I knew I had this file somewhere. I’d done a talk on this part of Luke’s years ago for our class at Church. I’d gathered my notes from Tim Gray’s “Mission of the Messiah”.
The Samaritan has compassion on the Jewish man who was left for dead. Let’s take a look at Jewish culture to understand this. The Samaritans were hated by Jews. The Samaritans were the remnant of the ten tribes of Northern Israel that had been conquered by the Assyrians in 722BC.
The Samaritans did two things that made them anathema to the Jews: They mixed their bloodline and their worship with the Gentiles. Such assimilation was the opposite of the separation that constituted holiness in the Jewish mindset. The Samaritans were viewed not simply with distrust, but disgust; they embodied the abandonment of holiness and the politics of separation. So after the priest and the Levite leave the man for dead, the astonishing part of the story is that a Samaritan is the one who has compassion on the Jewish man who lies dying.
The Samaritan embodies the Father’s mercy. According to the old law, one’s neighbor was limited to “the sons of your own people”. Now, Jesus makes the case for a broader view of the law. Jesus then poses the question: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" The lawyer said, "The one who showed mercy on him” (Lk. 10:37).
What’s ironic is that the priest and Levite were the literal kinsmen (neighbor) of the man, not the Samaritan. The politics of holiness had restricted the notion of neighbor, but mercy knew no limits. Jesus’ teaching on holiness as mercy was a potent new wine, and it burst the old wineskins of holiness.