This parable is, on the surface, a moral reflection on doing good and feeling good about ourselves. In a deeper sense, though, it is about entering the way of Christ.
First you have a couple of holy men-a priest, and a levite, pillars of society, too self-important to stoop to notice the injured man. And then a hated Samaritan, lower than a Gentile to the listeners, painstakingly ministered to the victim, expending his own resources, his oil, his horse, and spending money to nurse the man to health-real and effective care.
Apart from the parable is the scene of the rabbi, who only wanted to debate theoretical questions. “What must I do to attain eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus turns the table on him, and tells this story, and then asks “Which of these is was a neighbor to the man who fell to the thieves?”. To which the rabbi could not bring himself to say “the Samaritan”, but “the one who took care of him.” And Jesus’ admonishment “Now go and do likewise. “, Which is to say “Take up your cross and follow me.”
Allegorically, this parable allows us to see the Good Samaritan as Jesus himself. He is the one who stoops down to those who have been brought low, the one who incarnates the love of God for those who are hurt, for those who are abandoned, those who have been marginalized. The Samaritan represents the one who was crucified as an enemy of the people, a person beyond the margins, a man who was judged by all the best people and condemned to the death of an outcast.
Morally, the rabbi is asking “What must I do to get by?” or “What is the extent of my righteous obligation?” Jesus answers to make us see ourselves along side those in need in order to motivate us to take action on the needy’s behalf. He tells us that we need to stop thinking of ourselves and our place in the world, and think more of the suffering, putting ourselves in place as the one who needs mercy.
And finally anagogically, when we take into account the allegorical and moral meanings of the story, again we are led to see life as the long hard journey to eternal life. If we let Jesus lead the way, if we stoop as Jesus did to help those in need, take up his cross, go and do likewise, we will end up in the inn, under the Good Samaritan’s tender care.