And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denariiA denarius was a day's wage for a laborer and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."
What makes it so difficult to ask for help? Yesterday I watched my 20-month old daughter pile five large stuffed animals into her armchair and drag the chair, animals overflowing, down the hallway with one arm while trying to push her stroller in front with her other arm. It was quite the sight. But ever-determined and strong-willed, she powered—i.e. fumbled and huffed—her way to the end of her hallway and into her room. I laughed but was simultaneously convicted by this tiny person clearly in need of help yet firmly resisting it. It was a portrait of myself—with other people and with the Lord. Why are we so resistant to acknowledge our weakness and need?
The parables are intriguing in that they readily invite us to self-identify with the characters in the story. Are we like the priest, distracted by personal agendas and comfort? Are we like the Levite, full of knowledge about God, but absent in personal application of His love and ways in everyday life? Or like the lawyer, sharp and proud, eager to justify ourselves rather than be open to change? Some may most closely identify as the Good Samaritan, but we are not the hero of the story; only pride would lead us to believe that. We will daily embody aspects of each character in the parable, but those are not the primary place we should see ourselves. There are many surprises in the story, the most of which is that we are most like the man who was helpless and near death. In fact, without Christ’s intervention, we were worse off—we weren’t in ICU on the side of the road, but dead in the ditch. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we were all once dead in our sins and by nature children of wrath. Paul then goes on to say, but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive even though we were dead. What did the Good Samaritan show the wounded man? He showed him extravagant mercy (Luke 10:37), lavish love at a great cost to himself. Jesus Christ is the True Good Samaritan.
What can this parable teach us about asking for help? First, while we are no longer dead in the ditch and unable to save ourselves, we must not forget our stories of rescue. The Gospel has given us new and abundant life in Christ. Let us pray like the psalmist that God would restore to us the joy of His salvation (Psalm 51:12). Second, we are daily in need of rescue. We have the Spirit of Christ, but we are not self-sufficient. Let us pray for His mercy to be tender-hearted toward Him that we may take our sin seriously and receive His grace worshipfully. Third, let us practice saying words to Him and to others like, “I need help.” “Will you forgive me?” “I’m afraid.” “I’m hurting.” Lastly, let us find rest in Jesus, where we can lay down our pretensions and find mercy and grace in our time of need. The paradox of the gospel is that acknowledgement of our need and weakness opens a door to experiencing more of God’s grace, compassion, peace, confidence, security, and strength.