The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Why did Jesus pick the people He did as examples in His parable? A priest and a Levite from the Temple and a…Samaritan? We know what a priest is but the other two may make us Google their meaning. Perhaps if we put modern labels on them it would make more sense. How about the pastor and the chair of the worship committee, those are familiar. But a Samaritan?
Samaria was a region in between Galilee and Judea, populated by people who worshiped God, but in a different manner than the Jews. They were social and religious rivals, and Scripture says they did not associate with each other (John 4:9). For Jesus to use a Samaritan as the good guy would have been a shock to His followers. Think of any group that has a negative connotation in your mind (but be charitable!) and use that as your “Samaritan”.
Jesus is teaching us that God’s mercy is unlimited, given freely to all, and that we must show mercy in the same way. We must also recognize that the neighbors He gives us may be from a rival group, but we are all His children. Finally, He wants us to see that even members of these rival groups can know His love, and they too can show His mercy to others. Think carefully about that before speaking unkindly of someone from a rival group today.
Gracious God, we are called to love and care for our neighbors, without deciding who is a neighbor or if they deserve it. Everyone is our neighbor and we have a responsibility from You to care for them all. Amen.