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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Palestinian, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 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. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and 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.’
The parable of the Good Samaritan has been domesticated over centuries and therefore misunderstood. The question proposed to Jesus had to do with what it takes to inherit eternal life. It was proposed by a fellow Jew. Jesus’ reply was at first to love God with everything and then to love your neighbor as yourself. The next question to Jesus was, “Who is my neighbor?” This is when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. This story no doubt angered many and deeply moved others.
One must understand this story and how insulting and inflammatory it really is to appreciate it. To understand it, the Jewish people during Jesus’ day viewed the Samaritans as half breeds. They viewed them with utter contempt, considering themselves as only the chosen people, and therefore anyone else seeking the God of Israel not according to them, needed to be shunned. This is blood line tribal thinking at its most loveless. So Jesus tells the story of a Jewish priest and a Levite passing this injured man on the road, but a Samaritan to whom the Jews despised saves the man’s life.
Just to see how radical this parable really is, let us put this inflammatory story in the context of our day. Modern day Israel: two Rabbis pass by, but the Good Palestinian stops to help. Wall Street Protest: Two political activists pass by, but the Good Citizen stops to help. The Deep South: two white preachers pass by, but the Good Black Man stops to help. NAACP gathering: Two black men pass by, but the Good Caucasian stops to help. I could go on and on with many more examples.
The point being in all of this is simply this: In order for this story to be undomesticated and run wild in its original revolutionary form, it must be taken in its context so that it not only has teeth, but can communicate to all of us what the heart of God is all about. That heart is about love with no walls, crossing the great divide which keeps us all apart. The Good Person who stops and helps expresses the perfection of the love Divine, no matter how much it offends our sensibilities of what we think of other races. The way to avoid this offense is to become the Good Person who stops to help others, no matter the cost.