“Who is my neighbor?” The Good Samaritan.


Have you ever been overseas in a foreign country, perhaps a Middle Eastern country, and were running late when a native homeless guy stops you and asks you for money? Maybe you had a little pity on him but because he didn’t look like you or even speak English, you simply passed him by. Maybe you’ve never been overseas, but let’s say here in this country, you got stuck in line at a grocery store and there was literally a sick looking homeless man asking for money and he just smelled and looked horrible so you ignored him or gave him a trite reply to avoid any more association with him.

Now, let’s say you’re in the same checkout line at the grocery store, and instead of a homeless person asking you for an extra dollar, it’s an attractive person of the opposite sex with the same ethnic background as you or he/she happens to be your “type”? Which person would you help? Which person would you consider your “neighbor”?

It is much easier to extend compassion and love to those who are just like us. The way of Jesus though, is a way of love to all of God’s children, red, yellow, black and white.

See this familiar story about the Good Samaritan is not just about compassion and roadside assistance, it is a story about loving like God loves, seeing with his eyes, extending the same grace you’ve been given to all people regardless of their race, culture, religion, heritage, age, style, etc. Jesus is asking us today can you see like he sees so you can  you love like he loves?

Let’s look at the text: Luke 10:25-37

Verse 25: “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

To test: The lawyer had an agenda. He wanted to test Jesus in order to discredit him, to show the people he was a fraud. The religious leaders were intimidated by Jesus for he was different, he didn’t fall in line with the rest of them. But they respected him as a teacher. So he stands up and calls him teacher, both were signs of respect especially coming from a guy who makes his living interpreting and teaching the Mosaic Law, the Torah.

Verse 26: “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

Jesus values the Law, for him it is the foundation for how Jewish people ought to live.

To shed more light on this I want to read Matt. 22:36-40, where a similar situation arose. “An expert in the Law came to test Jesus asking him which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus told him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What is Jesus really saying? All of the Law and the Prophets (Gen., Ex., Lev., Num., Deut., Isaiah, Jer., Ezek., etc.) came to show primarily one thing: how to love God and love others.

Which is why Jesus said, “I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it” (Matt. 5:17).

Jesus wanted to show us what it looks like to truly love God and love others by fulfilling the Law himself.

Since this man made his living interpreting and teaching the Law, Jesus also asked him “how do you interpret it?”

See Jesus is up to something too, he is trying to get the lawyer to see the error of his ways and his own religious and racial biases.

Verse 27:  He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

In light of the similar situation, we know this man answered correctly.

Verse 28: “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Jesus is like, “yep, good job, you have the right answer to the test.”

Verse 29: But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

He wants to “justify himself”: The man is basically saying I am not just right about the Law, I am right about loving my neighbor too because my neighbors are my fellow Jews. The “neighbor” in his eyes is one who is just like him. He chooses only to love those just like him and basically neglect or even hate anyone else.

This guy is so self-righteous and insecure, he wants Jesus to affirm him in his own perceived righteousness. He is thinking “well, I’m a paid scribe, an expert in the Law of Moses, of course I do these things, I love God and love my neighbors, my fellow Jewish people. Affirm me in this Jesus, I do love my fellow Jews right?” See this man was trying to eliminate a responsibility to love people that he already didn’t like, people just like him. He was expecting to Jesus to say, “yeah you’re doing good, your neighbors are your fellow Jews like me for we are God’s chosen people after all.”

Not only was the lawyer trying to justify himself, the lawyer was also trying to set Jesus up in a trap. He asks this because if Jesus says anything other than a Jewish person just like him, then the lawyer would say he is a heretic, and would condemn him. It is all a set up.

Jews thought they were the only ones in a right relationship with God, they are wrong, we are right. Any Jew at that time would think a fellow Jew is my neighbor. But Jesus’ very life conveys that his neighbors are not just fellow Jews but everyone, tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes. To Jesus a neighbor is anyone in need.

Verse 30: In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

Knowing the man was still caught up in his own biases and self-righteousness, Jesus wants to help him understand the true meaning of the greatest two commandments. So he tells a story.

Some scholars believe this was actually a real story that happened just recently before the time Jesus taught it because how historically accurate some of the details are.

The man was probably a Jewish man coming from Jerusalem to Jericho 17 miles away. They would be “going down” to Jericho because Jerusalem was set on a hill about 3,200 feet above Jericho. Many of the Priests, Levites, and normal Jewish residents lived in Jericho and traveled to Jerusalem for Temple rituals, and worship. Typically for two weeks at a time for the Priests and Levites who would serve at the temple.

The road to Jericho was narrow and filled with caves, so robbers could hide. This route contained many twists and turns, and was an ideal place for outlaws and brigands to hide and prey on unsuspecting travelers.  Especially lonely travelers like the man in Jesus’ story.

This is a picture of this same road today.

Jericho Road Good Samaritan

Verse 31: A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

Verse 32: So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

So we can assume this priest and the Levite just came from the temple and were going home. He passed by him. The Priest’s job was to conduct religious rituals at the Temple and the Levite was basically the Priests assistant.

Priests and Levites get a bad reputation in this story because they didn’t stop but they had a lot going on in their minds when debating whether or not to help.

We tend to immediately think, “what punks, what kind of God-fearing men would have no pity on this person?” But the priest and the Levite were faced with a big dilemma…

See, they either had to disobey Lev. 22 or Lev. 19…

Lev. 22:3-4 basically says priests and temple workers become unclean if you touch a dead body, or blood.

The man looked half-dead, and there was blood, for all they knew he was dead. They are trained not to approach things like this for their particular job requires them to be set apart for the Lord’s Temple. You can’t eat your next meal if you’re unclean. You can’t go back to work for a period of time if you’re unclean.


Lev. 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

So….Both the Priest and the Levite had a dilemma: do I break Lev. 22 or Lev. 19?

This is called situational ethics. Rabbis would say in murky ethical dilemmas like this,there were heavier laws and lighter laws, and you choose accordingly.

In Matt. 23:23 we see Jesus say “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

So through Jesus’ eyes, it is a tough decision for them but nevertheless, they should have helped the man instead of worrying about being ceremonially unclean. They think preserving their purity cleanliness is the heavier issue rather than upholding God’s law of loving your neighbor.

The heavier issue was showing kindness to the neighbor.

Verse 33: But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he had pity on him.

First off, you need to know the Jews and Samaritans hated each other.  Both claimed to be the true children of Abraham. They were bordering neighbors. They were essentially arch rivals. Think Lakers vs. Celtics. Think UCLA vs. USC.

The Samaritans were half breeds who interbred with other nations during Assyrian exile when many Jews were displaced and scattered. More than just that though, they were despised by the Jews because they had their own temple, religious system, rituals and beliefs.

The Samaritans said there was a different mountain in Samaria near Shechem, which was the one true place for the temple to worship God. The Samaritans built their own temple near Shechem, but the Jews destroyed it in 128 b.c. So it is no surprise that we learn from the historian Josephus, that when Jesus was about 9 years old, the Samaritans scattered human bones in the Jews most holy place, the temple in Jerusalem.

In the Jewish worship service, they would actually pray to God that the Samaritans would not obtain eternal life. Jews would even avoid going through Samaria on their journeys north because even that was thought of as making a devout Jew unclean.

The apocryphal Wisdom of Ben Sirach 50:25-26, written around 200 B.C., says, “There are two nations that my soul detests, and the third is not a nation at all: the inhabitants of Mount Seir, and the Philistines, and the stupid people living at Shechem (i.e. Samaritans).”

The mutual hatred of the Jews and the Samaritans is also evident in such Bible passages as John 4:9 and 8:48:

John 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)

John 8:48 The Jews answered Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

Do you see what is going on here? Jesus deliberately chose an outsider, and a hated one at that, for his hero in order to indicate that being a neighbor is not a matter of a united nationality or race.

Verse 34: He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Oil and wine were used to clean the wounds to prevent infection and promote healing. Oil and Wine were what the priests and Levites used in the temple for their priestly work. Almost as if Jesus if bringing up this to reiterate just how much the priests and the Levites should have and could have helped him.

Scholars suggest he tore his own clothes to provide the bandages for the man. He then carries him up on his donkey and watched over him that night at the inn.

The Samaritan risked his life by being publicly seen with the Jew because any Jew seeing a Samaritan touching a Jew would want to go kill the Samaritan. So he could have been killed by touching this half dead bloody Jewish person, but then he put him on his own donkey as another sign of respect towards him.

Verse 35: The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Two denarii or two coins was the modern day equivalent to two days’ wages. So let’s say about $200.

Verse 36: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Jesus response was trying to point out to the lawyer that he had prejudice in his heart towards Samaritans. It was almost as if Jesus said “well, who do you hate the most?”

That’s what God does sometimes to us isn’t it? Pointing out things in our hearts where we are not in alignment with his will for our lives, with who he wants us to become.

Jesus was essentially saying the religious Jewish priest and Levite are just like you, mr. lawyer, and think the same way as you, but they did not fulfill the Law. Rather, the non-Jewish Samaritan did.

Jesus was showing how the love of one’s neighbor must transcend all boundaries such as race, nationality, religion, and economic or educational status. Jesus turns the table on the lawyer by revealing that it is not enough to have the right answers.  Jesus shows that the true fulfillment of God’s commands is to recognize those in need and to help them.  To love them.  God’s people are those who live this way.

Jesus was pointing out the upside down nature of the kingdom of God: sometimes those who know the Law are not the ones who enter God’s kingdom, sometimes it’s the ones who you would least expect who actually do. It was the outcast, a cursed Samaritan, satisfied the requirements of the law. Once again the last became first and the first last.

Verse 37: The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

When Jesus asked the lawyer, “Who is the neighbor?” The lawyer couldn’t even say the name Samaritan because of his hate towards all Samaritans so he muttered “the one who showed mercy on him.”

Is there anyone who you can’t say the name of? Maybe your ex? Maybe a person who really hurt you? Maybe a person who you despise for whatever reason? Jesus says, that person, is your neighbor who he calls you to love.

Now…if this story was only about showing kindness, roadside assistance, being like AAA, etc., than Jesus would have made the third person passing by a teacher of the law, like this lawyer. But it is not a story exclusively about showing kindness to those beaten down, it is also about who is our neighbor.

Jesus’ answer to the man in the form of the story was a way for Jesus to correct the lawyer’s deceitful and self-righteous question; Jesus was trying to shift the question to become not “who is my neighbor”, but “what does it look like to be a good neighbor to all people, with no biases whatsoever?”

When you love God, you will naturally be more inclined to love your neighbor, any neighbor, no matter their appearance or background. 


“Love God and love others” is what Jesus says is the summary of all the law and the prophets. So this is a story about just that, and Jesus is pointing out to the expert in the Law (who should know that loving God and loving others is what this whole thing is all about) that he doesn’t know the spirit behind the law. This wisdom only comes through a proper relationship with Christ.

This Samaritan had eyes to see what God sees. He had godly character. Who he was, determined what he did.


What you see is determined by what you are. It’s not enough to see a need you must do something.


Can you see through God’s eyes with no discrimination? And then love like God loves?


Can you see through God’s eyes so you can love like he loves?

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