Parables of Jesus


Exemplary conduct

The good Samaritan


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The good Samaritan

From the Gospel of Luke Chapter 10, Verses 25-37

A lawyer stood up to test him: "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He replied: "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself." And Jesus: "You have answered well; do this and you will live". But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus: "And who is my neighbor?".

Jesus resumed: "A man came down from Jerusalem to Jericho and came upon the brigands who stripped him, beat him and then left, leaving him half dead. By chance, a priest went down that same road and when he saw him he passed by the other part. Even a Levite, having reached that place, saw him and passed by. Instead a Samaritan, who was traveling, passing by him saw him and had compassion on him. He came near him, bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them then he loaded him onto his beast and took him to an inn and took care of him.

The following day, he took out two denarius and gave them to the hotel manager, saying: Take care of him and what you will spend more, I will pay you again when I return. Who of these three seems to have been the neighbor of the one who came upon the brigands? "He answered," Who has taken pity on him. "Jesus said to him:" Go and do the same".

Parable of Luke - exegesis

The parable is relative to a dispute between Jesus and a doctor of the law, and its content invites us to reflect on the theme of hospitality, which is expressed above all in listening to the word of the Lord. The superb doctor pretends to be ignorant and eager to be educated, but it is clear that he does not ask his questions to know what he ignores, but to verify the opinion of Jesus thus hoping to find, in his answers, some words contrary to the law at order to be able to accuse him: "Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

But Jesus turns the question around, leading him to express his thoughts with a double question: "What is written in the Law? What do you read there?" First he asks what is written and then what he reads, or what he thinks, how he interprets what he wrote there: Jesus refers to his provocateur the attempt of deception that had been strained, to lead him to declare in public his subjective (and untruthful) interpretation of the Law, the customary attitude of the doctors of the Temple, who for decades had been teaching a Law the result of personal and sometimes misleading interpretations.

He replies: "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself", quoting two passages of the law contained in the Pentateuch. Jesus' reaction is a positive comment, which approves that biblical reading, but adds an important practical imperative: "Do this and you will live" To inherit eternal life it is not enough to know normative knowledge, but it is essential to always perform it.

The passage is based on the question: "Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" From the story it seems that this lawyer made a bad impression, asking a question he knew well the answer to; therefore his clarification intends to bring attention to the question of the next. And wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus: "And who is my neighbor?" The corresponding Latin term simply designates the "neighbor", instead in Hebrew "neighbor" means something deeper: friend, companion, colleague, generally indicating who belongs to the same environment to which one is bound by friendship ties with positive relationships.

In the Pharisees, linked to a social and religious environment, it was a genuine interpretative question to establish who was next: the doctor, in essence, asks Jesus who deserves to be loved and Jesus, to give His explanation, tells a story with different characters who put on different reactions: a man descends from Jerusalem to Jericho, probably after having done a week of service at the temple and along that same road full of pitfalls and harshness in the Judean Desert that leads to Jericho, on whose fiery plain stands the Mount of Temptation (places steeped in history and religious heritage); on this road he meets some brigands who rob him, beat him and leave him dying.

A priest passes by on the same road; he does not stop and proceeds further. A Levite also passes by and behaves in the same way. A Samaritan also passes by, moving with compassion and bringing relief to the Jew. Jesus ends with a question: "Who of these three seems to have been close to him who fell into the hands of brigands?" The doctor of the law must compromise himself and the question of Jesus forces him to admit that the important thing is to be able to love.

The question therefore is not about who deserves to be loved or who is my friend, but about who I am next, who I am able to love, to whom I make myself close and befriend.

The doctor is forced to admit, in spite of himself, that the Samaritan is the correct model: he understood and shared the message of Jesus. Jesus invites the doctor to set out too, to become able to see in the other a friend to love.

In the story the contrast between the Levites belonging to the people of Israel and the Samaritan who is excluded is evident: religious affiliation therefore seems to be discriminating in characterizing the characters. The doctor of the law, finds himself before a story with people different from him who, in his conception, are all potential enemies from which to defend themselves; therefore, he finds himself disoriented in having to understand the different behaviors. Jesus directs him to change his perspective, recognizing that that Samaritan was close, that is, capable of overcoming conceptual barriers by being close to those in need, without prejudice.

The parable of Luke does not investigate the past and present of the rescue man but does not even require a relationship between the rescuer and the rescued person, if not that of disinterested help. Having compassion is a vital component of love.

This story draws an unexpected situation: a man suffers an injustice, he is the victim of an abuse. Those who pass by are in front of a man who suffers and does not know who he is. The priest and the Levite in uncertainty abstain, because the contact could infect them or lead them to waste time postponing their commitments.

The teaching of Luke, proposes us, and urges us not only to do something good, but rather to be close, that is a friend (from the Latin "amicus", connected with the verb to love), attentive and supportive towards those we approach.