They were talking about the greatest command of all when Jesus revealed to the loophole seeking Bible scholar how he rolled as a God-and-people-lover. I think, with the Samaritan story, Jesus was, in essence, saying, “Here’s how I love my Father and my neighbors. I go out of my way to serve them.”
Though I can’t claim with certainty that Jesus necessarily intended us to view him as “The Samaritan” in his story, you have to admit the parallels are striking. I don’t know about you, but when Jesus found me, I was robbed and beat down by the Sin, Satan, and the System. Religion did nothing for me but pass me by on the other side of the road. But, of all people, this unexceptional Man of love picked me up, tended my wounds, brought me to a therapeutic community for recovery, and paid the tab.
He came to our bad neighborhood
The road to Jericho was called, “The Bloody Pass” and for good reason. I’ve been to the region and seen the road (loosely called) that snakes down the desolate hills between Jerusalem and Jericho. Like the world that Jesus entered, this was an ideal place to be relieved of all your stuff if not your life. Like the Samaritan he ventured a long way out of his own neighborhood to come to our treacherous neighborhood – on purpose!
He was hated and marginalized
Like the Samaritan, Jesus was not well liked here – outcast on his own planet. Spit on, laughed at, beat up, and murdered. No one would have blamed him had he hated us in return. I would’ve if were him. Instead he got down and washed our bloody wounds.
He dismounted his own donkey and put dying people in his place
The Servant-King who rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey puts people too weak to walk for themselves in his own saddle. I’m no expert on donkeys as transportation, but I suspect that they don’t customarily carry two men at once. Our Samaritan was willing to walk the rest of the way.
He tends to our injuries
He stooped all the way down and bloodied himself while bandaging our wounds and pouring onto them wine and oil (his own blood and Spirit).
He brings us to a place of healing and rest
For ongoing rehabilitation, he takes us to his inn and places us in the therapeutic hands of those who care for us almost as much as he does. Though he had been given no room in an inn, he created his own inn to care for the hurting.
He promises to return and pay the rest of the tab
He’s coming back to take us all, innkeeper and victims alike, to his own home!
Whether or not he intended us to see him as the protagonist of his story, we know for sure that he never asks us to do anything he himself didn’t model perfectly. However you interpret the parable, Jesus will always be the “Ideal Samaritan,” and if we want to be like him we’ll have to follow his lead to love the Father and the fallen as much as he does. When I think about what he’s done for me I’m inspired to be the kind of “neighbor” he was. The “Ideal Samaritan” lives in me to help me be a better Samaritan than I can hope to be on my own.
But if I refuse to let this “Ideal Samaritan” live his compassionate life through me the only thing I can do is arm myself with an arsenal of excuses why I can’t be like him. In such case, I reveal that I am indeed an “Inadequate Samaritan.”