“Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.'” (Luke 10:30)
Love hangs suspended on Valentine’s Day like a brilliant bunch of heart-shaped balloons, and our speaker for the night naturally chose that theme for her talk. As Gail completed her lesson, the ladies in the room felt as if we were guided into a sacred place, a kingdom where love throws the doors open wide and welcomes us inside. Using a familiar parable as an allegory, an incredible, almost indescribable love story unfolded, love available to all, especially on those days when it seems love is hardly visible in any context.
Gail had partnered with her husband, Wally, as he pastored in New England for 49 years. Each time she speaks of Wally, we discover another aspect of his uncompromising character, a life marked by integrity and passion for the Lord. Valentine’s gave our teacher the perfect opportunity to share one of his insightful messages.
Sitting on a hillside outside Jerusalem many years ago, Wally taught a group of pilgrims using Luke chapter 10 to present the parable of the Good Samaritan from an altogether different angle. The certain man heading from Jerusalem to Jericho on that certain road represents you and me as we travel down our own particular journey of life. Like that certain man, we encounter robbers in the form of the evil one who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). We, too, are helpless and hopeless, separated from Christ, on the side of the road.
The priest passes by and cannot help the certain man. He symbolizes religion and all its accompanying solutions that cannot lift us up, cannot mend any part of our brokenness. The Levite walks past the certain man next, but he too ignores his plight and leaves the man as beaten up as he found him. The Levite represents legalism and a following of the law which has no power to help us, either. Both religion and legalism leave us exactly where we were in the first place – wounded and powerless on the sidelines of life.
But the Samaritan in the parable “came to where he was” (Luke 10:33) the way Jesus of Nazareth came down from heaven to rescue us. The Samaritans as a group of people were rejected and reviled by all the Jews, a vivid description of Jesus as he was “despised and rejected by men…despised, and [we] esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
In the Samaritan’s compassion we see an image of Christ who pours out oil to heal and wine to purify our wounds, who cares for us with tenderness, who sacrificially pays the full cost necessary to make us whole again. “He went to him and bound up his wounds, …then he put the man on his own donkey…” (Luke 10:34). Jesus shares the story of this parable as if reading a page from his own autobiography, foreshadowing his journey to the cross. As sinners we are all “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1). Christ entered our world to restore us to life the way the Samaritan entered that certain man’s shattered world and rescued him from impending death.
That man in Jesus’ parable could do nothing to help himself, was incapable of fixing his own plight, and was accurately described as “half dead.” We are the same, born sinners, lacking all ability to save ourselves. The Good Samaritan is a beautiful reflection of our Lord who will also keep his promise to return for us. The apostle Paul expresses Christ’s love and encapsulates the narrative this way: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5 – 6).
Jesus the greatest storyteller is the only Savior for the world.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell