BY RJ GRUNEWALD
Jesus tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who falls into the hands of robbers. The text reads, “They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” Beaten and bruised at the hands of robbers, this bloody mess of a man lies there waiting for someone that might be able to help.
A priest then enters the story. But he walks by.
A Levite enters the story too. But he passes right by the bloodied man on the road.
This is the story that has come to be known as the story of the Good Samaritan. The priest and Levite leave this man on the side of the road for dead. The preachers of this parable will then tell us, “Don’t be like the priest and the Levite, be like the Samaritan.”
But there’s a problem if we follow what Jesus does in the story.
Jesus continues the story:
‘But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ – Luke 10:33-36
Now, certainly there is something accurate in the statement, be like the Samaritan, but I think the initial reaction that Jesus is going for is not for us to resonate with the Samaritan but for someone else in the story.
Jesus is talking to an expert in the law, who knows the Scriptures well. He’s telling this story to a good Jew who knows his Bible well and has some pre-conceived ideas about the type of people Samaritans are. The Samaritans are the half-bloods. They are the heretics.
They are “those people.”
So when Jesus makes clear that the priest and the Levite leave a man dying, of course the expert doesn’t want to be either of those guys. But then Jesus brings up a Samaritan; the expert in the law would likely rather be a hypocritical religious priest than a Samaritan. A Jew could never imagine himself being like the the Samaritan.
Which leaves only one person left to be in the story.
Jesus wants the expert in the law to realize he’s the beaten and the bruised, half-dead on the side of the road. Jesus wants us to realize that we are half-dead in our sin and the one who is far different from us comes in as our rescuer.
We are the beaten and the bruised.
We’ve been beaten by the robbers of joy; when life steals our celebrations and replaces it with suffering. We’ve been bruised by our failures in obedience, bloodied from our inability to meet God’s demands. We’ve been left half-dead by a legalism that seeks to do the religious thing, yet leaves us dying on the side of the road.
But Jesus doesn’t come for the healthy, he comes for the sick. He doesn’t come avoiding the half-dead, he doesn’t worry about becoming unclean from the stench of near-death, he jumps in and bandages our wounds. He “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
Jesus is the Good Samaritan.
He is the one that is completely unlike us, yet comes to rescue us. Like the Samaritan, he was hated, rejected, and despised. Isaiah described him by saying, “He was despised and rejected by mankind. A man of suffering and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” And just like the Good Samaritan, the despised and rejected one is the Rescuer.
To the bloodied, beaten, and bruised, your own efforts will only leave you lying on the side of the road half-dead. As you struggle for every breath, look to the one who was bruised, battered, and broken in order to heal your wounds.
RJ Grunewald is a Pastor at Faith in Troy, Michigan. He is a theology nerd who believes that theology isn’t just meant for the academics and dead guys but it is for everyday life. He is the author of The Art of Law & Gospel and Reading Romans with Luther. He’s also got a digital copy of The Art of Law and Gospel that you can download for free by subscribing to his emails. RJ has been married to his wife Jessica since 2007 and they have 3 kids, Elijah, Emaline, and Alice.