The Jews would hate Jesus’ mentioning of Samaritans and presenting a Samaritan traveler as an ideal person in the parable. There had been historical hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the occupants of the territory formerly assigned to the tribes of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Samaria was its capital.
After the invasion of Northern Israel, the Assyrians deported the ten tribes of Northern Israel and scattered them in captivity. “The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities” (2 Kgs 17:24). They intermarried the remaining Israelites in the newly occupied area. The pagans who inhabited Samaria continued the worship of their idols. So, God send lions among them that killed some people. The King of Assyria sent them an Israelite priest from exile to teach them the worship of the God of the land. They learned the books of Moses and worshipped the God of Israel, but continued their idolatry as well. “They were both venerating the LORD and serving their own gods” (2 Kgs 17:33). Because of this mixed race and mixed worship, the Jews considered the Samaritans as “half-breeds” and hated them.
The animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans increased because of other reasons as well:
(1) When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile and started rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans opposed it and halted it for a while (Neh 6:1-14).
(2) The Samaritans perpetuated their idolatrous worship by building a temple for them on Mount Gerizim.
(3) Samaritans offered refuge for all the outlaws of Judea (Josh 20:6-7; 21:21).
(4) The Samaritans, while accepting the Torah, rejected other Jewish scriptures and Jewish traditions.
Hence, the Jews hated Samaritans and had no contact with them (Jn 4:9. 8:48).
Jesus drew a contrasting picture between the Jews and the Samaritans in the practice of faith. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan, whom the Jews hated and considered worthless because of his non-Jewish beliefs and practices, became compassionate and helping neighbor for the helpless and suffering Jew.
Jesus favored Samaritans in instances like the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:1-42), and rebuking James and John from calling down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans when they refused to welcome Jesus because he was heading for Jerusalem (Lk 9:53-55). Jesus acknowledged the gratitude of the Samaritan leper and exposed him as an example for others in contrast to the other nine lepers who also got healing from Jesus (Lk 17:11-19).
Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus highlighted the Samaritan as a role model for Christian virtue. Unlike the priest and Levite, who passed by on the opposite side, avoiding any contact with the victim, the Samaritan expressed his compassion in action. When the priest and the Levite thought of what bad would happen to them if they take care of the victim, the Samaritan thought of what would happen to the victim if he wound not care for him. With this difference in approach, the Samaritan took the risk of attack by the robbers who had attacked the victim.
The Samaritan spent his oil, wine, and cloth as first aid for the victim. The Jews used these to heal the sore made by circumcision. He spent time in his busy life. He provided the service of his ass to carry the victim while he went on foot to the nearby inn and nursed him there. Forgetting the Jewish-Samaritan rivalry, he treated the victim as his own.
The faithfulness of the Jews to the True God and avoidance of idolatry were commendable. However, Jesus disapproved of their lack of concern for the less fortunate in the society and hatred towards the Samaritans. Like Jesus, let us be nonhostile to others who disagree with us and be kind and helpful to anyone in need.