The Parable of the Good Samaritan brings us to the teaching of real religious teaching. It is not the right doctrine or tenet of faith, but practicing it that constitute true religious life. This is explained by Jesus in a parable, which is recorded only in the Gospel as recorded by St. Luke, in chapter 10:25-37. It reproduced below:
“On one occasion an expert of the law stood up to test Jesus. He asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with your mind’; and ,‘Love your neighbour as yourself”. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he felt into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Samaritans were considered by Jews as lower than themselves in all respects. The Jews had no dealings with them. They despised the Samaritan people as substandard people in every aspects of life. What we see in the story? It was the so-called religious people, the Jewish priest and also the Levites, who were next to the Jewish priestly hierarchy they both saw the injured man but did not come to help him. They passed by on the other side of the road the wounded man was struggling with life. But it was the Samaritan, who happened to be travelling on the same road came up and the wounded and the needy man and helped him in several ways to recover from him wounds. He applied different soothing items, bandaged his wounds and took him to an inn on his donkey. Not only that, but also he requested the innkeeper to provide him with all necessary care for the recovery of the wounds, etc. The two religious leaders neglected their duties and made their ways to their own places. Wine is not necessarily alcoholic drink and Oil is olive oil here in the story. Both of these were used in both the Jewish and Gentile (or Greek) societies as antiseptic items for healing the wounds and soothing pain. The Samaritan sat the wounded man on his donkey while he went walking. So there is a great deal of difference that he represented in his good works and conduct from those of the two so-called religious people, i.e. the priest and the Levites. Levites were people who helped the priests in the Jewish worship and cultus. The priest thought that the man falling victim to the robbers was dead. So according to Mosaic Law touching a dead man would defile him which, in turn, would require him to observe some religious rules to get back to his normal priestly life. Both the priest and the Levite were concerned about their ceremonial purity since they would need to touch the injured man in order to make sure whether he was dead or not. Leviticus 21: 11 and on sets the law or regulation concerning this. They gave more value to this than to the life of a human being. They both deliberately avoided coming close to that suffering man. They had enough knowledge about religion, but they did not give importance to human love, neighbourly love, and life. We often do this: we value religious laws and regulations often above valuing life. Jesus gave more value to human life above any religious dictum or doctrine. The scribe or expert in Mosaic torah or law came in to Jesus to know the way to eternal life. Scribes were the people who ideally knew all Old Testament laws; they were the people who used to copy the Law and also taught people the same. He correctly answered Jesus questions as we see this in Luke 10; 25-28. But he insisted on; he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Then Jesus told him this parable to explain to him about neighbours. Jesus’ definition of a neighbour is different from what we usually know. Our neighbours are everyone: it means whoever is in need, whoever needs our help are one’s neighbour and we are neighbours of them too. Our neighbours are not only the people who live next door. Ultimately all people are neighbours to each other. We are good neighbours when we come to people who are in problems, in needs and so on and so forth. This implies that we should love people irrespective of caste, creed, colour or social or any other status. People matter. If we have the ability to help others in need we ought to help. James 4: 17 say, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins”. Jesus said that religion is for man, not man for religion. Jesus valued people, their lives and their human dignity. So should we.
The writer is a Christian theology teacher and church leader