The occasion of the parable (Luke 10) was a question of a doctor of the law concerning eternal life, asked with the intention of embarrassing Our Lord. Christ refers the man to the Law and invites him to answer himself; this the questioner does by reciting the commandment of the love of God, which was part of the great daily prayer, and adding to it the precept of the love of the neighbor, as was done by Our Lord himself in His teaching. When Our Lord approves his answer, the doctor wishes to justify himself for putting a question which he was so well able to answer, by asking: And who is my neighbor? Since a more or less abstract definition could give occasion to distinctions and discussions, Jesus answered by giving a concrete illustration in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho is attacked by a band of robbers who despoil him and beat him. A priest approaches, who might be expected to give good example and obey the Law’s precept of charity towards the neighbor, especially as the victim is apparently a fellow countryman, but he passes by. So also a Levite. Next comes a Samaritan, chosen by Our Lord to give greater force to the lesson; for in his case, racial and religious bitterness would make the practise of charity more difficult (John 4). At once moved by compassion, he attends to the needs of the unfortunate, then conveys him to an inn, and pays in advance for the care for the man a sum equivalent to two days wages, promising to make good on his return any further expense incurred by the innkeeper. The story leads up quite naturally to the question with which Our Lord concludes the narrative: “Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbor to him that fell among the robbers?” The only possible answer to this query is given by the doctor of the law, who thus learns that a neighbor is anyone who needs any manner of assistance or help.