…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. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 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. 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.’
Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
We have already studied the reactions of two people on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and how they did not stop to help the injured man, but passed by on the other side. We have begun to study how the third person, a Samaritan, took pity and decided to do something about the situation. In the previous study we saw how the Samaritan placed the injured man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, and how this can compare with the behaviour of people today.
Now I wish to draw special attention to the next words: “…and took care of him.”
I always try to think of how the situation might be in the modern world, having observed how people behave in these times. We have already seen, and Jesus suggested this anyway, that most people would not even get involved. They may have all kinds of excuses, some valid and some not, but there is a general lack of compassion and pity for those genuinely in distress and need.
And then those that do get involved, well they can certainly would do the first aid if they know how to. If not, they can offer what comfort that they can – people these days have a right to worry about compensation litigation should they do anything in error. But the main thing, whether first-aid is given or not, these days is to contact the emergency services to come and take control of the situation. Most people would consider this to be the ‘job done’ and then move on with their lives. But, from what we can read about the Samaritan, I can see that there is a further level of care.
Yes, these days the care will mostly be done by the emergency services and qualified people. But what about this being a show of the love of Jesus, and not only a performance of some kind of ‘duty’? I think, when you bring love and care into the situation, that changes everything.
So, thinking like the Samaritan, I believe that if he was in the modern world, he would want to know what progress was happening with the person he stopped to help. So, in place of putting the man on his donkey (because the ambulance would have come) and instead of caring for him at the inn (because he would be receiving good care in the hospital) he would show his care by visiting the man in hospital and seeing for himself the progress.Of course, not all hospitals allow visits from non-relatives, but he could still ask the staff if the man was OK, and ask if the relatives had been informed, and ask if he could help in any other way. But even better if he could be allowed to ask the man in person.
I think the care is about the law commandment that had been spoken about between the expert in the law and Jesus, before this parable. That of loving your neighbour as yourself. And what are the most basic things about loving yourself? Surely this is to make sure that you have food, drink, clothing, somewhere safe to sleep, and so on. So the really caring person would ask if the man’s family know anything about the situation. Should he contact someone to let them know what has happened and where he is? Is he receiving enough food and drink (not all hospitals in all countries feed their patients)? Were his clothes damaged and does he need new before leaving hospital?
In addition to all of this, perhaps it would be good to know a bit more – I mean is there a reason the man became ill in this way or was attacked? Is he homeless, or does he have a medical condition? Is he out of work and not able to feed himself properly? There could be hundreds of reasons – and many of them can be relieved or improved by some kind of intervention.
It is good to know whether the man will be alone when he leaves hospital. Does he live alone or with a family or with friends? Is there anyone to care for him? People are often released from hospital when it is clear that they will recover rather than when they have recovered, and so they can still be very weak. So if the man is alone, maybe to offer hospitality until he is better? Or arrange to visit and do some things in his home, like prepare meals or clean up? Or at least arrange for a police safety-checked person to do this? (Actually, isn’t that a sad state of affairs, that we need to have police-checked people in this way!)
And then, in many countries, it may be necessary to think to ask if the man has medical insurance. Does it cover the whole bill or is there an excess? Can he afford the excess or does he need help? If he does not have insurance, how will the bill be paid? And maybe the modern Samaritan would even offer to pay the bill if the man was not well-off financially.
I actually wonder what was meant by my short chosen phrase for this study “…and took are of him.” What did he really do?
I certainly think the innkeeper would have noticed the situation, and I think the Samaritan would have called on all the help he could. Things like making sure that the man had a comfortable bed to lie on. Water and oil for washing. Maybe more wine, for disinfection, and salt for the same reason. If he did not have spare clothes himself, maybe he would have talked with the innkeeper about this and found something for the man to wear.
By now, hopefully, the man will have regained consciousness. So maybe arranging for some suitable food and drink. Maybe a physician was not too distant and he had the innkeeper send for the physician. We can see from the parable that the Samaritan was generous, and so we can also imagine that it would not have troubled him to pay for the services of the physician.
There are many things that are possible as the actual actions of caring for the wounded man. I am sure that you can think of many things that I have not written here. But what is most noticeable about all this: it was practical actions! It was not in the head, it was not feelings of love. It was love put into action.
Love that is only in the head or heart is mostly of no value to other people. It must present itself in actions and real things. It is very very obvious, in a story like this one, that having ‘feelings,’ whether in the head or the heart, would not have helped the wounded man at all.
I love this about the teachings of Jesus. They were always very practical, very down-to-earth. It was always about doing things.
And because of the vagaries of the English language, beware about how you teach the commandment of love to young people. I actually remember, when I was very young, thinking that it was unfair of God to command people to love, because love depends on feelings surely. And we can’t always just command feelings of love for someone. … But that is not really what it is about. It is about practical care – love in terms of practical care and making sure that the other is not in need, or helped if they are in need.
The fact that such care seems to be more rarely given these days, I feel is one of the things that makes it harder for people to understand or receive the gospel. It is harder for people to understand the love of God and to receive it. So, if we can think about it in that way, what a responsibility we have as members of the body of Christ to show the love of Jesus in this cold and dark world!