A Fresh Look at the Good Samaritan

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This Sunday's Gospel is the story of the good Samaritan. (Luke 10: 25-37) Tonight is Bible Sharing, so I was reviewing our topic.  What I find as an invaluable tool in understanding scripture is Dr. John J. Pilch.  He is a biblical scholar concentrating on cultural-historical background.  Regarding the good Samaritan, everyone learns the lesson to help your neighbor. However, Dr. Pilch took me even deeper; I now have an ever greater admiration for this good Samaritan. Did you notice that the wounded man was naked?  That means that you couldn't tell whether he was a Jew or a Samaritan.  So the Samaritan had compassion on the man, not knowing whether the wounded man was friend or foe. ( It gets even better!)  After ministering to the wounded man, and after taking care of his needs and future needs, this Samaritan (I emphasize: this GOOD Samaritan.) was taking a considerable (and possibly foolhardy) chance.  Think about it.  Think Levitican Law. "An eye for an eye..."

If this wounded man was Jewish, and he died under the care of this Samaritan, this very Good Samaritan would have been killed by the deceased relatives.  It was the law.  They would have been obligated to kill him, regarding whatever good intentions a passerby may have had.  (This happens today. Bystanders hesitate to help for fear of being sued--and they sometimes are, regardless of Good Samaritan Laws.)  And I think due to the political climate in Jesus' times, the Jews would readily have killed the Samaritan.

Knowing this, would you have helped this wounded man in the ditch?  Also, do you have more empathy for the priest and Levite who passed him by?

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