‘I suppose I had best lay my cards face up right here. To me, the central figure in the parable is not the Samaritan. He is simply one of the three characters in the story who have the opportunity to display neighborliness as Jesus defines it.
The deﬁning character — the one to whom the other three respond by being non-neighbor or neighbor — is the man who fell among thieves.
The actual Christ-figure in the story, therefore, is yet another loser, yet another down-and-outer who, by just lying there in his lostness and proximity to death (hémithané – ‘practically dead’ is the way Jesus describes him), is in fact the closest thing to Jesus in the parable.
That runs counter, of course, to the better part of two thousand years’ worth of interpretation, but I shall insist on it. This parable, like so many of Jesus’ most telling ones, has been egregiously misnamed. It is not primarily about the Samaritan but about the man on the ground (just as the Prodigal Son is not about a boy’s sins but about his father’s forgiveness, and just as the Laborers in the Vineyard is not about the workers but about the beneficent vineyard-owner).
This means, incidentally, that Good Samaritan Hospitals have been likewise misnamed. It is the suffering, dying patients in such institutions who look most like Jesus in his redeeming work, not the doctors with their authoritarian stethoscopes around their necks. Accordingly, it would have been much less misleading to have named them Man-Who-Fell-Among Thieves Hospitals. But then the medical profession might sense libel in such an attempt at theological correctness. Back to my argument…’
The Parables of Grace, Robert Farr Capon, Chapter 7, ‘The First of the Misnamed Parables’, p.212
“A certain man,” Jesus says, “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Consider first the physical remarkability of the journey. It is downhill all the way. Jerusalem stands 2,500 feet above the level of the Mediterranean and Jericho lies 825 feet below it.
That’s a drop of the better part of three-fifths of a mile and it takes the man in question down into increasingly depressing territory.
Without making too much of it, I am disposed to take Jesus’ postulation of such a descent as a parable in itself of his own downhill journey to his passion and death, and thus into the lastness, lostness, etc., that he now sees as the heart of his saving work.
And as if to underscore the allusion, he adds a whole string of details that Mark the man as a loser par excellence: “he fell among thieves who stripped him and beat him up and went away, leaving him half dead.”
Score several points for my notion that the man who fell among thieves is the authentic Christ-figure in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Parables of Grace, Robert Farr Capon, Chapter 7, ‘The First of the Misnamed Parables’, p.215