the covenant nation of Israel. They were outcasts and referred to as Samaritans or “dogs” not Israelites. The Samaritans were treated with hatred, prejudice and disdain. Jewish people avoided any contact with or dealings with them.
- Likewise – This expression comes from the Greek word “homoios” meaning equally in the same way: similarly.
This story is in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is defining who our “neighbor” is and how we should view and interact with our neighbor.
- A man travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked, brutally beaten; his possessions were stolen and he was left in the ditch to die. A priest and a Levite walked down that same road and each in turn passed by the injured man and did not stop to help.
The despised man, the one cast out of the religious community, the Samaritan gives aide, in fact he goes above and beyond to help this stranger. This stranger may have been an Israelite, one of the very people who held this man in contempt. The Samaritan provides immediate help and comforting, and provides for the stranger’s continued recovery.
A Closer Look
What did this Samaritan, whom Jesus’ says is the “good neighbor,” do? All the things the Samaritan does outline characteristics of heart and actions for us as to how to love others.
Intentional Sight – The Samaritan had “intentional” sight, meaning he “saw” the man and “moved towards” him with intent to help. The priest and the Levite saw the man and passed by him.
Indiscriminate Perspective – The Samaritan saw value in this man just as a fellow human being. He did not withhold his attention or help because of the man’s race, ethnicity, social standing, educational level, appearance, beliefs, character or need.
How often do I “pass by” or “pass over “ people because of their race, social standing, mental/emotional status, their appearance, their beliefs, or that they just seem too needy, too heavy to carry?
A Compassionate View – Jesus describes the Samaritans as seeing this man through eyes of compassion. The Greek word for compassion in this passage is “splagchnizomai” meaning he had a deep pity whelming up from deep inside his gut. This sense of tender consideration for another human being was entrenched deep inside the innards of this man.
He had a “gut” response – it came from within him and reveals his heart and character. How I respond to a person reveals my heart, my basic character.
Do I “shy away” from engaging the emotionally needy person? Do I avoid making eye contact or interacting with a person of another race; a homeless person; an elderly person; an overweight person; someone from another religion; someone in the LGBTQ community; or someone not in my “social/intellectual circle?” Do I consider it a waste of time to engage with someone who cannot appreciate me or advance my cause in some way?
Vulnerable Sight – The Samaritan was willing to put himself in a vulnerable position. He exposed himself to the possibility of being beaten and robbed. He was already in an area where such an attack had very recently happened, but he risked his safety to help this man.
True compassion and love!
Healing Sight – The Samaritan had eyes to see the healing this man needed. He could have put this man on his donkey and brought him to the nearest town clinic. But he didn’t. First, he used his time (out in the open) and his resources to put oil and wine on this man’s wounds, and then to bind them up.
Surely such care would have been deemed sufficient, but the Samaritan had a view to see this man whole and well again. So, he lifts him and secures him on his animal in order to take him to a place where he can fully recover. The Samaritan walks the rest of the journey in order to help this man heal.
When the Samaritan gets to the town, he sets this man up in the care of an innkeeper and pays for whatever the man needs to recover. When I think about this it astounds me that the Samaritan sacrificed so much of himself to help a stranger, who actually may have been his enemy.
Just Stop and Think
I have to stop here because this story Jesus told gives me so much to ponder and examine within myself. The Samaritan is a shining example of loving others. It is almost too much to consider, yet it seems to be the spontaneous heart of the Samaritan to do these things. The Samaritan’s heart reveals his relationship with God and that he values those made in the image of God.
What do my interactions with and on behalf of others reveal about my heart and my relationship to God? Do I view others as valuable? If so, am I stopping to build into that value, restore that value or just appreciate that value?
This is important stuff! In the context of Luke 10:25-37, Jesus says it has to do with the first commandment and my relationship to God, and inheriting eternal life. Jesus tells me to “go and do likewise – equally and in the same way,” as the Samaritan did!