Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
Parable of the Good Samaritan June 17th 2020
Today we are going to talk a little about a very familiar parable. Now, a parable is a story in the Bible. In this parable we are going to find a man on a dangerous journey and through his misfortune, we are going to learn some profound truths. The story is found in the Gospel of Luke (the third Gospel) chapter 10 beginning in verse 30 through 37, Luke 10:30 through 37
The parable I’m teaching on today is the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable is perhaps one of the most well-known parables. There were 46 parables that Jesus told. it has some of the most well-known illustrations that Jesus ever told. When you read the Bible, you find that Jesus was the master of all storytellers. Jesus would teach for hours and often he would tell and re-tell parables with great meaning and significance that made them not only memorable but profound.
This particular tale, this dramatic tale of the Good Samaritan well known to most people, even to non-Christians. In fact, the term ‘good Samaritan’ has become part of our culture and vocabulary. There is a law called ‘the Good Samaritan law.’ In some places the “Good Samaritan Law” protects someone from prosecution if they are trying to help someone. In some cities, a “Good Samaritan Law” requires a person to help a person that is in immediate danger.
Almost everyone knows what it means when we say “Good Samaritan”
If you do a ‘Google Search’ on the term ‘Good Samaritan’ you’ll find all kinds of stories from people rescuing a dog in a hot car, to stopping to fix a tire for a motorist to paying someone’s bill at a checkout of a Grocery Store
While there were many people that have been called a “Good Samaritan” there was on particular Good Samaritan and One parable that is our focus today.
I’d like you to listen with fresh ears as we discuss this Parable today. It is the fact that the word “Good Samaritan” is so well known that you are likely to miss the actual intention of the parable. These parables that Jesus told were to teach us the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
So as we start today, I’m going to do something a little different. As you already know the parable, I’m only going to read a verse or so and then we’ll discuss it. You’ll see that it’s easy to miss some of the things that are important in understanding the meaning of this parable. When we get to the end, we’ll review and see what we have learned. We’ll have a much better understanding hopefully of the Kingdom of God.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a certain Lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
So this parable starts off and gives us some context. The story that Jesus will tell is in response to a question that is asked by a ‘certain lawyer.’ The language need some clarifications. By Lawyer, the Gospel writer Luke is referring to a man that is highly skilled in the mosaic law. A person that knew the scriptures so well that the priests would often defer to them in matters of Mosaic or what is often called rabbinical law.
The Lawyer stood up and it says he ‘tested’ Jesus. We shouldn’t necessarily think that the lawyer was trying to trap Jesus. That was often the work of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They would ask ‘gotcha’ type questions. Questions that were designed to put Jesus in a position where he would have to disagree with Moses or insult the Romans.
This question that is being asked is about Eternal Life. And I’ll jump to the punch line and tell you that this parable is also about eternal life. It’s really not just about being nice to people, helping people that are in distress however there is always something to be learned about acts of charity. This parable is a result of a conversation that Jesus was having with a very learned man. A man that had studied the scriptures, likely had committed more of the scriptures to memory than you or I or likely any religious person.
We know that this parable is a response to the man’s question because we can read the last statement, in verse 37 that Luke records Jesus words at the end this parable, this story with the words
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
I said clearly at the beginning of our lesson today that this parable is often misunderstood. Of course one of the biggest misunderstandings we just stated is that the focus here is eternal life. There is also another misunderstanding that we’ll need to clear up before we continue. There are many that when they read this parable or they teach this parable, they are very critical of this lawyer, this expert in the law. Possibly because he has this title, “Lawyer” they believe that he only understood eternal life to be something that could be earned by obeying the commandments.
Notice however that this Bible expert did not ask, ‘How do you get or earn eternal life?’ His question is, ‘How do I inherit eternal life?’
Now inheriting is very specific. It has some ramifications. One is that it is accomplished only after someone has died. Remember the parable of the Prodigal son…it was shameful for him to ask, “give me my inheritance” because his inheritance was something that was given to him after his father had died…not before.
The other thing about an inheritance is that you don’t work for it. It’s given to you. Why is it given to you? It is given to you because you are an heir. So, contrary to what many believe, this lawyer was not thinking of some form of salvation by works. He wanted to know about eternal life and the Kingdom of God.
Let’s go on…. Verse 26 Jesus continues:
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Wow…what a great response! This was a GREAT summary of the Law. The Lawyer had it right. There are 10 commandments! We think of them correctly as written on two tablets. About half of them have to do with your obligations to God (have no other gods before me, make no graven image, don’t take the name of the Lord in vain, remember the sabbath) and the other half or so deal with your obligations to man (honor your mother and father, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t covet)
The man had answered correctly. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” A great summary of these 10 commandments
So Jesus commends the Lawyer….verse 28
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
So let’s pause for a moment and unpack these responses. Both the one from Jesus and the one from the Lawyer.
First Jesus not only commends this lawyer but he adds to the commendation a promise, “Do this and you will live” This is the promise of the law given to the people of Israel. All the way back in the Book of Deuteronomy, when Moses was given the Law, the Lord promised Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.
Notice secondly, the response from the Lawyer after Jesus commends him
The scripture continues
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
This simple question by the Lawyer is full of meaning.
The man had just summarized the entire law and I mentioned that these two commands: Love God and Love your neighbor summarized the entire ten commandments, the two tablets. The mistake most of the religious Jews made was that they felt that it was possible to fulfill the first command “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind”
These religious Jews believed they could do that. They were the Jews and despite the centuries of idolatry, the worship of other gods that ultimately sent both Israel and Judah into captivity by Assyria and Babylon respectively. Despite that, the Jews thought they were only vulnerable in keeping the laws….summarized in short hand as “love your neighbor as yourself”.
This is why he asked the question “Who is my neighbor?”
Let’s continue – verse 30
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Jesus replies to him with a story. He describes a man going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. We are told that this route was particularly hazardous because it curved through rocky and desolate terrain with many hiding places for robbers. Unfortunately, and not uncommonly, this traveler was attacked and left half dead alongside the road.
After the robbers were through with him, the man was helpless, naked, and half dead on the side of the road. So here’s the first question: What’s the difference between ‘half dead and ‘dead dead’? TIME….This man was going to die.
The other thing about being half-dead, it’s pretty obvious. This is not a man taking a rest, he’s not taking in the environment, waiting for a friend, sitting quietly and enjoying the day. He is half-dead, likely crumpled on the ground in some grotesque position, likely bleeding from a number of places. If he is able, he is trying to help himself, stop the bleeding, right himself to a more appropriate position. He likely knows his injuries are serious, possibly fatal.
Let’s read on…
31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Soon after the vicious attack, a priest came by. Then the story shifts and we see the first opportunity for hope….a priest comes by.
Half dead man may still have a chance. It’s almost like the word “FOTUNATELY could have been added. Fortunately a priest came by as these Jewish priests were the paragon of virtue. They offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the sinful people. They knew the law and the law specified that they had to provide HELP to those in need. The Law provided that even donkeys and oxen were to be cared for if they were in a ditch. One of the verses this priest would have known is Micah 6:8, "what is good. What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?" The priest would surely help!
But the priest passed by on the other side. He dodged the half-dead man.
People have wondered, why would this happen? In fact we are going to see this response repeated with the Levite in a minute. Well, since the man was ‘half dead,’ the priest would probably not have been able to be certain whether he was dead or not without touching him. But even if he helped him and the man actually ended up dying while he was carrying for him, then the priest would have incurred the ceremonial defilement that the law in Leviticus forbade. He would not have been able to carry on his priestly function for that day. Not willing to take this risk, he went on the other side of the road, thus avoiding any possibility of contact.
So let’s read on…here comes a Levite
32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
I’m beginning to think that perhaps Jesus is showing us something here other than misguided religious orthodoxy or perhaps just an uncaring attitude toward a fellow human being.
Notice that the priest was said to have come along “by chance” and the likewise a Levite. Why did Jesus say they came along by chance? I believe it was to show that these two holy men didn’t have a mission to help the half-dead man. Saving sinners is not the purpose of the law! Once they saw the man, they both had the same reaction. They passed by. Likely, it was because if they touched the man to see if he were alive, or even if they touched him by accident, and he were dead, the law said that they would become unclean. Rather than risk this, they stayed as far away as possible. The law was against the man receiving any help from them. The law had no purpose to save him and no power to save him.
But now the story takes and interesting twist….we read on in verse 33
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
This is a huge development….particularly for the half-dead man! The third person to come along was a Samaritan. Remember that the Jews hated Samaritans. From a Jewish point of view, a Samaritan was the last person who might have been expected to help. It would not have been ‘politically correct’ to attribute anything good, anything righteous or God-honoring to the Samaritans. Jesus is answering a Lawyer, a Jew, and likely he is in the company of exclusively Jewish believers.
Take a look at what the Samaritan did – he engaged, he likely sized up the situation, knew this was not going to be an EASY FIX and still he engaged. This good deed wasn’t just giving a hitch-hiker a ride, not just coming to the aid of a lost cat or turtle or duck along the road, It was not just paying for someone’s lunch at Chic Fil A or giving the guy on the street holding a sign saying “HOMELESS” a few coins. This good deed is going to take real effort, real time, real involvement.
The imagery in the parable gets even more specific; the Samaritan bandages his wounds….where did the bandages come from? likely from tearing pieces of his own clothing, taking off his cloak or his turban and using it to cover, protect, bind and heal. He’s also using oil and wine, using it to clean and sanitize
And then it says, "He put him on his own animal . In the King James it says he put him on his own beast. (‘beast….love that!)"
Have you ever helped someone get on a horse? Likely this wasn’t so simple that the Samaritan only had to give the man a ‘leg up’ but he firsts bandages the man, carefully picks the man up, cradles him in his arms and puts him on the animal.
This is care extraordinaire…..it’s not just a little help…, this is way beyond the call of duty BUT it’s exactly the help the man needs because he was half-dead.
The story get’s better!
35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, 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.’
Here’s something to think about….scholars tell us that an INN during this time would be at the most a modified stable….Some people digging in old ruins in the middle east found an ancient invoice…a transaction for room and board at an Inn at the time of Jesus. This invoice showed that the cost of a night in an INN was about 1/32nd of a denarii. The Samaritan just gave him TWO denarii…that would be enough for a couple of months of room and board.
I’ll have to remember that the next time I give a beggar on the street corner or in the parking lot a dollar and say “God bless!”
And that's not all. He said to the innkeeper in verse 35, "Take care of him and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you." I can tell you as a Pastor that we have had more than just one occasion of putting people up in a hotel. People that are homeless, in between getting help from one place to another and we will put them up at an inexpensive hotel, typically for a few nights and we always put a limit on the extent of our generosity.
So let’s continue, let’s finish the last lines of this parable. Watch it as here comes the punch line
Verse 36 so Jesus says,
36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Ha…..do Likewise! Just go and do that. Do what?….you know, get fully involved Be a neighbor to someone you don’t even know…someone you likely despise. Forget about your agenda or your trip, help the person at great personal cost, take a couple of days to make sure the person is getting better, leave your credit card or better yet sign a blank check and promise to pay even more at some time in the future….be a neighbor to that man.
In order to fully understand the meaning of this parable, and why we so often get this story WRONG, you have to remember the original question that was asked,
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus gave us this sermon to teach us about how we inherit eternal life.
The lawyer already knew the answer – just love God PERFECTLY - all your heart, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself. And if you want to know what that means…Jesus just painted you a picture of who your neighbor is and what you should do for him.
Herein lies the problem………………This can’t be done!
The standard is set just to high!
Fulfill the law….all of it,
But what about eternal life?
Just be perfect!
The fact is, this is a fictional account, there likely was no good Samaritan, this is a parable, a story Jesus told to illustrate a deeper spiritual principle.
Jesus is telling us in this parable that this what it would take if you tried to earn your way into heaven: You have to live a perfect life, it’s not enough to just chalk up enough ‘good points’ to get into heaven.
Jesus told us this very clearly at the end of the sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5 Jesus concludes the sermon now in Verse 21
21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
And then in verse 27
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Now before we conclude, I would be remise if I didn’t show you that there are some great ancillary lessons to learn in this parable of the Good Samaritan.
You see, even though this is a Parable that has an important single spiritual point to make, there are many other lessons in here that we can apply. We need to be a good neighbor. We need to be able to see people as Jesus sees them.
Jesus told another parable in the 25th Chapter of Matthew. In it he says, for I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you cared for me, in prison and you came and visited me.
Jesus came to fulfill the law. We say that Jesus came to pay a debt he didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. The law required perfection and no one other than Jesus was able to live a sinless life. In addition, Jesus taught the Jews that their Jewishness, from ritual circumcision, to keeping the law to the weekly, monthly and even daily sacrifices would not be sufficient.
By the way, the good Samaritan…that's how God loves us. There is no metaphor or hidden meaning in that. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
The opportunity is there…..Jesus ended the parable with the words, “go and do likewise.” We preach the word of God, the scriptures tell us that Jesus is the lamb of God. He was the sacrifice, made once and for all for the sin lf mankind. My sin, your sin. He paid the price but he asks us to follow him. To believe in him. Once we believe, our sin is forgiven, the past is forgotten and we have eternal life. The very thing this Lawyer asked Jesus about at the beginning of this parable.
Come to Jesus, embrace the life God has for you.
© FaithDialogue 2020;
©Kenneth A. Behr 2020
Faith Dialogue, a Nondenominational Evangelical Church
52 Riley Rd, #387
Celebration FL 34747
Pastor Ken Behr