Most every Christian is familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus was asked to define "neighbor" by someone who wanted to clarify who he had to "love" in order to be justified according to God's laws. Jesus told a story about an unnamed man who was beaten and robbed and left for dead, and some very religious people declined to help the man. Then a Samaritan, a member of a neighboring people group that to the Jewish mind made him something of a pariah, came along, had compassion on the man, and helped him to medical care and safety. Christians see this parable as a lesson that we should be merciful and caring to even people who despise us, and that we should look upon people of other ethnicities, economic groups, etc. without prejudice, because those people are our "neighbor."
This morning I got a new perspective on it. I am reading a book called These Found The Way: Thirteen Converts to Protestant Christianity, and in a chapter relating the life story of Asa G. Chandler, Jr. (son of the founder of Coca-Cola) the following statement appears: "One cannot think of Christ without thinking of the Good Samaritan, for Christ himself was the Good Samaritan to us all."
That statement shocked me to the core. How could I have missed that all of this time? We are the robbed and wounded man, denied help by self-righteous religion, but rescued by One Who came from another place (Heaven) and who was looked on with suspicion by many in the world, particularly the self-righteous religious. Isaiah 53:3 says "He [the Messiah, now identified as Jesus] was despised and rejected by men..." ...just like a despised Samaritan. But He came to where we were and rescued us from the hopeless state we were in.
Is it also a parable of how we should act toward our fellow man? When we see someone who needs help, are we to be like the Good Samaritan? Was I confused before, or is that a valid interpretation of the story? Is he the character we are supposed to identify with and imitate?
Certainly he is. And, of course, so is Jesus. They are one and the same.