Exvangelical Meditation: The Good Samaritan — A Deconstructor’s Retelling

The following is based on the parable Jesus tells in Luke 10: 25-37. Historical context has been added to provide readers with some perspective on this parable — which, in its essence, is a story about religious deconstruction.


A man comes up to Jesus as he is preaching. He asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus says to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – as well as to love your neighbor as yourself. But this curious man seeks further clarification. He wants to know how to identify his neighbor.

Jesus answers with a story of a man who is walking along a road. He is overcome by bandits, who beat him half to death, strip him, and take all of his belongings. They toss his body into the road and leave him there to die. But it is a common road, and others come along and see his lifeless body laying there.

First a priest, and then a teacher of the Law. Both pass him by without helping, because they both know the law of Moses, transcribed from God in order to govern and preserve the Hebrew people from assimilation into the empires that had conquered them. The law states that if someone appears to be dead, do not touch them, lest you make yourself unclean. So by forsaking him, they follow God’s law.

But finally, a third person comes upon this man. A Samaritan. What’s a Samaritan? It is understanding this man’s ethnic identity that is the clue to why Jesus’s story is so radical.

The Hebrews once had a mighty nation called Israel, governed by kings. But they were eventually overthrown by the Assyrian Empire, who killed their kings, pushed the Hebrews out of their lands, and forced them into slavery. The land of Israel was laid to waste and made barren. A tribe called the Samaritans were seeking refuge, and they moved into this abandoned land. Set up their own temples, worshiped their own gods. After a time, the Hebrews returned. They were not pleased to find the Samaritans living in their old homes, praying to their pagan gods. It was a scar that never fully healed. Samaritans were too large in number to drive out, but they were considered outcasts. They were persecuted by the Hebrews. I do not imagine that it was considered murder to encounter and kill one on such a common road.

But when this Samaritan found this dying man, he picked him up and took him still unconscious to an inn, where he clothed him and attended to his wounds. He told the innkeeper that he would pay for all expenses required to revive him, and then he departed. Jesus finishes this parable and asks the one who made the inquiry who, in that story, had found the Kingdom of Heaven. The student must confess that it is the Samaritan. Jesus then told him to go forth and do likewise.

So here is the good news as proclaimed by a Hebrew: The Samaritan saw a man who had persecuted him. He did not know the Hebrew God’s laws, for he did not worship the same gods. He would not have attended their churches. Yet it was his ignorance of this law – of the sin he was committing – that enabled his conscience. And it was this conscience that drove him. He did not wake this man up; he did not seek to point out his actions. He had no point to make. He beheld this Hebrew as a fellow man, and that was enough reason to save him. Even though the act of saving him was sinning against God.

And where in that story did the Samaritan repent of his sin? Where did he become Hebrew? Where did he accept Christ as his savior? He does not. Yet Jesus – a Hebrew storyteller – revealed that it was this unrepentant sinner who will enter into the Kingdom of God. Because of his ignorance, which made him compassionate for a man whom had wronged him.

And now you know the rest of the story.

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