The Good Samaritan is one of Jesus’s best known parables. Its influence and notoriety has been so great that the phrase “Good Samaritan” remains in the general lexicon some 2,000 years after this little story was first told.
What is so powerful about this parable are the assumptions that the hearer/reader has about each character in the story: the man walking by himself on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the thieves who ambush the traveler, robbing him and leaving him for dead, the two religious figures who walk by the beaten man, yet do not offer him any aid.
And, finally, the Samaritan man who not only stops, but goes above and beyond to help nurse the traveler back to health. Even outside the parable, there is the legal expert who asks Jesus what he must do to receive eternal life, and then the follow up question of “who is my neighbor?”
So many assumptions about so many people. This story that Jesus tells takes all of these assumptions and seems to turn them on their head.
The characters that should be the ‘good guys’ — the priest and Levite — are portrayed negatively. The supposed bad guys — the thieves and Samaritan — are either barely talked about (the thieves) or exalted as the example to be followed (the Samaritan).
Even the legal expert, the guy who knows all the right answers, has trouble naming the hero of the story (when Jesus asks him who was the neighbor in the story, he answers ‘the one who shows mercy’ instead of simply saying ‘the Samaritan’).
To follow the God of peace and restoration is to upend all of the assumptions of our day and age. In this story of upended assumptions we can see what it means to wage peace in a world that is full of conflict.
Who do you need to see as God sees today?