God’s Love and Compassion
The term ‘Samaritan’ appears throughout the Bible and is used to denote a special group of people who are uniquely set apart. In the gospel accounts, Jesus repeatedly exhorts his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and this is what the Samaritans in the Bible sought to do. In three of his parables, Jesus teaches that showing love to those in need, regardless of creed or status, is a central requirement of discipleship.
The Samaritans were originally a sect of Jews who lived in the region known as Samaria. During the time of Jesus, they were deemed by the orthodox Jews to be “heretics” because they followed a different interpretation of Moses’ teachings. Even though Jesus was a Jew, he was sympathetic to the Samaritans, and in Luke’s gospel, Jesus heals a Samaritan leper and sends him back to his people to bear witness to the works of grace that Jesus had done.
The story of the “good Samaritan” is, perhaps, the most famous parable Jesus told. In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who has fallen among thieves and is left robbed and half-dead along the roadside. When a priest and a Levite pass by, they ignore the man’s plight, but the Samaritan stops and takes care of him even though the man is of a different faith. This parable illustrates how God desires us to love others that are not like us and to put God’s law of love over any religious or cultural barriers.
The Samaritans were considered lost sheep and were in need of God’s word. Jesus, seeing their need, demonstrated his love and compassion toward them by speaking and teaching to them. When the apostles, who were sent out to preach, refused to go to the Samaritans, Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
The kindness that Jesus exhibited while dealing with the Samaritans is also seen in the life of the apostle Paul. When Paul was converted to Christianity, he faced much persecution from the Jews and had to flee to Tarsus, in modern-day Turkey. Paul became known as an apostle to the Gentiles, and the Samaritans began to believe in the Lord through his preaching. Paul was responsible for bringing many Samaritans to the Lord, and even faced death in order to spread the gospel.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan is found in Luke 10:25-37. In the parable, a man is travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he falls among robbers and is stripped, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite pass by and ignore him, but a Samaritan man kindly stops, binds his wounds and pays an innkeeper to care for the man until he recovers. This parable illustrates that even those of a different faith can be an example of generosity and love toward their neighbors.
The parable teaches us that we must show compassion and mercy to those in need regardless of our differences. In the parable, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?” and the scholars answer, “The one who showed him mercy.” The Samaritan showed himself to be a neighbor to the man in need, and from this we learn that it is not enough to simply recognize the need, but that we must also take action to meet the need. We are called to be active participants in our communities and to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
Significance in the Bible
The significance of the Samaritans in the Bible is that they were an example of how God’s love, compassion and mercy extend beyond the boundaries of race, religion and nationality. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is teaching us to love our neighbors as our selves, regardless of who they are and where they come from. So, while we may not be related to, or have any type of connection to, our neighbor – we must still strive to love them as a neighbor and treat them as if they are part of our family.
The Samaritans are also an example of how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. They were an unpopular and reviled people but yet, God used them to bring a message of love, compassion and mercy to the world. Through their example, God spoke to us and showed us what it truly means to be a neighbor. God calls us to love not only those of our own race, religion or nationalities, but to also love the strangers in our midst.
The Samaritans are an important example in the Bible and remind us of the great love, compassion and mercy that God has for us. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to extend compassion and mercy to those around us regardless of their beliefs, social status or ethnicity. It also invites us to be active participants in our community and to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
The Ministry of Jesus
The ministry of Jesus was greatly characterized by his love and compassion for the Samaritans. Jesus showed them special favor and often visited their territories, both to preach and to heal their sick. Jesus was the first one to make contact with the Samaritans and even taught in their very own Synagogues. Jesus’ ministry shows us that even with those who may not be popular or well-liked, we must strive to show God’s love and accept their differences.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus continually reminded his disciples to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This instruction was especially relevant to the Samaritans, who were seen by many of the orthodox Jews as outsiders. Jesus was determined to show them God’s love, though they were not of his own race. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus showed us that we too should love our neighbors, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.
The Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritan Pentateuch is a version of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) which was created by the Samaritans and is still used by them today. It is likely that the Samaritans adapted their version from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), and it contains several differences from the Masoretic text (the traditional Hebrew Bible). These differences include spelling variations and textual content, most notably the placement of Mount Gerizim in place of Jerusalem as the site of the Temple (Deuteronomy 27:4-6).
The Samaritan Pentateuch is highly revered by Samaritans, who consider the Samaritan version of the Torah to be truer than any other, including the Masoretic text. For try, they continue to observe the Passover celebration according to the instructions given in the Samaritan Pentateuch, including offering sacrifices to YHWH on Mount Gerizim, rather than Jerusalem as the Masoretic text dictates.
The Samaritans follow the laws found in the Torah and are devoted to their version of the scriptures. This version of the Bible is an example of how people can develop different interpretations of scripture and still live in harmony. It shows us that, while there may be subtle differences, Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor” still stands firm between all who claim to follow him.
Legacy of Faith
The legacy of faith that the Samaritans developed as a result of their reverence for the Torah has endured for centuries. Today, there are approximately 700 Samaritans living in Holon and in the Samaritan village of Kiryat-Luz in the West Bank. They observe the Passover, Yom Kippur and the feasts according to the instructions found in their version of the Torah. They still hold Mount Gerizim to be the place of God’s chosen Temple, and they still recite and follow the Mosaic Law as given in their version of the Bible.
As a result, the Samaritans have managed to keep alive and practice their faith, despite the pressures of politics and religion. By doing so, they have created an example of how to persevere in faith despite all odds and to remain true to their convictions. In this way, they are a reminder of the importance of faith and the need to stand firm in what we believe in.
What We Can Learn
The Samaritans in the Bible are an example of how, even when we don’t fully understand or agree with the beliefs of others, we must still strive to treat others with compassion and love. The Samaritans lived as outsiders, yet Jesus treated them with kindness and valued the difference in beliefs. Similarly, we must learn to extend grace and love to those we encounter in our daily lives, even if we disagree with their point of view.
We can also learn from the Samaritans how to remain true to our faith and how to keep alive our sacred traditions. Like the Samaritans, we must strive to remain faithful to our beliefs and stay connected to our Creator and our faith practices. The Samaritans are an example of how to walk with God humbly and to love our neighbor as ourselves.