Jesus spoke the parable to answer a question from a lawyer who was an expert on the requirements of the Mosaic law. He was sort of like a Canon lawyer of his day. The lawyer was trying to test Jesus by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” when Jesus oh so subtly turned the orientation of the question around.
Some background you may already know: The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of estrangement, ever since the Kingdom of Israel had been split in two after Solomon’s death. The Samaritans worshiped God in the “wrong way,” on Mount Gerizim in Samaria instead of at the temple in Jerusalem. In the context of the account in the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 10, the full question the lawyer was asking Jesus was, “Who is my neighbor who the law says I should love as myself?” And instead of simply replying, “You should love everyone–including the Samaritans–as your neighbors,” Jesus avoided telling the lawyer who was his neighbor, but instead He told this story in which a Samaritan loved his neighbor in the person of a man who he didn’t know, who was probably a Jew!
After the unidentified man in the story was robbed, two men passed him by, a priest and a scribe. One commentator wrote that he could have been identified as a Jew by what he wore, but that commentator obviously ignored the fact that man had not only been robbed, but he had been beaten and stripped of his clothing. The first two passers-by stayed clear of him, on the other side of the road.
To touch the man, who might be dying, would have made them ceremonially unclean. And who knows? Maybe he was faking and trying to trick them into getting close enough so he could rob them…. The fact that one of the despised Samaritans ignored any risks to himself, went way out of his way, and spent a lot of time and money to help an injured man who may have been one of the hated Jews is highly significant.
Because they were enemies, anyone else of that era would think that Jews and Samaritans owed nothing to each other. The Samaritan ignored the prejudices of his fellow countrymen and fears of the two Jews and helped the man who was in need.
So way it turned out, that the Samaritan was the good one while the two Jews who passed by were not, must have struck the Jews who were listening, and it would have been an inspiration for those sincere followers of Jesus who might have been a bit self-righteous about their status as the chosen people. The parable might have made them ashamed and gave them the resolution to be good themselves, like the Samaritan.
It should be an inspiration for us too.
 Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0.
 Luke 10: 25-37 is read every year on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost in the Extraordinary Form. According to the revised three-year Sunday lectionary for the Ordinary Form, this parable is read in Year C as the Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. According to the two-year Ordinary Time lectionary for weekdays, this parable is also read on Monday of the 27th Week after Pentecost on both Year I and Year II. It is also read in Ritual II for the Anointing of the Sick, and in the Masses for Refugees & Exiles and For the Dying.