One of my favorite verses of Scripture is Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart” (MEV).
The Bible’s sharp, always-fresh character emerged recently as my wife and I read a familiar story during our morning devotions: the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37.
It’s easy to pass off accounts we heard so often as a child: “Yeah, I know that one. Guy gets robbed on the road to Jericho. The folks who ought to help pass by, but a good guy helps him out. Next story?”
However, when we dug a little deeper while going through a lesson in the Explore the Bible series, I saw much more about this parable than I had observed previously. Lessons like:
- The victim’s foolishness.
I had never contemplated the fact that he set out on a dangerous road that took a steep drop in elevation as it wound nearly 20 miles.
According to this teaching, travelers would be leaving the warm, moist air of Jerusalem for a barren and parched land, as well as going down more than a half mile in elevation.
In addition, this road was a major thoroughfare for trading caravans, military personnel, and Israelis who visited Israel’s capital several times a year. However, because of its isolated terrain, the hiding places and escape routes meant travelers were easy targets for bandits.
There’s no way this man should have been following this treacherous route alone. It’s like he was almost asking for it.
- God’s compassion.
Given these dangers, we could easily lapse into a “blame the victim” scenario in this story. That is, until we contemplate how many foolish moves we’ve made outside of God’s guidance.
It’s like those who ignore God’s wisdom are sitting ducks for trouble. I know I was when I finally recognized that instead of doing a great job at running my life, I had made a complete mess of it. That’s when I prayed and acknowledged I needed Christ’s help to survive.
He welcomed me with open arms. Like the Good Samaritan, He didn’t lecture me on all my mistakes or the trouble I had caused, He just bandaged my wounds and cared for me.
Other Parable Insights
I appreciated two other insights we gleaned from our discussion, starting with the insult this parable posed for Israel’s religious leaders.
It wasn’t just the priest who passed by the battered traveler. So did a Levite. While I always thought the Levites were the priestly tribe, I learned that some were assistants in the temple.
In either case, the very men who should have been the first to render aid were the ones who ignored the victim.
That Jesus portrayed a member of the hated Samaritans as the person who showed love and mercy doubled down on the societal critique this story offered. Especially to the Pharisees and the teacher of the law who asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
Then there was the recognition by the teacher who launched this encounter of Christ’s greatness. In asking Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life, this scholar sought wisdom from a higher authority.
This day, for the first time, I also recognized how the Good Samaritan symbolized Christ. He is the one who overlooks our mistakes, forgives our sins, bandages our wounds, and offers us eternal life.