When I left the dinner party my high school senior happily swapped cars with me, admitting my Prius was on empty. As I headed toward home and the closest gas station, my car suddenly slowed. I scanned the narrow two-lane, shoulder-less road, desperate for a place to pull over. About a hundred feet ahead a car had broken down by the side of the road, its flashing lights highlighting a narrow “parking place.” I turned my emergency lights on and coasted in behind the other car.
“I ran out of gas and was glad to find this one spot on the road,” I explained to the bearded, heavily tattooed man in front of me trying to coax life into his broken-down green vehicle.
Returning to my car, I phoned my husband who was an hour away. Then I watched as the other car chugged back onto the road, leaving me alone. I finally reached my friend Jonathon who said he’d get me some gas. Shortly thereafter, when a black SUV slowly drove toward me, turned around, and pulled up behind me. I locked my door.
“Do you need gas?” the man asked as he approached my car.
“Well . . . yes,” I admitted.
“A man at the station said you needed some.”
Suspicious of the SUV driver’s intentions, I queried him and discovered it was not Jonathon but someone who drove a broken-down green car.
“He said I could take some gas to the lady in the red car down the road. I could be a Good Samaritan.”
How ironic. I had only just been working on a modern-day skit to coordinate with our pastor’s upcoming sermon series. And the topic? The Good Samaritan. Suddenly I realized that though the engine repair friend had left, he had not forgotten me.
“Please be careful,” I said as the cars rushed beside my savior with the gas can. “And take this for gas,” I added after I got out of the car.
“No thank you,” he said. “Just do something for someone else,” he suggested.
Both my Good Samaritans left before I knew their names. I wonder if the victim in Jesus’ parable ever saw his rescuer? Did he know that the “neighbor” who helped him was despised, a Samaritan? Was the victim ever able to thank him or repay the two-day’s wages incurred for his food and lodging? We don’t have those answers, but we do have the answer to: Who is my neighbor? Jesus illustrates with a parable and the questioner answers his own question.
“The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus’ instructions for him then–and for us today, “Go and do likewise.” Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:12-13).