Last month a cyclist was riding from Portland to Corpus Christi across the bay bridge. For an unknown reason, the man veered diagonally across two lanes of traffic, running into the wall. As he the collision happened, the man flipped over the barrier and fell about 30 feet down into the four foot water below. A couple following not too far behind witnessed the accident and pulled over immediately to render aid. A 60 year old man got out of the driver’s seat and ran to the wall looking down into the bay. As he was surveying the situation, he noticed that the man below was starting to drown. If he waited for help the man would surely die. However, if he jumped into the water, he could risk serious injury to himself and maybe even death. Within the minute the man jumped over the bridge wall. He was able to save the man’s life and was not injured in the process. The title of the news section on that August day was: A Good Samaritan in Corpus Christi. Since when did it become a good thing to be known as a “Samaritan?”
When one considers the past of the Samaritans, it is clear that they have not always been the most favorable people. When we take a look at the Old Testament we find that Samaria was the capitol of the northern kingdom of Israel. When the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom and carried off the people of the 10 northern tribes into captivity, the city was destroyed. Second Kings 17:24-41 gives the narrative of the intermarriage of those who were left behind with the people from surrounding areas who worshipped different things and gods. When doing this they began to worship God along with the other deities. Ezra and Nehemiah both record that the Jews of the southern kingdom refused to allow the Samaritan people to help them rebuild Jerusalem. The hatred between the two groups grew to an enormous amount! This hate carried over into the New Testament. Mark Black said it this way, “It may be that they regarded the Samaritans as little more than idolatrous “half breeds” (Based on 2 Kings) and themselves as the true people of God.” In other words, the Jews did NOT consider these people to be part of God’s children. They deemed them as “mutts,” or as Harry Potter would say, “mud-bloods.” They were no better than the common Gentile and no better than garbage.
Since when did it become a good thing to be known as a “Samaritan?” In Luke, the 10th chapter, we read the Lord’s parable of the “Good Samaritan.” In verse 25 a lawyer tests Christ with the question, “How can one inherit eternal life?” Jesus replies as He often time did with a question. He asked the lawyer, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” Please note that eternal life is found in the written Word of God. Answering correctly, the lawyer responded with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18 (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself ). Jesus informs this expert of the law that he is correct and that he will have eternal life if he continues in this faithful saying. However, this man is an expert with a measurable amount of pride.
Wanting to “justify” himself, he asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” It would be on this momentous occasion that Jesus Christ would change the view and the reputation of the Samaritan forever.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was about twenty miles and a significant drop in elevation. The terrain was very rocky and amongst mountains. It was a perfect place for thieves to ambush travelers. Jesus tells them of a “certain man” who was traveling down this road and who was attacked by a group of robbers. Some writers would say that this man was probably a Jew. Luke records for us that the man was stripped of his valuables (money, clothing, and anything that was worth money), beaten (most likely so he was not able to follow them to retrieve his items or to turn them in), and left for dead. Jesus tells of 3 different characters that would pass this man who was in need of much help. First He mentions a “certain priest.” Jesus mentions that the priest (who most would expect to stop and help) saw him, AND THEN passed by on the other side. When describing the priest and his actions, Anthony Lee Ash says, “The priest was probably returning from Jerusalem (had he been performing religious duties?). Normal compassion for any person would help a man in such a state as the wounded sufferer so that it must take a repression of something basically human to pass him by.” In like manner, a Levite was traveling down the road and when he saw the man he passed by on the other side. A Levite was a priest’s helper. One would expect him to stop and help the beaten man as well, but he didn’t. The third of the three in which Jesus mentioned is the Samaritan. The picture that Christ paints is one that shows this man’s goodness and concern. As he was traveling, he saw the man and felt the basic characteristic in which the priest and Levite both lacked. He felt compassion for the man. Instead of maneuvering around this poor man, he stopped, treated his wounds by pouring oil and wine on them, set him on his OWN beast, took him to an inn, and took care of him. An extensive list compared to the two righteous men of the Jews. However, that was not all that he did for the man. He also put him up in a room and gave the innkeeper two days worth of wages for his keep. He told them keeper that if he spends more he would be back to repay him. Money or even gratitude was not the concern for this Samaritan, but the hope to relieve human need. Upon completing this parable Jesus asks the question, “Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the robbers?” As painful as the answer may have been, the lawyer answered correctly. He said, “He that showed mercy on him.” The reply of Jesus is still in effect for man today, “Go and do thou likewise.”
This would be the first time that a Samaritan had ever been considered as good. The question that we must ask is: How did he do so? This Samaritan was said to be good because, he followed the written law of God. He was believed to be more righteous and the religious leaders of the Jews (the priest and the Levite). Without any doubt, because of the Samaritan’s actions, he went from garbage to goodness. Who is your neighbor and how are you treating them?