By: Eleanor Wellford, Priest Associate
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know the story about the Good Samaritan. Most of us probably heard it first in Sunday School when the basic lesson of good and bad behavior was taught. But there is much more to this parable than that; and like all of Jesus’ parables, there are lessons in them that we adults have a hard time learning.
On the surface, today’s story is about a man who was traveling alone on a dangerous 7-mile stretch of road from Jerusalem to Jericho and who was robbed and beaten and left for dead in the ditch. Two men passed by and didn’t help the man at all. A third man came along and cared for him, dressed his wounds and took him to an Inn where he was safe for the night.
When we go below the surface, we learn that the man lying by the side of the road was a Jew; that the first man to pass by him was a priest; and that the second one was a Levite. The third man who actually helped him was a Samaritan. Once we begin to know a little more about who these characters are, it’s only natural that we would have expectations about how they should behave. And Jesus knew that his listeners would do that.
We would expect the priest and the Levite, both religious men and well-respected members of society, to have stopped to help the dying man. And we would have expected the Samaritan – an outcast of society who shouldn’t even have been on the same road as the other travelers – to have gone nowhere near the suffering Jew. But we would be wrong on both counts.