The Good Samaritan

Does this story from Jesus relate to the way we think about refugees or people looking for a safer place to live?

Luke 10:25-37   25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (one denarii should be considered as a day’s wage)

the-good-samaritan-after-delacroix-1890

The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh (1890)

Van Gogh painted this while staying in an institution for the mentally ill. It is a mirror copy of an earlier painting by Eugene Delacroix in 1849. When we compare Van Gogh’s painting with the earlier one by Delacroix we observe an obvious difference in the use of light.

The man from Samaria pushes the robbed man onto his horse. In the background to the left, two men can be seen who let the wounded man lay on the road when they passed him by. They were a priest and a man from the house of Levi. This is a deliberate choice by both men and Van Gogh pictures them as lifeless as they walk away lost in their own world of self-interest. Only the Samaritan, (a non-Jewish person or foreigner) helped the wounded man.

As you look to the left of the painting there is an open box with a garment next to it.  Our eye returns frequently to this open box and the painting the eye returns over and over again to this open box and to the blue garment that is next to it. Why? Does this symbolically represent to us the importance of being open and accepting of others, especially strangers or people with needs? To think about this in another way, is the wounded man a stranger or our brother? It makes us think about the words of Jesus Christ about “Love your neighbor as yourself!” (verse 27)

387px-The_Good_Samaritan_(Delacroix_1849)

The Good Samaritan by Edward Delacroix (1890)

Rembrandt-Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan by Rembrandt (1633)

Rembrandt’s drawing gives us the reality of an every day scene with the dog, and characters of the woman drawing water from a well, someone looking through the window. When we look closely we see the pain of the wounded man who clutches his hands as the “porter” carries him inside the inn as he might a piece of luggage. It is a humble illustration of the Samaritan who risked his life and paid a sum of money for the care of the injured man. To me, Rembrandt’s engraving describes this as “business as usual.”

Martin Luther preached on the parable of the Good Samaritan on the 13th Sunday in Trinity (sometime in September):

This Samaritan of course is our Lord Jesus Christ himself, who has shown his love toward God and his neighbor. Toward God, in that he was obedient to him, came down from heaven and became man, and thus fulfilled the will of His Father; toward his neighbor, in that he immediately after His baptism began to preach, to do wonders, to heal the sick. And in short, He did no work that centered in Himself alone, but all His acts centered in his neighbor. And this He did with all His powers, and thus He became our servant, who could have well remained in heaven and been equal to God, (Philippians 2:6). But all this He did because He knew that this pleased God and was his Father’s will.

When He entered upon that high mission to prove that He loved God with all His heart, He laid down His bodily life with all He had, and said: ‘Father, here you have all, my bodily life, my glory and honor, which I had among the people; all this I give as it is for thy sake, that the world may know how I love thee. My Father, let my wisdom perish, so that the world may look upon me as most foolish. Let me be the most despised, who was heretofore praised by all the world. Now I am the worst murderer, who before was friendly, useful and serviceable to the whole world. Dear Father, all this I despise, only that I may not be disobedient to thee.’

This is the Samaritan who came uninvited, and fulfilled the law with his whole heart. For only he fulfilled the law, and no one can deprive him of this honor. He alone merits it, and well maintains it all alone. Now this would be no special comfort for us; but that he has compassion on the poor wounded man, takes him under his care, binds his wounds, takes him into the inn and waits on him, this avails for us.

The man who here lies half dead, wounded and stripped of his clothing, is Adam and all mankind. The murderers are the devils who robbed and wounded us, and left us lying prostrate half dead. We still struggle a little for life; but there lies horse and man, we cannot help ourselves to our feet, and if we were left thus lying we would have to die by reason of our great anguish and lack of nourishment; maggots would grow in our wounds, followed by great misery and distress.

The parable stands in bold relief, and pictures us perfectly, what we are and can do with our boasted reason and free will. If the poor wounded man had desired to help himself, it would only have been worse for him, he would only have done harm to himself and irritated his wounds, and only prepared more misery and distress for himself. Had he remained lying quiet, he would have had as much suffering. Thus it is when we are left to ourselves. We are always lost, we may lay hold where we will. Hitherto man has always acted thus, he has thought out many ways and methods how we might reform our lives and get to heaven.

One found this way, another that, therefore so many kinds of orders arose: in like manner the letters of indulgence and crusades originated; but they have only made evil worse. Such is the world, and it is thus finely portrayed in this wounded man, it lies in sins over head and ears and cannot help itself.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

 

 

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