When it comes to famous and popular parables, there may be none that makes the top of the list more than the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable has been the basis of many sermons, articles, and bible studies and it never disappoints. This parable is rich with applicable significance for us today but it contains so much more. Let’s dive into this parable.
The parable of the good Samaritan lies in Luke chapter 10. Although this parable has application for us today, it is also seeping with historical and cultural backgrounds that we might miss at first glance. Let’s read the parable in its entirety, then we can discuss the meaning and significance of this amazing parable.
You can read the entire story here. Now that we have read the story, let’s observe a few things:
- This parable came from a question asked by an expert of the law of how to have eternal life.
- This question was a test.
Since we know these two things, and we read the response of the man as love God and love others, which Jesus tells us is correct, we can have a better understanding of the next question posed by the expert. The next question is “Who is my neighbor?”. In other words, who should I love, who counts and who doesn’t? The parable then is an answer to this question.
The parable holds a lot of details and I will list them in order they appear:
- A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho
- The man was attacked by robbers
- A priest passed by and did not help
- A Levite passed by and did not help
- A Samaritan came and helped the man
- The Samaritan took him to an inn and paid the innkeeper to look after him.
First, the meaning of this parable. This parable holds much meaning when it comes to historical and cultural context. The two most religious men in society did not bother to help the innocent and the helpless. They were not obeying the most important command in all the Torah which was to love your neighbor. The one who helped the man was a Samaritan. Samaritans were enemies of those in Jerusalem so the irony sticks out like a sore thumb to Jesus’ audience. Israel’s leaders had a choice to make about Jesus and the kingdom. Were they going to keep walking by and rejecting the kingdom or were they going to be like the Samaritan and accept? This parable’s meaning is about Jesus confronting Israel’s corrupt leaders as not obeying the Torah. They were not loving their neighbor as themselves which makes sense why the expert would even ask a question of who his neighbor is.
The significance of this parable holds much of the same weight as it did for Israel’s leaders. Are we loving our neighbor and do we truly love all people? I would like to think all of us would say no to that question and that should make us really think and take action about how we treat people. This kind of teaching can go all the way back to Jesus’ teaching about loving our enemies in Matthew 5. Loving those around us is not easy, especially when they persecute us or harm us in some way. The command of the Torah, fulfilled through Jesus, is to love God and love others in the same way.
The parable of the good Samaritan held so much meaning then and it holds so much significance for us today. Being a good neighbor, loving those around us is not a feeling or a thought, it’s an act. Loving others is an act that is so hard to do sometimes but so necessary. We must ask ourselves: how am I loving others?