The beloved parable of the Good Samaritan teaches how we should treat our fellow man. But for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, there is a deeper message within the details—a message that points to Christ as the only Savior and Redeemer of the world.
The terms, ‘Savior’ and ‘Redeemer’, are often spoken in tandem when describing Jesus Christ. We may even think of the terms as synonymous, but they are distinctly different. Christ as our Savior describes how He rescues us from danger, injury, or harm. He finds those who are lost or who have wandered into temptation. When we are saved, we are returned to where we once were, to a safe place. We love and accept His mercy and grace for this action of pure love. But if we are to limit our understanding of his role to that of saving alone, we are keeping ourselves from the deeper understanding of what happens to our nature when He goes one step further, by redeeming us.
Redemption is more than being rescued. Redemption is a transformative process from something that is less than perfect to something that is better than new. Christ as our redeemer has the power to take our fallen, unclean, sinful nature and not only clean us of our iniquities but make us into beings that are more pure in nature than we were before.
The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us how to treat our fellow man. It is often cited as an example of Christ-like behavior. Indeed, it is an even greater example of Christ-like behavior than the surface shows. It exemplifies His role as Redeemer in God’s eternal plan for the salvation of mankind. Allow me to illustrate:
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” (Luke 10:30-35)
Let’s take a look at the individual elements of the story and see the higher doctrine Christ is teaching. The “certain man, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and falling amongst thieves,” represents the plan of salvation. The man represents mankind, who leaves the presence of God and comes to earth. Falling amongst thieves is akin to the fall of Adam, where we left the presence of God and entered a troubled world with all manner of sin and despair. The thieves in the story represent our trials on earth.
The priest and the Levite pass the victim by. Who do they represent and why do they act in such a harsh manner? Is it cruel, or is it symbolic of something more profound? Let’s identify the Samaritan, first, in order to fully understand the actions of the priest and Levite.
The Samaritan represents Jesus Christ. For those who do not know, the Samaritans were a people rejected by their neighbors and considered unclean. Christ was rejected by the world, his relationship to God was disbelieved, his power to save and redeem unaccepted. And yet, Christ is the only religious figure in history who had ever made the claim that He is the only begotten Son of God, that he was resurrected after death, and that we will be as well. Neither Buddha nor Mohammed made this claim, or any other leader of world religions. But Christ has made this claim—he is the only way back to the presence of God, having overcome sin and death.
Let’s now revisit the roles of the priest and the Levite. In this light, it makes sense that they passed by the victim because they were powerless to do anything for him. They could not be his savior, because there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ. Their role in the parable is symbolic of worldly leaders who claim divinity but do not possess it. Again, their actions reiterate the fact that there is no other way to heaven except through Jesus Christ.
In the parable, the Samaritan not only cleaned the wounds and sent the man on his way—he gave more. He cleaned and anointed him, took him to town, checked him in an inn and paid the innkeeper to give the man extra care. Furthermore, he told the innkeeper that whatever extra expenses he acquired, the Samaritan would return to redeem them as well. This is what redemption entails—a restoration of body and spirit to something greater than what we once were. The injured man on the road to Jericho received redemption from the Samaritan as we receive redemption from Jesus Christ. When he was ready to resume his journey, no doubt he was better off than when he started—and that is the story of Christ’s redemption for us all.
Jesus Christ not only promised to purify us from sin, but to allow us to rise above it. Jesus Christ takes what we have, and through the grace of His Atonement, multiplies it eternally. Christ is not satisfied in merely forgiving our sins, but he gives us what we need to rise above the nature to sin. We have the potential, through the Atonement, to become perfect in Christ, because of Christ, and through the redemptive power of Christ. Only Christ can do all of that.
We can read parables of old and find in them lessons of morality. We can also read deeper and realize how Christ has been teaching us the plan of salvation from the very beginning of His existence, and He will continue to do so until every last person has heard His message. Our role—live like the Son of God, stand with the Great Redeemer, recognize his redemptive power for the individual, and have faith that he alone Has the power to change the world.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.