This lesson looks at one of the stories that Jesus told. Jesus was a great teacher, because he taught by telling short stories called “parables”. A parable is a story that teaches us a lesson about God and how we should live as followers of Jesus.
Who is your neighbour?
If you were asked, “Who is your neighbour?” what would you say? The simple answer: your neighbour is the person who lives in the next house or unit from you. You may know your neighbour quite well. If your neighbour had a problem, he/she might ask you for help.
But when someone asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”, the person who asked was talking about people that we may happen to meet that we do not know. For example, you travel on a train or a bus. Your neighbour is the person who sits next to you. You do not know this person – you do not know his name, or where he lives, but for that short time, he is your neighbour. Your neighbour might be the person that you passed as you walked along the street to this building.
If one of these people were in trouble would you help them? If they were your family, or a friend, you would always help. But would you help someone you did not know?
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to show us who our neighbour is, and how we should love our neighbour because he is one of God’s children, just like ourselves.
The parable of the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan is in Luke 10:25.
The parable begins with a Jewish man who walked from the city of Jerusalem to the city of Jericho. On the way, robbers attacked the man. They injured him, tore off his clothes, took his money, and ran off, leaving him to die under the burning sun. So this poor man was lying on the road, helpless, waiting for someone to come by.
A Jewish priest came by. Surely a priest would help. He was taught to be kind to everyone and to teach him or her about God’s love. But, sadly, the priest walked past on the other side of the road. Why did he pass by? Jesus did not tell us, but the Jewish priests in those times were careful not to touch “dead bodies”, and so the priest would not want to be “defiled”. Perhaps the priest was late for work, and he was in too much of a hurry to stop.
Soon a Levite came by. The Levites were the people who helped the priests in their work. Surely, he would help the injured man, because he was a helper.
But the Levite also did not stop, and he walked past too. So the two people who were most likely to help did not stop. We would have expected them to help, but they did not.
The man who had been attacked by robbers still lay on the road. If someone did not help him soon, the man would be dead.
Then a Samaritan man came by. The Samaritans came from the area around the city of Samaria. The Jews hated the Samaritans. The Samaritans had been Jewish, but over many years they had mixed with other nations and other religions, and the Jews in the time of Jesus did not like them because they were not “true” Jews. A Jewish person would never talk to a Samaritan, and would never have a meal with one. Jesus was telling this parable to Jewish people, and when Jesus spoke of a “Samaritan”, many would have thought “How awful, a Samaritan”. Such was the Jewish hatred of the Samaritans.
But Jesus was teaching the Jews a lesson. While a Jew would never help a Samaritan, this Samaritan saw the injured Jewish man, and went to help him. The Samaritan did not see a Jew who hated him, but saw a man who was in need of help. The Samaritan put some bandages on his cuts and bruises. He helped the man onto his own donkey, and took him to a hotel where he could recover (in those times there were no hospitals). The Samaritan stayed with the man and treated him as best he could. The injured man had no money (the robbers took all his money), so the Samaritan paid for the hotel himself, and promised the manager that he would return and pay any extra amount.
And that was the end of the parable. Jesus asked those who were listening, “Which one, the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan, was the neighbour of the man attacked by robbers?” They answered, “The Samaritan. He was kind and helped the injured man.”
Then Jesus said, “Now you go and be like the Good Samaritan!”
The message from the Parable
What did Jesus teach us? He taught that anyone could be our neighbour. Even if we do not know them. Even if they are someone we do not like, if someone is in trouble, Jesus says we should do our best to help, even if it is not the best time for us to do so.
Has this ever happened to you? We see someone who is hurt, and we don’t do anything. We hope that “someone else” will do something. The “someone else” will come by. Do we make excuses? “I’m not a doctor, I don’t know what to do.” Or, an excuse like: “If I stop to help, I shall be late.”
It can be very hard to decide what to do. We often have little time to decide. If the injured person was our family or friend, then we would always help. But if the person is a stranger, we are never sure, are we.
But this was a command of Jesus. To love and care for our neighbours, no matter who they are. Turn to Matthew 5:43 and see what Jesus said about loving our enemies. He tells us to love everyone, even if they hate you. Why? Because we can then be like God our Father, who gives good things to everyone without checking if the people are good or bad.
“ …for God makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”
If we love those who love us, what would God say? He might say, “It is good to love them, but do more than that. Be like me and love everyone. And then you will be perfect.”