The Good Samaritan by Vincent van Gogh 1890Luke 10:25-37
When parables become proverbial they lose their primary means of instruction which is a classic bait and switch. The lawyer testing Jesus is himself tested by the parable and forced to acknowledge the Samaritan as neighbor, though he can’t bring himself to state it outright. “I suppose it was the one who showed mercy.” On the other hand as long as the Good Samaritan stays a story it hardly matters, even for the lawyer who passed Jesus’ test while failing his own. The “go and do likewise” is the real point of the parable and only makes a difference if those who no longer seek to justify themselves act more like the Samaritan and less like the priest or Levite. Which means we can recast the story with a Lutheran pastor, a medical doctor and a Taliban fighter and unless we “go and do likewise” the parable has no point in being recast or retold. But if in hearing his own voice naming the neighbor the lawyer is moved to act like a priest or Levite who caring more about the bloodied man than remaining ritually pure stop to do what the Samaritan does then the parable is more than just a clever ruse to convict a lawyer. For those justified by Jesus and no longer surprised by the plot twist or fooled by the bait and switch the story is an invitation to “go and do likewise” and in so doing just maybe put the punch back in the parable.