"And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)This came after Jesus' confirmation of the two most important commandments:
" '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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27)Jesus followed with: "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:28)
How a 'neighbor' would act
So with this parable, Jesus is illustrating to the "expert in the law" how one who practices "Love your neighbor as yourself" would act.
Actually, the word "neighbor" here is a bit of a misnomer, because we will often consider our neighbor to specifically mean someone who lives next to us or nearby. This communicates the idea that if someone lives in another neighborhood - or even another country - then they should not be treated as our neighbor.
The word "neighbor" is being translated from the Greek word πλησίον (plēsion) which means "any other person" or "thy fellow man" according to Strong's lexicon. In other words, Jesus is referring to everyone, not just someone who might live next door or otherwise close to us.
This is also illustrated by Jesus' parable. Notice that Jesus compares three individuals here: The "priest", the "Levite" and the "Samaritan." Why is Jesus utilizing these three in the parable?
Because most people - at least during those times - would consider a priest and a Levite to be kind to others, since they are considered men of God. A Levite is a member of a Jewish sect that was originally derived from the tribe of Levi - one of the twelve tribes of Israel. And during the time and place Jesus spoke this, a priest was a Jewish priest - ἱερεύς (hiereus).
Jesus then utilizes in his parable, Σαμαρίτης (Samaritēs) - a Samaritan - seemingly referring to a person who comes from the city of Samaria. Why? Firstly, because Samaritans at the time were considered by the Jewish priests and people of Jerusalem and surrounding areas as being outcasts.
Jews and Samaritans
Actually, both the Jewish and the Samaritan groups thought of each other in this way. Each felt the other was not a credible follower of the Jewish faith. The Samaritans to the south considered themselves followers of Joseph - the follower/son of Jacob - while the Jewish tribes to the north were considered part of the other tribes of Israel. (There were twelve "tribes" - based upon the twelve followers/sons of Jabob (renamed Israel)).
In other words, while the Judeans considered the Samaritans to be second-class citizens, the Samaritans felt they were true followers of the teachings of Jacob (Israel).
So it is appropriate that Jesus utilized in his parable someone who was looked down upon by Jewish society at the time. And because Jesus was speaking to a Jewish "expert in the law" we can see that Jesus' contrasting the actions of the hypothetical priest and the Levite with those of the Samaritan was to illustrate that being part of the Jewish institution doesn't necessarily mean the person will follow the teachings as handed down through the ages from the time of Moses.
After all, the commandment to 'Love your neighbor as yourself' was originally derived from the teachings of Moses - as communicated by the Supreme Being to Moses in Leviticus 19:18.
Thus what we find in Jesus' parable is a story of a person who went out of his way to help his fellow man. Why is this important? Because Jesus wants people to know what loving "your neighbor as yourself" really means when put into practice.
Notice that the Samaritan in Jesus' parable also makes sure that the Innkeeper is reimbursed for his efforts to help the stricken man. Not only is the Samaritan concerned about the stricken man, but he doesn't want to see the Innkeeper put out in any way.
He could have assumed that since the Samaritan went out of his way, the Innkeeper should as well. But he doesn't. The Samaritan doesn't assume anything.
Today we have a law called the "Good Samaritan" law, whereby if a person comes to the aid of someone he cannot later be sued for anything that might have slowed down the process of healing or otherwise resulted in the unanticipated death of the person.
A world of self-centeredness and racism
This illustrates the self-centeredness pervading within the physical world. That someone would try to become compensated by suing a person who simply came to the aid of a fellow person at a time of need.
Yes, this physical world is a place of self-centeredness. And this is precisely why Jesus is explaining the opposite of self-centeredness: Becoming centered around others' welfare rather than our own.
Just look around. Practically everyone of us has our own interests or the interests of our family or country or other organization we belong to at the center of our lives. And if anyone threatens any of these, we work to defend 'our own.'
By the design of the Supreme Being, this effort to defend our self-centered interests produces consequences. These consequences are the basis for all the suffering that occurs within the world.
Many imagine that suffering is caused by others. Some blame suffering on "the devil" while others blame God. Others will see it all as chance.
What we don't understand is that the Supreme Being designed the physical world as a place of rehabilitation. With such a design, every action we take based on self-concerns has consequences.
Let's use an example:
Let's say that a person commits a crime and they are put into prison. The prison system is designed with the hope that during their time in prison they will be rehabilitated. What do the prison system and its officials do to aid that rehabilitation?
They set up rules within the prison, and if those rules are broken, there are consequences to breaking the rules. And of course, if the rules are followed, then the person is rewarded by being able to get out of prison early.
This concept of setting up rules, and then consequences to breaking those rules seems rather elementary. It seems the obvious thing to do. In fact, this sort of "consequence training" has been accepted by child psychologists as the best way to train children as well - rather than using punishment-oriented discipline.
Why is this method so successful? Because it works. It is the best method to help direct a person towards the intended rehabilitation or training.
Would we expect anything but the best method within the design of the Supreme Being? Certainly not.
God set up the physical world with perfect design.
While we might think of the physical world as a bit messy - with all the violence and suffering that take place - the reality is, the world has been perfectly designed by the Perfect Designer - the Supreme Being - to enable consequences to be carried out that perfectly reflect our actions on an individual and group basis.
So why is there all the suffering in the physical world then? Is God just being mean to us?
No. The suffering in the physical world is simply the consequences for each previous activity taken by each individual. When a person acts selfishly, that action has a consequence. If a person hurts another's body, their body will become hurt later. If a person damages someone's house, that person's house will be hurt later.
But what is later? And how can this explain a child who is born into starvation, only to die during childhood from malnutrition or a disease they were born with?
This specific question was also asked of Jesus:
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)This very question indicates that Jesus' disciples had been taught that a person has a previous life prior to their birth into the present body. This is obvious from the question because the man was born blind and the disciples were asking if the man's previous sins caused him to be born blind. If they didn't accept rebirth into another body (transmigration of the living being) then they would not have asked if the man's sins caused his being born blind.
The bottom line is that Jesus did teach transmigration of the living being. While being misinterpreted, this was also the meaning of the phrase, "resurrection of the dead" (Matt. 22:31 - not the same term as "resurrection from the dead" which we will describe below). "Resurrection of the dead" is when the living being is reborn into another physical body after the death of the previous body. The phrase "of the dead" - ἀναστάσεως τῶν νεκρῶν - using the word νεκρός (nekros) which means, metaphorically, "spiritually dead" according to the lexicon.
This is as opposed to the "resurrection of the living" or "resurrection from the dead" which is when the living being ascends to the spiritual realm after the death of the physical body. This Jesus also termed as the "resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:14).
The word "resurrection" - ἀνάστασις (anastasis) - means to "raise up" or "rise." But what is "rising"? Is the physical body "rising"? Certainly not.
This has been illustrated by the hundreds of thousands of documented clinical death cases where after a person's body is declared clinically dead, they are resuscitated, and later describe floating up above the physical body and looking down upon the physical body from above. They are truly "rising" up from the physical body, since they describe themselves 'looking down' upon their former body.
Yes, clinical studies have proven that these cases are real, because what the person describes they saw while hovering above their dead body has been proven to be accurate. Their dead body lies on the table with the eyes closed with no heart beat and no brain waves. Yet the person can describe everything that took place in the room, including the activities of the doctors and nurses. Why?
Because we are not these physical bodies. We are the living being that occupies the physical body. We are spirit-person who is temporarily operating a physical body much as a car driver will operate an automobile.
And yes, the living being - the spirit-person - occupying the physical body leaves the body - rises up from it - at the time of death. Where do we go after that?
This depends upon the state of our consciousness and our past activities. As described by Jesus, if a person uses their lives to rekindle their loving relationship with the Supreme Being, they will return to the spiritual realm.
But if a person does not, they will take on another physical body - and not necessarily a human physical body.
Once reborn into another physical body, we then experience the consequences of the actions taken within this lifetime. Our next body thus perfectly reflects not only our past activities, but also our consciousness.
There are thousands of species of living organisms on this planet alone. The central characteristic of each of these organisms is that they are conscious. They each seek survival and comfort, and each seek loving relationships in the form of families and mates. We know this intimately as humans, as many adopt animals as pets, and exchange a relationship with that animal. So we cannot deny that animals are not like us. That they do not seek love and loving relationships.
Consider the concept of "hell" as described in the scriptures. What is this? We know the physical body will decompose following the death of the body. So who can go to hell? The living being - the spirit-person - within the body leaves the body and goes to "hell."
In other words, "hell" is being born into a body of suffering. This may be a human body born into starvation or violence or disease otherwise.
Or it may be an animal form. A form that is characterized by a reduction of intellectual abilities - and a lack of ability to be aware of the Supreme Being.
Yes, animal life is truly "hell." This is a lifetime of ignorance and suffering. Just consider the life of most animals. Wild animals live in perpetual fear. Practically every animal is prey for another animal. Thus they are constantly in fear of being eaten by a predator. Is this not the same as the metaphorical descriptions of hell? Of being chained up and being beaten - attacked?
Certainly being in a body of an animal is being chained up. The living being is trapped within that body. It is a jail sentence. And animals are constantly being attacked by other animals - most specifically by predators.
And for the living being who has descended into the hell of animal life, one animal life will follow another, with each life being subjected to fear and a violent death.
Does this not satisfy the various metaphorical descriptions of hell?
How else could we experience hell? Ignorant teachers have described hell as being below the ground, as if there were caves down there where dead physical bodies get taken. But we know this is ridiculous because everyone knows our bodies decompose after death, and many drilling expeditions have been done under the ground and no one has drilled into hell.
We also know from the various metaphorical descriptions of hell that we "go to hell" based upon our activities. What is this? It is none other than consequences. This depiction of hell is that it is a place of consequences, just as we are describing here.
And how else could we receive the consequences of our lifetime of activities in this body unless we were able to take on another body?
Learn more about transmigration of the living being.
The bottom line is that we have choices. The Supreme Being has given each of us the choice to return to Him or stay within our self-centered consciousness. He has even created a system that encourages us to gradually improve our consciousness and eventually return to Him. Note this does not force us. But it encourages us to make good decisions. And when we make good decisions, we are rewarded.
The best decision we can make is the one that rewards us with eternal life - the return to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. This is our ultimate good decision because we need our relationship with God. We need to love and serve the Perfect Person and this is why we each search for a soul mate. We are looking for God wherever we go and whatever body we may be occupying. This is because our spiritual identity - our self - is intimately connected with the Supreme Being. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
" '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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27)This also means that the ultimate form of loving our neighbor is to also remind them that they too can be happy by loving and serving the Supreme Being.