Good Samaritan

INTRODUCTION: This passage is found only in Luke's gospel, and it is commonly referred to as the "Good Samaritan" for the parable used by Jesus to expand his answer to the two questions asked by the lawyer. But there are also important things to consider about the manner in which the lawyer posed his questions. The Jews who returned from captivity in Babylon rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem under the strong leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, and adherence to the law of Moses was restored as the characteristic which set Israelites apart from all other people. The Samaritans from the northern kingdom were not at all respected by the Jews in the south, and the Samaritans were well aware of the contempt held for them.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the 1833 Webster Bible.


A - WHAT SHALL I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?

Luke 10 "25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?"

COMMENTS: Among the Jews a lawyer was a well educated interpreter and teacher of the law of Moses. This man stood up to gain attention; he addressed Jesus with the respectful term of master, and asked him a question about how to inherit eternal life. In the context of the passage, the Greek word translated as "tempted" characterized his question as a test or challenge to use the law to try to discredit the teaching of Jesus. This was an approach by many of the religious leaders who did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and did not understand that complete faith in him as God was the only way they could receive eternal life. Later Saul of Tarsus, the zealous Pharisee having been dramatically converted, wrote in various letters about righteousness by faith and not by law. Romans 4 "13 For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."

It is not a wise thing for someone who has experienced the grace of the Lord to test that grace with selfish motives. After the resurrection when the apostles were forming local churches, a man made a generous donation. Then a woman and her husband planned deceitfully before they publicly made their own donation, which was not the full amount they claimed. Acts 5 "9 Then Peter said to her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold the feet of them who have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then she fell down immediately at his feet, and expired. And the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her by her husband." This dramatic and immediate result was through the power the Lord had given his chosen apostles as they began to establish the church. But even today those who claim Christ should not "tempt" the Lord in ways that dishonor him as though they can take advantage of his grace for their personal desires.

Paul warned Christians not to test Christ as the children of Israel had done in the exodus from Egypt. 1 Corinthians 10 "9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents." Paul's factual reference is recorded in the Old Testament. Numbers 21 "5 And the people spoke against God, and against Moses, Why have ye brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul lotheth this light bread. 6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live." The brazen serpent provided a simple way for anyone who was bitten to believe what the LORD had said, and then to demonstrate their faith in his word, they could "look and live."

B - DO THIS AND LIVE

Luke 10 "27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. 28 And he said to him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."

COMMENTS: Jesus had turned this lawyer's question back to him when he asked the man to give his own answer from his understanding of the law. The text does not reveal whether this lawyer had previously heard Jesus use these two elements to characterize the whole law, or whether this was truly his own summary. Many of the Jewish leaders, such as this lawyer, would not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. Therefore they could not fulfill the first great command to love him. Without the love of God abiding within themselves, they likewise could not live out the second great command to love others as themselves. This lawyer could not do those two things to inherit eternal life unless he would do them by faith and not by works. His failure to have faith in the Son of God as he spoke with Jesus was truly a stumbling block for him.

Matthew recorded a similar exchange when a lawyer "tempted" Jesus even as he addressed him as master. Matthew 22 "34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were assembled about him. 35 Then one of them who was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." After this answer, there was no further discussion between Jesus and that particular lawyer.

The full list of the Ten Commandments is in Exodus 20:3-17 and again in Deuteronomy 5:6-21, but the first great commandment Jesus used as a summary is much like that found in Deuteronomy 6 "4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Two passages in Leviticus carry the essence of the second great commandment. Leviticus 19 "18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; I am the LORD." The second passage includes those who are not in the line of Israel. Leviticus 19 "33 And if a stranger shall sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not oppress him. 34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be to you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."

C - THIS LAWYER STILL WANTED TO JUSTIFY HIMSELF

Luke 10 "29 But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side."

COMMENTS: This lawyer did not realize how foolish it was to consider that he could ever justify himself before a Holy God. Many of the Jewish leaders thought they could be justified by their own observance of the law, but no person can accomplish that, and in fact it may well become an abomination before God. Luke 16 "14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him. 15 And he said to them, Ye are they who justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God."

Later, Paul wrote to Gentiles who were being misled by Jews who tried to add observance of the law to the gospel of Christ. Galatians 3 "8 And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10 For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Accursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." ... "24 Wherefore the law was our school-master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

Jesus began this parable with two categories of individuals to illustrate that a position of religious piety might prevent application of the scripture from the heart, if there was failure to show compassion to someone in need. Jesus did not say whether the man who was attacked was a Jew or a Gentile, but only that he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Some robbers stripped him of his clothing, and injured him very seriously. He was described as half dead without clearly stating that he was unconscious, but there is no record of an exchange of words between him and the two men who passed by him. If he had been stripped of identifiable clothing, and he did not speak, whether he was Jew or Gentile does not seem to be a factor in the actions of the men who saw him on the road.

Jesus said a priest was the first who saw him, but passed by on the other side. A Levite came by and also clearly saw the man, then passed by on the other side. Because of the positions both of these men held among the Jews, they should have been very desirous to follow the law of scripture. Jesus did not need to point this out to the lawyer who had asked the question, because that man knew priests and Levites were considered as models of piety and careful observance of the law among the Jews.

D - A SAMARITAN WAS MOVED WITH COMPASSION

Luke 10 "33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came were he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him: and whatever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."

COMMENTS: The Samaritans were strongly disliked by Jews for many years before the time of Jesus, because they were considered to be defiled through mixed marriages with non-Jews when they began to resettle around Samaria after their foreign captivity. However some of them knew about Jewish law and traditions, and about the promise of a Messiah, despite being considered as outcasts. John 4 "5 So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being tired from his journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to him, "How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" A few verses later in that passage Jesus plainly identified himself as the awaited Messiah. "23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith to him, I know that Messiah cometh, who is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith to her, I that speak to thee am he."

Though Jesus revealed the promise of salvation in himself to Samaritans and Gentiles, the Jewish religious leaders believed salvation in God was only for Jews who carefully kept the law. So, in another passage the Jewish leaders intended to insult Jesus by calling him a Samaritan. John 8 "47 He that is of God, heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 48 Then answered the Jews, and said to him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and ye dishonor me."

We don't know what thoughts may have been going through the mind of the lawyer as he listened to the parable. The Samaritan treated the wounds of the robbery victim, used his own animal to transport him to an inn, and took care of him overnight. When he left the inn, he paid for the victim's accommodations for additional recovery time, and promised to pay any other expenses when he returned. Apparently the inn keeper trusted this Samaritan to keep his word. There is still no record of conversation with the victim of the attack in this part of the narrative, and no detail given of any later gratitude or repayment to the Samaritan.

E - WHICH ONE WAS A NEIGHBOR TO THE MAN

Luke 10"36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor to him that fell among the robbers? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus to him, Go, and do thou likewise."

COMMENTS: Jesus asked which one of the three was a neighbor, and the lawyer said the one who showed mercy. When Jesus told him to go and do likewise, the lawyer knew he was being told to follow the example of the Samaritan, and not that of the priest or the Levite described in the parable. Israel so many times over the centuries failed to recognize the essence of the law which could lead them to humbly have faith in God alone, and to worship him in spirit and in truth as recorded by various prophets. Micah 6 "8 He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what the LORD doth require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Paul with his reputation as a Pharisee was shown by Christ how to live by faith, and then allow God to produce the good works within us. Ephesians 2 "8 For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not by works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Paul also wrote that we inherit eternal life through the mercy of God, not by anything we could accomplish by our own resources. Titus 3 "5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." We don't know from the text whether this proud lawyer's direct encounter with the Son of God ever brought him to inherit eternal life by faith.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, after many years of believing that I am a Christian, I wanted to carefully and prayerfully consider how the exchange between you and this lawyer might apply to me. I didn't want it to be too easy to think that I was nothing like him, but to remember that my old nature can only be overcome when I truly submit to your Holy Spirit. I did not already have a thorough knowledge of scripture when I came to my personal point of surrender to trust in the only way to inherit eternal life by your grace through faith. I thank you LORD for this passage which helped me to realize that I need to be careful not to "tempt' your grace toward me. Help me to consider this summary of the law that can be lived out if I continually read the written Word of God, so I will grow in my relationship to the Living Word: my Savior and my God, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Published 17 October 2016