Parable of the Good Samaritan

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What is the meaning behind the Good Samaritan parable given by Jesus? When and why did he give this story?

Recorded only in the book of Luke, the Good Samaritan parable is one of the most often repeated stories given by Jesus. It was given in the middle of 29 A.D. as the Lord was slowing making his way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) to ultimately keep the Feast of Lights (John 10:22). It should be noted that Christ never uses the term "good Samaritan" although that is certainly implied (Luke 10:29 - 37).

The parable involving a Samaritan was given by Jesus during his exchange with an expert in God's law. The expert first posed to him a question that was meant to entrap him.

Now a certain doctor of the law suddenly stood up, tempting Him and saying, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25, HBFV).

Jesus answered by throwing the question back to the person who stated we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). The man, after his answer was acknowledged correct, then asked Jesus who was his neighbor. The Bible says he did this to justify himself (verse 29), as the Jews generally did not consider Samaritans and Gentiles as their "neighbors." The Lord's response to the identity of a person's neighbor is the Good Samaritan parable.


Why did Jews, especially those in the first century, despise those who lived just north of them in Samaria? Many years prior their brethren, who formed the Kingdom of Israel in 930 B.C., resided in Samaria (named after the kingdom's capital city). The Assyrians, however, after taking most of the Israelites captive in 723, repopulated the land with their own pagan citizens. Over time, the Jews living in Judea vehemently despised the Samaritans for, in part, displacing their brethren.

The animosity and bitterness felt by the average Jew toward a Samaritan cannot be underestimated. Their hatred was so great that when they traveled from Galilee to Judea they would travel around Samaria, through the barrenness of Petra, just to avoid contact with these people! Jesus gave his parable of the Good Samaritan to counteract this negative and sinful attitude.

Meaning of the Parable

The primary message of this parable is that people should be merciful and compassionate to those who cross their path in life. The secondary or deeper message for Christians is that since God unconditionally loves everyone we, too, should do the same.

Christians, as illustrated in this Samaritan centered story, are called to be merciful to all people in need and not just those we like or accept. Those who seek to obey God are not permitted the luxury of not caring about the needs of others simply because they are strangers. Jesus, in fact, even rebuked His own disciples for being hostile toward these people (Luke 9:54 - 56).

The ultimate meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan is that we are to strive to be perfect and do what is right to all people just like our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). Only love and mercy can triumph over biases, hatred and animosity toward others.

No one would remember the
Good Samaritan if he'd only had good
intentions. He had money as well.
Margaret Thatcher

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