In my last post, I suggested one way to read the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10 is to see ourselves as the one in the ditch, needing care. I contrasted this perspective with the standard view that we are to behave like the Samaritan and give care to those in need. I believe parables are open to a variety of interpretations; that is what makes them surprising and valuable as faith-building stories.
I hinted that there was third interpretation as well (and maybe more). The third view is to see where Jesus fits into the story.
The parable takes place on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This would be the very road that Jesus will take later in the Gospel narrative when he went from Jericho to Jerusalem (Luke 19:1,28). Just before he started up that road, Jesus reminded the disciples of what he would encounter in Jerusalem,
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33)
Thus, in a subtle way, the parable points also to Jesus’ coming suffering and death at the hands of the Gentiles. Thus the question comes even more poignant as to how we respond to the story. Will we turn aside and try to ignore Jesus’ suffering (like the Priest and Levite) or will we embrace him as the crucified one (like the Samaritan)?
Taking the story full-circle, as Cathy Seither commented on my last post, Jesus goes one step further. In Matthew 25:31-46, when the Son of Man comes in glory and judges the nations, he will state that the righteous are those who fed, welcomed, clothed and visited him when he was in need.
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:37-40).
When we give love and support to other who are “in the ditch,” we are serving our Lord Jesus.
Where do you see yourself in the story of the Good Samaritan?
Lord Jesus, once again open my eyes and heart to see those who are in need and to respond in love.