The gospel reading for today, 10th July, 2016, is perhaps the most famous of all Jesus’s parables, “The Good Samaritan.” We have heard the story so many times that the surprise ending is no surprise to us anymore. We know that the supposed enemy (The Samaritan) turns out to be the true neighbour: the real friend to the (presumably) Jewish man, left near death at the side of the dangerous road. It is easy to sit back and say, I know this one so I don’t really have to listen. But as always, Jesus’ parables has something more to say to us.
In the story we read that a passing priest and then a Levite seeing the beaten up man, scurry by on the other side of the road. But according to your translation, the Samaritan “turns aside” or “comes near” and he really sees the wounded man. In some versions he “looks with compassion” on the man. Whatever version of the Bible you use it is all boils down to the Samaritan’s willingness to see. This seeing goes beyond viewing the situation. It is a seeing with the heart and the mind and the will. Just like the priest and the Levite, we imagine the Samaritan is afraid – afraid that the robbers may be close by, afraid of getting involved. Unlike to other two the Samaritan “feels the fear but does it anyway.” By looking deeply at the dire predicament of the other, the Samaritan’s heart is moved beyond his own fears and anxieties to the needs of the other.
What pre-empts the story of the Samaritan, is a question from a lawyer asking what he must do to win eternal life. Jesus’ initial response is to quote the two great commandments – to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself. “Who is my neighbour?” the lawyer responds trying to be clever. And thus we get the fuller illumination of what it means to be a disciple and to be in relationship with Jesus (which is to gain eternal life). The disciple must be prepared to look and to see. Unlike the quick glance at what is unpleasant and the hasty turning away in self-protection, we must look with the eyes of the heart and mind. Out of the seeing will come response.