Today, I get to talk to you guys about one my all-time favorite parables—The Parable of the Good Samaritan. And when I say it is one of my all-time favorite parables, I mean, it is one of my ALL-TIME favorite parables. To me, this and The Prodigal Son are in a tie for first place, perhaps because I can relate to them both so very completely.
But before we get into the story, let’s investigate who the Samaritans were to the Jews in that day. In James E. Talmage’s Jesus the Christ, we read that, generally, “the Jews hated all other peoples”—that is not me saying that, that is a direct quote from the book—but they had a special dislike for the Samaritans. “These Samaritans were a mixed people, and were looked upon by the Jews as a mongrel lot, unworthy of decent respect…. The Samaritan rituals were regarded by the Jews as unorthodox, and the people as reprobate”—which is a word that I had to look up—I have to look up a lot of words when I read Talmage. It means, “to condemn as unworthy, unacceptable or evil”, “to foreordain to damnation” and also, “to refuse to accept”. That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it? But unfortunately, if you look around the world, it’s not an uncommon way of thinking in our day.
Talmage goes on to say that, “At the time of Christ the enmity between the Jew and the Samaritan was so intense that travelers between Judea and Galilee would make long detours rather than pass through the province of Samaria which lay between.” And travelling was no picnic back then! They had to walk or ride donkeys for miles. It took them days to get anywhere. So that really puts a whole new level to the idea of “going out of your way to avoid someone.”
So, with that cheery image in mind, let’s jump into the parable. It starts in 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?
“He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
“And 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.
“And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”
Now, here, James E. Talmage explains that, “These simple words conveyed a rebuke, as the lawyer must have realized; they indicated the contrast between knowing and doing. Having thus failed in his plan to confound the Master, and probably realizing that he, a lawyer, had made no creditable display of his [exceptional book-smarts] by asking so simple a question and then answering it himself, he tamely sought to justify himself by inquiring further: ‘And who is my neighbour?’”
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”
Now, according to Talmage, “The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was known to be infested by highway robbers; indeed a section of the thoroughfare was called the Red Path or Bloody Way because of the frequent atrocities committed thereon.”
The Savior continues, “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
“And likewise a Levite,” whose calling as a Levite was to work in the temple, “when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.” Talmage explains that, according to his office and the Jewish law, the Levite was required to help if he saw an ox or a donkey fall down along the road, so surely he had a further obligation to help a fallen brother who, in this parable, was surely a Jew. But… he didn’t.
Maybe these folks were in a hurry. Maybe they were scared that they’d find themselves beaten and laying right next to this broken man. They wanted excuses, and it was easy to find them. Whatever their reasons, they left the guy there to die.
“But a certain Samaritan,” said the Savior, “as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” As it is stated in Jesus the Christ, “When the Samaritan came along, he had no excuse [to pass him by], for he wanted none.”
“And [he] went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
“And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”
And the lawyer, now put to shame, said, “He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
Again, Talmage points out, “The essential difference between the Samaritan and the others was that the one had a compassionate heart, while they were unloving and selfish.”
As I’ve pondered this parable over this last couple of weeks, I was thinking about how I’ve always seen it as more of a lecture—a fantastic lecture—on judging others and the kind of people we should aspire to be. After all, the Savior does say, “Go, and do thou likewise,” and the character of the Samaritan was certainly not chosen by accident.
But, then I thought of Jeffrey R. Holland—because I love him. In his talk, Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually, when he reviews the Sermon on the Mount, Elder Holland concludes, “I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on [the Mount] to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the ‘natural man’ and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we all despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace. Of course, all we say of the Father’s virtues we also say of His Only Begotten Son, who lived and died unto the same perfection.”
With this perspective in mind—the thought that, through each teaching, each miracle, each blessing, each parable, and through His perfect example, the Savior was trying to show us the true nature of the Father, our Heavenly Father, Whose will He had come to Earth to fulfill—Whose will was to save the Father’s wandering sheep, His broken children…
The Savior is the Good Samaritan.
The Savior was an outcast. His teachings weren’t just unorthodox, they completely crushed the traditions and corrupt, man-made laws that the Jewish leaders taught. They ridiculed Him all. the. time. They told Him that He was a fraud. They accused Him of being evil. Unworthy. And they refused to accept Him. To them, He was reprobate. Because of their prejudice against Him, because of their fear of Him and of the change He called them to, He was afflicted and tormented by them, and eventually, crucified by them. As Elder Holland said in his last general conference talk, He “died from a heart broken by shouldering entirely alone the sins and sorrows of the whole human family.” Yet even now, in our day, are there not people who go to great lengths to avoid even the subject of Him? Who are embarrassed to talk or preach of Him?
Yet, as a man lays dying on a dangerous road—a Jew, we can assume; even the enemy of the Samaritan—He does not hesitate to rush to the rescue. He doesn’t find an excuse not to help, because He doesn’t want one.
Have you ever felt broken? Beaten down by thieves and robbers—by stupid choices; by misfortune and tragedy that strike from the shadows? By any of the horrible stones life has in its arsenal ready to throw at you?
I testify that, though at times it seems you are left alone and bleeding, exhausted, unable to move another step, watching as others seem to just pass by, that there is One Who will not pass you by. When others seem to forget, the Lord declares to us in Isaiah 49:15-16, “they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”
There is One who hears the weeping of the broken heart and is not afraid of the dangerous road, for He has walked it. He is One Who holds no prejudice, Who will rush to the rescue because He wants to. He is One Who was not only willing to die to save you, but actually did. He suffered agony that we can only begin to understand as we reflect back upon our own individual pains and sorrows, but ultimately cannot comprehend as we consider that we are only one in the infinite number of lives that have walked this Earth. Yet, He knows each of us perfectly. In that infinite number, you are not lost to Him. He has walked your path, He has worn your shoes. He suffered so He could kneel beside each of our broken souls on a dark road, that He might understand our agony perfectly so we might not be alone, and know exactly what balm we need to soothe our wounds. He did it so that He might lift us up and carry us to safety—if we will but let Him. And He rose from the dead on the third day—that first, glorious Easter morn—that He might break our awful chains and set us free from death and despair—because He wants us to come Home, and dwell there in peace and happiness forever, leaving our all of our scars behind.
I testify that when you reach out to Him for help, with all of your heart, even with just a thread of hope, a desire to believe, He will reach back. I cannot tell you how many times I have reached out to Him as I lay broken on the road, and He has never once turned away. I haven’t always gotten answers exactly when I’ve wanted them nor have they always been the answers I’ve wanted. I’ve asked so many times for my own bitter cup to be taken away, yet it hasn’t—but He has never, ever just walked by. When I have opened my heart up to Him, seeking for help and answers, He has always rushed to my rescue. He has strengthened me. He has lifted me upon His shoulders and carried me. And I know that if He has never abandoned me—who is a terribly broken and imperfect person—He will never abandon you.
As Sharon Eubank stated in her last General Conference talk, which only confirmed my epiphany, “When tragedies overtake us, when life hurts so much we can’t breathe, when we’ve taken a beating like the man on the road to Jericho and been left for dead, Jesus comes along and pours oil into our wounds, lifts us tenderly up, takes us to an inn, [and] looks after us.”
And then I wondered, in this parable, is our duty that of the Innkeeper? Reflecting on the Savior’s words, He states, “He took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” He blesses us when we set aside our differences, our prejudices, and righteously care for those who are broken with His perfect love. He blesses us with healing and joy in our service. And He promises us that any extra mile we need to go, He will repay when He returns, because each one of us is a child of God. Each one of us matters to Him. So, He has asked us to take care of one another and help each other heal and get back Home.
Are we noticing the broken souls that Jesus has brought to us? Are we emulating His example as the Good Samaritan in our care? If you are wondering where to look, I want to suggest that you first look at those literally living your “inn”—there in your homes. Our first duty is to our family. Look at your spouse, your children; your siblings, your parents. And don’t hear this and think, “Yes, they SHOULD be thinking about what they can give me and do for me!” No, think of what you can do. Be willing to love first. Give love—pure, perfect love, and not just for a little while but make it a habit, following the example of the Savior. As John declared in 1 John 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.”
Let go of anger; anger drives away the Spirit. Forgive as often as needed. Shower them with compassion and love. Listen to their worries and sorrows and hug them till they feel better. Spend time together. Never hesitate to pray for help. President Russell M. Nelson has promised, “When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.”
I testify that this promise is 100% true. When we are willing to set aside what we think we know and listen to the Spirit, He will guide us perfectly. He will rush to our rescue. I testify that He is there. He is real. He is aware of you, whatever your situation may be. His loves you perfectly and His love is without end. His power to heal remains on this Earth and He will never just pass by.
Artwork by Greg Olsen