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The Good Samaritan

A retelling of Christian scripture (Luke 10: 25- 37).

A lawyer asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus answered, "What is in the law? What do you read there?"

The lawyer answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Hoping to trick Jesus, the lawyer asked, "Who is my neighbor?"

Jesus responded with a story:

A Jewish merchant bid his family farewell and left Jerusalem early one morning to travel to Jericho, where he would bring his goods to market. He left early, his donkey laden with goods for the market. He was anxious because he had to travel over the eighteen-mile Jericho Road. The Jericho Road went through steep, rocky terrain that had plenty of places where robbers could hide and ambush unsuspecting travelers. The merchant wanted nothing more than to get to Jericho quickly and safely so he could sell his goods.

He had traveled a couple of hours and had reached a desolate section of the steep, rocky road when suddenly a gang of robbers jumped out from behind a rock. They stole his merchandise, and then went on to beat him and take his food, his water, and even the clothing off his back. They went away and left him for dead.

After a while, a priest chanced to walk down that road. He had finished his Temple service and was headed home for a well-deserved rest. When he saw the merchant, he was not sure at first if he was alive or dead. He paused for a moment to consider what to do. "If the man is dead," he thought, "then if I touch him I will be unclean. Purification rituals will take a week, and I will be unable to do my job at the Temple." He convinced himself that the man was either dead or near to it, and that it would serve no good purpose to get any closer to the man than he already was. He passed by, on the other side of the road.

A while later, a Levite, a Temple official, happened down the road. He, too, saw the merchant's body. He could see signs of shallow breathing, so he knew the man was alive. He considered stopping to help, but then he thought, "He is too badly hurt to just give him some water and food and send him on his way. He might very likely die in my arms, and then I will have a serious problem. I will need to do something about his body, and I will also be unclean and will have to purify myself before I can get back to my work at the Temple." He looked away from the man, and passed by on the other side of the road.

And then a Samaritan was traveling down the road and saw the man. He took pity on him, even though Samaritans and Jews generally hated one another. The Samaritan gave the Jewish merchant water, gently and slowly, and the man began to revive. The Samaritan poured oil and wine on the man's wounds and bandaged them. He gently put the man on his own donkey and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him for two days. When the Samaritan had to leave, he paid the innkeeper generously for the merchant's room and board while he recovered, saying, "If this is not enough, I will pay you the balance when I come back this way."

And Jesus asked the lawyer, "Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?"

"The one who showed him mercy," he replied.

And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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