Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Luke 10:25-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Several historical details from ancient Judea help to illuminate the rhetorical force of this famous example story. The most important is Jesus’ choice of location to set the story — the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. In antiquity the road was known to be treacherous with dangers both natural and human.
The Greek word for the type of “inn” to which the Samaritan brings the wounded man was a public lodging place with hired servants, a step up from the informal type of “inn,” which was really a guest room, in which Mary and Joseph could not find room (Luke 2:7). And the amount of money provided by the Samaritan, “two denarii” (v. 35), would have been more than enough to take care of the wounded man. A denarius was equivalent to one day’s wage, so we can imagine in our modern world how much money that would be to spend on a stranger. Roman historians confirm that, since two denarii could provide a month’s food for a healthy adult male, the amount could probably have provided food, lodging and special care for this man for well over a week.
The Samaritan had several good reasons not to stop. First, the wounded man is apparently not a Samaritan. The man on the side of the road would likely hate the Samaritan under normal circumstances.
Second, this traveling Samaritan has a valuable beast of burden, a mule or horse or ox, and third, he has money on him as well—enough to give two denarii to the innkeeper and promise him whatever more he may need. Clearly, there is a gang of robbers in the area who could attack him at any moment.
But the Samaritan not only stops to help the wounded man, he takes the time to do what he can there at the roadside before even moving the man to safety. He administers first aid: wine as a cleansing disinfectant, oil as a soothing healing aid, and bandages for comfort and cleanliness. Only then does the Samaritan carefully move the traveler to the safety of the inn.
After Jesus told the story, he asked his own questions again: “What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus simply said, “Go and do likewise.”
Without doubt Jesus urges the legal expert to assist those in need as did the Samaritan. At the same time, Jesus also forced the lawyer to make a revolutionary admission and to change his perspective on Samaritans. The admission is that a Samaritan can be good because Jews and Samaritans hated each other.
I wonder if the lawyer left scratching his head and asking, “What just happened here? I asked him ‘Who is my neighbor?’ and he told me to go and BE a neighbor to others and he even gave a dirty, rotten, filthy Samaritan as an example of being a neighbor!”
I would guess that if Jesus were talking to today to Israeli Jews, he would have the good neighbor be a Palestinian. If he were talking to Palestinians, he would have the good neighbor be an Israeli Jew. Either way, the message is about as clear as it could be: don’t waste your time and energy trying to figure out who is in and who is out, who God loves and who God doesn’t, who is acceptable and who isn’t. Oh, the time and energy we’ve wasted on that question! Instead, go and do what the Samaritan did: he took the time, energy, effort and his own resources to help another person in need—a person very different from himself and a person whom his culture, traditions and religious norms all said he was supposed to hate—or at the very least with whom he was to have no contact at all.
In other words, Jesus’ answer to the question Who is my neighbor? Is Never mind that—just go and BE a neighbor.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster