Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Man Who Had to be Good

Jesus once told a parable in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29-37). This story is so widely known today, that if one hears the expression, “Good Samaritan,” it is immediately associated with one who does good deeds.
The core of the parable concerns the willingness of one human to help another in distress. In this case, the man who had been injured and robbed was a Jew, and the man compelled to offer assistance was a Samaritan. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the episode concerns the two men, a priest and a Levite, who passed the half-dead victim and refused to give aid. Although they should have considered the man their brother, they overlooked his need and selfishly continued on their journey.
Because of the Samaritan, however, the parable changes from a moment of disappointment to one of hope. Hope for the spirit of love and brotherhood. Hope for the lost and afflicted. Hope for the outpouring of the God-given soul. Not only does a man deemed a half-breed by the Jews help a Jew, but the Scriptures say “He had compassion on him” (Luke 10:33). Having bandaged his wounds, used costly oil and wine, and carried the man on his own animal, the Samaritan brought the troubled man to an inn, to take care of him (v. 34). Having departed the next day, he left plenty of money for the innkeeper for an extended stay for the stranger and pledged to repay him for any extra care that was needed (v. 35).
I have often wondered about the motive of the Samaritan in doing so much good for a man who in a public or private setting would have probably either scoffed at him or looked the other way. I realized that something deep within the heart of man sometimes drives him to do the most unthinkable thing. Jesus once said – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45).
This Samaritan had one quality that separated him from others. He had to be good! There was a strong desire within him to be kind, compassionate, and caring, that conquered all social stigmas, base emotions, and prejudices. It was an attitude so pure and altruistic, that as Jesus questioned the lawyer about which of the three men was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves, the answer was clear – “He who showed compassion on him” (Luke 10:37).
The parable of the “Good Samaritan” not only touches the human spirit, it teaches us about the love of its Author. All of us have been or will be victims on that road: naked, wounded, near death. But the compassion of the One who could not help from being good leads to safety, even though, “He was despised and rejected by men” (Is. 53:3). Kindness and love know no circumstances. Mercy and grace describe the heart of our God.
And as I think about what motivated my Savior to hang at Calvary for me I am brought back to that one truth. Jesus had to be good. It was His nature. He simply couldn’t help Himself.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do like wise’” (Luke 10:37).
~ Jeremiah Tatum

1 comment:

  1. Well written...good thoughts. Jesus set the example if we will just follow the example.
    Tom S