In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), a man is robbed and badly beaten. Some people help him, and some don’t.
The cast of characters includes thieves; their victim, who was probably a Jew; a Jewish religious leader (priest); a Jewish temple worker (Levite); a Samaritan, whom the Jews thought racially and religiously impure; and an innkeeper (called the host).
The thieves leave the victim half dead. The priest and Levite see him but keep their distance; contact with blood or a corpse would make them ceremonially unclean. The Samaritan had compassion and “went to him, and bound up his wounds, . . . and brought him to an inn, and took care of him,” leaving extra money with the innkeeper and promising more, if needed.
We might see ourselves in each of these roles.
One hopes we are never the thieves, wounding people and leaving them half dead. Are we ever the priest or Levite, using our (Christian) religion as an excuse not to be Christian? Sometimes we are the innkeeper, serving others in a supporting role.
We like ourselves in the role of Good Samaritan and aspire to play it often. “Go, and do thou likewise,” said the Lord.
This parable has another level, because we are also the thieves’ victim: damaged, fallen, left for dead. The Savior himself – “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3), like a Samaritan – is the Good Samaritan, who rescues us, heals us, engages others to help us, and pays the full price of our redemption.