Do those words sound familiar? Jesus spoke them to a certain lawyer who was trying to test Him. That lawyer had a good grasp of what mattered in life according to the law of Moses, as he recognized the need to love God and his neighbor (Luke 10:27).
What the fellow appeared to lack, though, was a commitment to apply the “neighbor part” of the law’s instructions. In an effort to justify himself, the lawyer asked our Lord, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). In response to that inquiry, Jesus told a story that we would label as one of the most well-known and most-beloved stories in history. What story was that? We call it “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.” Even if you and I have read or heard this story one hundred times since childhood, repeating its timeless, powerful, real-life lessons can be helpful to us.
As the story unfolds, a man is robbed and injured by thieves. They left him “half dead” (10:30). Afterwards a Jewish priest came by, and a bit later a Levite did also (10:31,32). Both of those men saw the condition of the man who had suffered harm, but they made no effort to assist him. It is true that those two Jewish men, both of whom would have served in the temple of God, did not harm the man; they did not lift a finger to come to his aid, either.
What happened next in the story? A Samaritan passed by and saw the man’s pitiful circumstances (10:33). It is at this point in the parable that Jesus focuses the listening lawyer’s attention on the response of the Samaritan man. Whatever that fellow did, Jesus’ message to the lawyer at the conclusion of their conversation was, “Go and do likewise” (10:37). What did that lawyer fellow need to do? Listen, learn, and live: listen carefully to the Master, learn how the Master’s message applied to his life, and live what He learned from the Master.
Well, just what did the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable do that the lawyer and the rest of us should imitate? He showed compassion/mercy. “And when he saw him, he had compassion on him” (10:33). The lawyer accurately observed that the Samaritan showed mercy (10:37).
What did the Samaritan do? He took action which was in the best interest of another person. He saw the injured man, he went to him, and he took action. “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (10:34). Read those last words again: “. . . and took care of him.” It is not enough to recognize that a need exists. Faith and love cause a person to take action (James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:16-18). Just when did the Samaritan do something? He took action when action was needed! The man who suffered injury needed help right then, not sometime the next week or next month.
The Samaritan used what he had at his disposal. He had oil, wine, an animal, his body, and energy. He used them all for the benefit of his new-found neighbor (10:34). We, too, need to have a heart that is ready to use the “tools” placed in our hands, as insignificant or non-special as they may seem to us.
He went “the extra mile.” As soon as he arrived on the scene, the Samaritan administered first aid at the place where he found the half-dead man. He then transported him to an inn, paid for the man’s lodging, and offered to settle the rest of the bill, if necessary, at a later time (10:35). Every indication is that this Samaritan man provided such care and showed such kindness without expecting anything in return. Self-less service is one of the marks of Jesus and His true disciples.
The Samaritan acted like a neighbor. The Christ asked that lawyer who came to test Him: “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (10:36). The lawyer gave the only possible correct answer: “He who showed mercy on him” (10:37). It was at that point that the Master implored the man to “go and do likewise.”
We marvel at our Lord’s ability to tell stories which grabbed people’s attention and put principles of righteousness into their minds. Like the lawyer whom Jesus told about the behavior of “the Good Samaritan,” we also need to listen, learn, and live: listen to what the Master says (wise people do that, Matthew 7:24-27), learn what the Master’s message means for our lives, then live what we learn from Him. Yes, for each of Jesus’ followers, the message is, “Go and do likewise.”
— Roger D. Campbell