Following the moral to the parable—the command to love our neighbor as ourselves—Jesus encourages the lawyer to "go and do likewise." Helping the needy without asking first who he is and what his relationship is to us fulfills this. The Samaritan proves himself a neighbor by his unprejudiced mercy and compassion (Proverbs 14:21; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 6:7-10). Without distinction of race, nationality, or religion, the human being that we affect good or bad by our conduct is our neighbor. More specifically in light of this parable, he who needs our aid, no matter who he is, is our neighbor. The question, then, should not be "Who is my neighbor?" but "Are we neighborly?" Are we friendly, kind, helpful, considerate, caring, cooperative, amicable, merciful, and compassionate? Do we love our fellow human beings more than ourselves?
Jesus Christ is the quintessential good neighbor, and His example is the one to imitate. He saw a world of sinners robbed of their potential, stripped of spiritual ideals, wounded by sins, and unable to rise by themselves from their beaten state. He came down to where the sinners are and gave mankind a corresponding act of mercy, seen in type in the good Samaritan. Through His death and resurrection, He covers our nakedness, binds up our wounds, and heals them. He puts us in the safety of His church and provides for our physical and spiritual needs. God gives us abundantly more than we ask.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Unless a person has a heart of stone, he will feel compassion for those who are suffering, and that emotional reaction often fuels a helpful response in the form of aid, much like the Good Samaritan had compassion on the man who was wounded by thieves on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:30-37). He saw the man in his plight, sympathized with him, and selflessly cared for him at his own expense. Jesus shows that we should "go and do likewise" (verse 37), as such compassion is the mark of a true Christian. We see compassion similarly encouraged in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, where the righteous sheep help those in need, expecting no reward (Matthew 25:31-46).
It is instructive to see Jesus showing compassion in the few times it is mentioned in the gospels. The first appears in Mark 1:41, where He, "moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched [a leper], and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.'" Another time, recorded in Luke 7:13, He feels compassion for a widow who had just lost her only son, and He raises him from the dead. In Matthew 20:34, He has compassion on two blind men and heals them. Both Matthew and Mark record that Jesus had compassion on the multitude that had followed Him "because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36; see Mark 6:34). He also has compassion on multitudes because they had nothing left to eat (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2) and because many of them needed healing (Matthew 14:14).
In each of these cases, Jesus shows compassion for people whose circumstances had reached a point of dire need, and they had no ability to help themselves. He then performs a miracle that alleviates the problem. Notice, however, that, like the Good Samaritan, He asks for nothing for Himself, except perhaps that they keep the miracle to themselves. He has little or nothing to gain by helping them—and in fact, His miracles could draw the unwanted attention of the authorities—but He helps them anyway out of outgoing concern. His compassion has no ulterior motive except to draw them closer to God.
Jesus was not a politician; He never demanded a quid pro quo. True compassion, as He practiced it, is an outpouring of agape love, a selfless concern for the ultimate well-being of another expressed in sacrificial action in the other's behalf. His compassion for humanity went so far that He gave His life for us "while we were still sinners," unworthy of aid as His enemies (Romans 5:8, 10). His compassion for our weakness and suffering will ultimately lead to our eternal life in His Kingdom, for when He expresses His love for us, it never ends (I Corinthians 13:8).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A parable is not a news report. However, in a real-life situation, a priest or a Levite might have widely varying feelings when confronted with such a situation. They might range from aversion and/or fear that a similar tragedy might happen to him if he remained in the area to sympathy and commiseration. Jesus does not explore this angle, but we can understand the possibility because we also are not unmoved by another's plight. We are not cold marble statues without feelings.
Jesus does not mention what the priest and Levite specifically felt, but He clearly shows that mercy began with the Samaritan feeling compassion for the wounded man. Then, the Samaritan made a number of sacrifices to meet the miserable man's needs. How frequently are we moved to make some small sacrifice toward relieving another's misery, but never mercifully follow through?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) differs from most other parables in that it is so simple and concrete that a child can understand its basic point. However, it is also an insightful and memorable exposition of practical moral principles. That so many religious and secular people understand it shows the effectiveness of its simplicity and depth. Unlike other parables, each figure in the story does not necessarily represent a spiritual equivalent. The whole narrative describes working compassion as contrasted to selfishness, of hate compared with love.
In the parable's introduction (Luke 10:26), Jesus uses a technical term regularly used by the scribes or lawyers when consulting one another about a matter of the law: "What is your reading of it?" The lawyer gives the only right answer—the necessity of loving God and his neighbor (verse 27). He then asks the question—"Who is my neighbor?" (verse 29)—that prompts Jesus into giving His parable. The lawyer believes that no Gentile is his neighbor, although it seems he suspects they really are. This parable makes clear who is our neighbor and how we should respond to his needs.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 10:37: