Jesus taught that if we want to truly please God we need to learn how to follow the great commandment, which is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind; and to love our neighbor as our ourselves.

But who is our neighbor? Is it just the person who lives next door? Does it include people who might think or behave differently than we do? In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches an important lesson and how to behave toward our fellow man, who is our true neighbor.

In the Holy Land many centuries ago a certain man, a merchant, was traveling down a road from Jerusalem to Jericho, feeling very happy and contented. However, this was a very dangerous road and little did he know what was about to happen: a band of robbers were waiting to seize the unsuspecting merchant. He was robbed and beaten, and the thieves departed leaving him half-dead. Too weak and dazed to help himself, all he could do was wait until someone came along before it was too late.

Finally, a temple priest, dressed in purple robes, happened by, his hands folded in prayer. “At last,” the merchant thought, “help has arrived.” But the priest, pretending not to see him, thought “I can’t stop just now, or I’ll be late for the temple.” And he quickly hurried past and crossed to the opposite side of the road. The merchant’s heart sank in disbelief. “Is there no one who can help me?” he cried out.

Just then he saw a Levite, a temple assistant, coming down the road. “Surely, he will understand,” thought the merchant. But the Levite halting in his tracks, stopped short as he came upon the wounded man. His eyes grew wide with fear, and he thought, “This might be a trap set by robbers.” And he quickly hurried on, fearing an ambush at any moment.

“This is the end,” the merchant thought, thinking he could not survive much longer. But at that moment, he suddenly heard someone else coming down the road but, seeing him, he was not encouraged. This was a man from Samaria. The merchant and his people had long despised all Samaritans. Why would this Samaritan help someone who hated his countrymen?

But the Samaritan, seeing the injured man by the side of the road, could hardly believe his eyes. “How could it be?” he asked himself incredulously “this wounded man out here all alone?”

Taking pity on him the Samaritan did his best to help. He bandaged his wounds and gave him water to drink. Then setting him on his own beast, the Samaritan brought him to an inn where he took care of him and watched over him throughout the night.

The next day, as he was about to leave, he gave the innkeeper two coins and told him, “Take care of this man, and whatever more you have to spend on him, I will repay you when I come back this way again.”

“Now,” Jesus asked, after he told this story, “Which of these three men behaved like a neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers?” Was it the priest, who hurried by; the Levite, who was afraid; or the Samaritan, whom the merchant’s countrymen despised?

Someone answered, “The Samaritan, who took pity on the man.” Then Jesus replied, “You go and do likewise.”

John Lenti, lives at Ananda Village and serves as a Ananda Minister and a Clarity editor.

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