I’m currently doing a research essay on how the parable of the Good Samaritan has been preached in different times and contexts. Interpretation and preaching have traditionally centred on how the story presents three characters, one of who is the exemplary Samaritan.
But in the research, I’ve found that some rightly point out that the Innkeeper is a fourth. Apparently innkeepers were known to at times over-charge, and so the greed of the innkeeper provides another contrast to the generosity of the Samaritan who offers to repay any expense the innkeeper incurs in caring for the man (whose nationality or race are – deliberately? – never revealed).
Now, I’m probably not the first to see yet another person in the story, and I’ll have to check the commentaries, but the following lines suggest it to me:
On the next day [most MSS include ‘when he departed’], he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
It is the phrase “when I come again” that tipped me off. Was that a glimpse of the parousia just there tucked away? I wonder it we glimpse Jesus himself in the person of the Samaritan; and by implication the church in the Innkeeper. The ministry of the church is indeed (among other things) to welcome the lonely, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the imprisoned. Do we glimpse Jesus here, equipping the Church (giving of the Spirit?) to do their work, and promise a ‘repayment’ (reward according to deeds?) for how much extra they do?