Who Is My Neighbor?
By Eli Stutzman
March 1, 2009
The following parable is probably the most well known of all parables. To many it is known as the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In order to fully understand the impact on the listeners, we shall look in depth a little more. An expert in the Jewish law started the question of ‘who is my neighbor'. Let's listen in beginning at Luke chapter 10 verse 25;
"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
Lawyers were an essential part of life in that time and culture. The laws of Moses needed constant explaining.
Then Jesus did what so often was his method; ask another question.
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (Luke 10;26-29)
Now we begin to get to the bottom of the whole parable, which is the important question; Who is my neighbor?
Simply put, to most of us, it is the person living nearby. If we have good neighbors, it is easy to say "We have done that."
Neighbors come in many different varieties. Often they are more concerned with their welfare than being helpful as we believe they should. And the lawyer was about to discover a neighbor was not what comes to your mind right away.
The story begins with a man falling victim to thieves along the road.
First a priest comes along. Priests served in the temple offering the sacrifices brought by the public. Everybody knew who they were and they were highly respected. They were Jews, our kind of people, highly respected and important religious figures. A lot like we would respect a bishop.
Next comes the Levite. They served in the temple as custodians keeping the place clean and in order. Also, if you were to try to enter the temple, you would have to pass by a Levite gatekeeper, as anyone not a Jew would be kept out. Levites too were well known and respected in Jewish life. These two passed the victim by and hurried to get where they were going.
Now comes a Samaritan. These people were not liked and did not like Jews. They were of the other 10 tribes of Israel, many years back, but had mixed marriages with outsiders and were now despised as traitors who had sold out their religion and joined the outside world. The common feeling was like we feel about someone who betrays us. So the words ‘Good Samaritan' were never used in the same sentence. These people were abusive to Jews and deserved to be shunned.
This story would have had a jaw-dropping effect on the audience because now they understood that outsiders to the faith were to be the neighbor that they were to love. So now I leave you with the question; who is my neighbor?
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