…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.’
In the previous study we looked at the initial response of care from the Samaritan to the wounded man. How he did the ‘first aid’ if you like. So what happened next?
Well, next we are told that he put the man on his own donkey. That seems sensible enough. A man so badly injured that he can be described as half-dead will not be able to walk. But it also shows another level of the care shown by the Samaritan. Not only is he helping the unfortunate victim, he is doing so to his own discomfort. He is ‘putting himself out’ for the helpless victim.
Instead of riding on the donkey for his journey, now he is going to have to walk and to lead the donkey by his hand. I don’t know the area, having never been there, and certainly roads of the time were pretty basic, so I don’t know how much of a hardship this will have been. Or, for that matter, how far he would have to travel to reach the next inn.
The whole journey is about 15 miles, or 24 km, and so could certainly be completed in a day, or even a half day if you were moving quickly. But if the man was very injured, then the Samaritan would very likely have chosen an inn that was situated close to the road before the end of the journey. I don’t know if such was available – but it makes sense to be able to care for the man as soon as possible and not to prolong the risk.
Now fast forward to the present day, and maybe a ride on the bus or underground. When I was little, I was taught to stand and offer my seat to old women, pregnant ladies, people with walking sticks or blind sticks, and older men. Do we see this same politeness today? I am glad to say that, yes, sometimes I do still see this. But certainly not as much as it used to be done.
The respect for those who may have a greater need is disappearing. These days it seems that it’s all about looking after number one – keeping yourself comfortable and to hell with everyone else.
I hope that Christian parents teach their children these old-fashioned, and yet very useful, acts of kindness and good manners. And it does not hurt to do it by example, so that a young man or woman, even in their 30s, gives way their seat to the elderly and infirm, or to a pregnant woman. And if being particularly chivalrous, the man giving his seat to a woman who is standing. I know that some have gone through the fashion of saying that such gender-based manners is wrong, yet it is all about consideration for others. That is the thing that should be emphasised.
Love others as you love yourself – because this parable teaches us that nearly all are our neighbours.
There is another aspect to this. There has been a lot of things that happened in the story so far – the attack by robbers during the journey, the arrival and departure of the Priest and the Levite. Then the arrival of the Samaritan, his work of first-aid, and placing the injured man on the donkey. It is reasonable to think that this rescue occurred in the afternoon and, of course, all this delayed the Samaritan. He was expected, maybe, at the end of his journey.
How would people react today? Sometimes people fall ill in the street – and those drivers in their cars just continue to drive on, passing the person who is probably sitting on the pavement looking unwell, or maybe even collapsed onto the pavement. Yes, they have a meeting to attend and they do not want to be late. Or they may be rushing to be at work on time. Or they are driving to meet a friend. Many reasons for not dealing with a situation requiring human intervention and care.
When I think of the Samaritan walking instead of riding, placing the injured man on his own donkey, I think of someone who did not care about the important appointment, or his own comfort. He just did what he hoped that someone would do for him in the situation.
And in the modern work situation, there seem to be more and more bosses with the ‘no excuses’ attitude. This means, for some, that even if they had a heart that wanted to stop their car, get out and help the stricken person, yet they are afraid to do so in case of getting an official warning from their boss, or even worse. Although, I am sure, their boss would hope that someone would stop and help him or her if they were in such a situation, yet they seem to lack the humanity to help others or allow their employees to spend the time to help others.
How fortunate for the wounded man in Jesus’ story that the Samaritan was not a ‘jobsworthy’ rushing to be on time for an appointment. That even if he did have an important appointment or engagement, yet he knew that he would need help if he was in a similar situation.
So he stopped and allowed the situation to change his plans and his timings.
One can imagine that, perhaps he was from Jericho and had been in Jerusalem on some kind of business, and that he had a family expecting him to arrive home that day. But now he was going to be delayed. His family would wonder at this delay and worry. They would be wondering if the Samaritan man himself had fallen victim to robbers and been left injured or even dead.
Maybe there would be a wife or mother losing a night of sleep and waiting up in hope of the return of this man. And indeed, the Samaritan would be aware of the concern and worries caused by his delay. Or maybe he had a business appointment in Jericho, and that to miss it would mean to lose some money. This could be a problem if he was relatively poor and needed the maximum from his business opportunities.
Yet, despite all of these possibilities, it was still more important to him to show this mercy and practical love. Because, as I have said a few times now, all of us would hope that someone would stop and help if we were in a similar situation.
There are even more problems and reasons why people today often do not want to ‘get involved.’ In one sense, there is really no excuse for most people in the western world. Nearly everyone has a mobile phone and so can let bosses at work or family at home know what is happening. If driving, many have Bluetooth hands-free systems so that it is incredibly easy to do this. But yet there is a growing feeling of not getting involved.
It is reported increasingly on news reports how paramedics are often attacked by the people they go to help. Then there is the natural fear of catching infections such as AIDS, and so many are ignorant of the actual low risk and therefore afraid to even touch someone who looks very ill. So fear of attack and fear of disease seem valid reasons not to stop. But if they have that Blutooth system in the car, I wonder if they even took the time to phone the emergency services?
No excuses for the Samaritan. There were none of the vaccinations that we have today, and the level of cleanliness was generally much less than today. There was more disease and more risk of catching disease. Not only that, there was certainly a risk of attack!
The man who was robbed and injured was an indication that maybe the robbers were still not far away, and maybe they were looking for another victim. And it was not unknown for some to feign injury when they were really well and one of a group of robbers themselves.
When you stop and think, there can be hundreds of justifications for not doing the things that the Samaritan did. So what is being taught by this?
Quite simply that love comes first. And also that the love was unconditional. It was compassionate and merciful. It was practical and achieved real results.
So, to sum up this study, we can see that the actions of the Samaritan put self and personal concerns to one side in order to deal with the situation and to help the injured man. He put aside his own comfort, his time, his ‘appointment’ – because he was most likely expected by either his family or a business associate (the journey was not that far, so an overnight delay such as occurred in this parable would be a cause for concern for those expecting this man).
It also was an intervention that took some work and some effort – maybe hard and strenuous effort, because we are not told how large or heavy the injured person was. If he was unconscious, then a ‘dead weight’ person is sometimes harder to move and to lift if you are on your own to do this.
None of these things stopped the Samaritan. The injured man needed this help. And maybe one day he would need such help himself.
Let’s all learn from this and be more ready and willing to help others. No excuses!