The Good Samaritan and the Gospel of the Kingdom

Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 invites all manner of reflection and comment. If we are to hear it as part of Luke’s proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, we should probably listen to it in relation to Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Plain, especially Luke 6:27-36.

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

In Jesus’ parable, the Samaritan who cares for a half-dead Jew does exactly what Jesus says. He loves his enemy and does good to one who hates him. He gives to his enemy expecting nothing in return. He is merciful as the Father is merciful.

Both the parable of the Good Samaritan and this part of the Sermon on the Plain begin with love and end with mercy  (although the word for “mercy” is not the same in Luke 10:37 as it is in Luke 6:26).

The parable of the Good Samaritan, then, makes the same connection between neighbor-love and enemy-love that the the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew makes explicit.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Jesus proclaimed, “the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” The signs of the kingdom present in Jesus’ miracles are also signs of God’s unparalleled and extravagant of mercy in Jesus. God loves his enemies (that’s us sinners) and he does good to them even though they don’t deserve it. In his abounding mercy, God invites sinners to salvation in Jesus. Those who welcome God’s boundless mercy in turn offer the same extravagant love to their own enemies. True repentance and saving faith show themselves in Christ-like love, even to those who hate us.

In Jesus’ parable, the despised and theologically-suspect Samaritan models the kind of love that the Father has poured out on us in Jesus, and that the Father looks for among those who know his grace.