Who is my neighbor? Then & Today

Good Samaritan

“The Good Samaritan,” Aimé Morot (1880)

The Religious of Jesus day, that is, the fundamental Jewish establishment, were so hard headed that Jesus in answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” had to turn the turn the table in his answer.

The story begins with a man, beaten, robbed (even of his clothing) and left for dead while on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. This man we can be pretty sure was Jew. Into the story enter three people, each of whom come upon the dying man. The first to come along was a Jewish Priest who seeing the man crossed to the other side of the path before passing by.

The second to come along was a Levite, a man who assisted the priest in Temple worship. He to saw the dying man, crossed to the other side and passed on by.

The third to come by was a hated Samaritan. When coming upon the man and seeing him, passion welled up in him. He dressed the man’s wounds with oil and wine. Placed him on his own donkey and brought the man to an inn. To the innkeeper he said, “Here’s some money. Look after him. When I return I will reimburse for any extra expense you may have.”

After telling the story Jesus turns to the Jewish lawyer who posed the question and asks, “Who was the neighbor?” To which the lawyer could only reply, “The one who showed mercy.” To the lawyer Jesus replies, “Go and do likewise.”

Today, Jesus would tell the same story a bit different. The man asking the question would a person seeking to justify himself, perhaps a self-righteous Christian. The man robbed and beaten would undoubtedly be someone of Christian religious bearing. The priest, rather than Jewish would be a well-respected Christian pastor or priest, the Levite would be a politician, and the hated Samaritan, a dreaded Muslim. If Jesus were telling the story today, the one posing the question would for sure be one who wants to control borders. Yet, if Jesus were telling the story today, the answer would still be, “The neighbor is the one who showed mercy.” And Jesus would still say, “Go and do likewise.”

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