SS Lesson for 10/18/2020
Devotional Scripture: Matt 6:38-48
Late in September 2018, Joshua Mason and his girlfriend, Katie Davis, flew from Texas to Colorado. The next day Joshua took Katie on a hike in the mountains northwest of Denver. After hiking about eight miles, they reached the nearly 13,000-foot summit of Jasper Peak. Joshua was hoping to find an isolated and beautiful spot to “pop the question.” Jasper Peak provided such a location, and Katie said yes to the surprise proposal. But then things took a turn. Because they didn’t leave the trailhead till about noon and the trail to Jasper Peak isn’t clearly marked, the newly engaged couple became lost and disoriented when it started to get dark. Far from cellphone service, they weren’t equipped or dressed to camp overnight in the cold of the high country, and they only had a little water. Coming to a cliff and unable to go any further, they began yelling for help. About midnight, a camper who was hiking in the area heard their screams. When he discovered Joshua and Katie, they were showing signs of altitude sickness and severe dehydration. He led them to a group of his friends who were camping at a nearby lake. The campers provided the couple with water, food, and shelter in their tent, trying to help them get warm. But recognizing the seriousness of the situation, one of the campers hiked down to her vehicle and drove to where she could call 911. Rescue crews reached Joshua and Katie about 4:30 A.M. Determining that they needed to move to a lower altitude immediately, the rescuers escorted them down to the trailhead. This story includes several Good Samaritans who went out of their way to help Joshua and Katie. Today we will consider the Scripture passage that prompted that now-common term.
In his Gospel, Luke recounts Jesus’ ministry in three major sections: (1) events in and around Galilee (Luke 4:14-9:50); (2) Jesus on his way to Jerusalem (9:51-19:44); and (3) the events of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem (19:45-24:53). Luke’s Gospel is unique in its central section, which begins shortly before our lesson text. The majority of the parables found in Luke are located in this section, the first being the parable in our text. A primary theme of Jesus’ ministry in Judea was God’s love for the lost and lowly: sinners (example: Luke 15), outcasts (example: 14:15-24), Samaritans, and the poor (example: 16:19-31). Jesus’ countercultural teaching in Luke 6:27-36 challenges us to demonstrate inclusive love even toward our enemies. Today’s text calls us once again to practice inclusive love. In the passage just prior to our text (10:1-24), Jesus sent out 72 of his followers in pairs to proclaim, through word and deed, that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (10:9). Both Jesus and his 72 emissaries rejoiced at God’s power working through them (10:17-21). Immediately preceding our lesson passage, Jesus spoke with his 72 followers at the conclusion of their fruitful mission (Luke 10:17-20). Although some commentators view Jesus’ interaction with this “expert in the law” (10:25) as an interruption of his debriefing discussion with the disciples, the exact time and place of this scene is unspecified. This parable is unique to Luke, but its subject matter and setting are similar to texts found in Matthew and Mark. Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34 are clearly parallel to one another, but the connection to Luke is less certain (compare Luke 10:27). The Lucan event appears to be a separate incident covering the same theme.
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."
10:1-12. Jesus gave instructions to the 72. Some Greek manuscripts in verses 1 and 17 have “70” and others have “72.” Both readings have strong support. The 72 were people other than the Twelve, who apparently remained with Jesus on His journey. The 72 were to prepare the way so that when Jesus came into a town, it would be ready for Him. When Jesus stated, Ask the Lord... to send out workers, He implied that the ones asking were also to be workers (v. 2). Their mission was dangerous (v. 3) and required haste (v. 4). The 72 were supported by those who accepted their message (v. 7). Through hospitality people would show whether or not they believed the message of the kingdom. To the believing cities the message was to be, The kingdom of God is near you. The Messiah was coming, and He could bring in the kingdom. Even the cities that rejected the message were to be told that the kingdom was near. (For the meaning of wiping dust off their feet, see 9:5).
10:13-16. Jesus warned the surrounding towns against rejecting the 72 because that meant rejecting Jesus and the Father (v. 16). Jesus singled out two cities—Korazin and Bethsaida, both of which were located in the area of Jesus’ early ministry of miracles on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. He also singled out His adopted hometown, Capernaum, which also had been a site of His miraculous works. The message was clear: those cities (no doubt representative of others as well) were to be more severely judged than pagan cities, such as Tyre and Sidon (cf. Sodom, v. 12) which did not have the benefit of the Lord’s miraculous works and words.
10:17-20. When the messengers came back, they were excited that even the demons had submitted to them in Jesus’ name. This was true because of the authority Jesus had given them. They had such authority because Satan’s power had been broken by Jesus. He answered them, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Jesus was not speaking of Satan being cast out at that precise moment, but that his power had been broken and that he was subject to Jesus’ authority. However, Jesus said the cause for their joy should not be what they could do in His name but in the fact that their names were written in heaven. The personal relationship of a believer with God should be the cause of his joy. The authority given to these workers and the promise of no harm from snakes and scorpions was given for this particular situation.
10:21-24. Jesus was full of joy through the Holy Spirit (cf. the joy of the 72, v. 20). Luke frequently mentioned the Holy Spirit’s ministry in Jesus’ life. The three Persons of the Godhead are clearly seen: Jesus the Son was doing the Father’s will in the power of the Holy Spirit. Each had a specific function (vv. 21-22). The people who were following Jesus were not the important people of the nation; they were not considered the wise and learned. They had become like little children to enter into the kingdom, and thus they knew the Son and the Father. The disciples were living in an opportune day which many Old Testament prophets and kings longed to see—the day of the Messiah.
10:25-37. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most well-known Lucan parable. It must be interpreted on two levels. The first level is the plain teaching that a person, like the Samaritan, should help others in need (v. 37). If one has the heart of a neighbor, he will see and help a neighbor. However, in the context of the rejection of Jesus, it should also be noted in this parable that the Jewish religious leaders rejected the man who fell among the robbers. A Samaritan, an outcast, was the only one who helped the man. Jesus was like the Samaritan. He was the outcast One, who was willing to seek and to save people who were perishing. He was directly opposed to the religious establishment. The theme is reminiscent of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees (7:44-50). The theme of Jesus’ going to those who needed Him became more and more evident. An expert in the Law asked Jesus, Teacher... what must I do to inherit eternal life? This question surfaced on several occasions (Matt. 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-23; John 3:1-15). The question in this case was not sincere, as can be seen from two points in the text: (1) The lawyer wanted to test Jesus. (He called Jesus “Teacher,” didaskale, Luke’s equivalent of a Jewish Rabbi.) (2) After Jesus answered the man’s question, Luke recorded that the man wished to justify himself (Luke 10:29). Jesus answered his question with two other questions (v. 26), driving the Law expert back to the Old Testament Law. The expert answered correctly by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. One must love... God and one’s fellowman in order to keep the Law properly. Jesus affirmed that if the man did this, he would live. The man’s response should have been to ask, “How can I do this? I am not able. I need help.” Instead, he tried “to justify himself,” that is, to defend himself against the implications of Jesus’ words. So he tried to move the focus off himself by asking, And who is my neighbor? Jesus answered by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho descends approximately 3,000 feet in about 17 miles. It was a dangerous road to travel for robbers hid along its steep, winding way. A priest, one expected to love others, avoided the wounded man, probably a fellow Jew. Levites were descendants of Levi but not of Aaron, and they assisted the priests (Aaron’s descendants) in the temple. The Samaritans were scorned by the Jews because of their mixed Jewish and Gentile ancestry. It is ironic, then, that a Samaritan helped the half-dead man, dressing his wounds, taking him to an inn, and paying his expenses. By asking Which... was his neighbor? (Luke 10:36) Jesus was teaching that a person should be a neighbor to anyone he meets in need. The ultimate Neighbor was Jesus, whose compassion contrasted with the Jewish religious leaders who had no compassion on those who were perishing. Jesus wrapped up His teaching with the command that His followers were to live like that true neighbor (v. 37).
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
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.'"
28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.
3 But the man who loves God is known by God.
The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
4 "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.
19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
I love you, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise
11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
5 those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
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.
31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
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.
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.'
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."
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,
for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
In the story of the Good Samaritan, it is the scholars—the “wise and intelligent”—who are exposed for what they are (or are not). It will become clear that “these things”—the gospel, the truths of the kingdom of God—are hidden from them. The Samaritan is no scholar at all, but he is the hero of our text. What is the difference between “Samaritans” and “scholars,” in our text, so that the good Samaritan is really “good,” while the religious scholars of our Lord’s day are not? The story of the Good Samaritan helps us to see the difference.
· Our text has two basic structural divisions, each of which is prompted by a question.
· The first part of the story is in answer to the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
· The second part deals the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
These are the two major divisions then: (1) “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (verses 25-28), and (2) “Who is my neighbor?” (verses 29-37). We shall ponder the answer to these two questions in our study of this text.
Let us take note of what our text does not say, and then consider what it says. In this story, we can be tempted to assume things that are not said. For example, Jesus says, “A man was going down from Jerusalem” (The New American Standard Version says, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem.”). While Jesus makes it clear that the two travelers (the priest and the Levite) are Jewish, and that the hero is a Samaritan, we are not told the racial origins of the victim. The reason is simple—it doesn’t matter. And if it mattered to the first two travelers, it should not matter to us. The only thing that matters about that man is the one thing we’re told about him—that he is badly hurt and in need of help! The man had been mugged. Robbers overtook him, beating him badly and stripping him of his clothes, and then leaving him lying by the road, half-dead. This man needed help, badly. That’s what matters; and that’s what the text tells us. It isn’t matter whether it is a Jew who needs help or a Gentile. There is a human being lying by the road, who is seriously wounded and who desperately needs help.
We are told that two of Judaism’s finest specimens come upon the injured man as they make their way along the same road. These two men seem to be there by chance (see verses 31 & 32). I take it that this means they did not have any pressing business, which might have hindered them from stopping to render aid. These two men—the priest and the Levite—belonged to an elite Jewish class; both of them were religious professionals. In today’s vocabulary, we might say that one was a prominent pastor and the other a well-known televangelist. If anybody was expected to carry out the Old Testament law, it would be these men.
The priest came upon the injured victim first. He could see the man lying by the side of the road as he approached. Rather than to get involved, the priest deliberately walked on the other side of the road, so as not to get too close to the battered victim. I suspect that the priest carefully focused his eyes straight ahead or in the opposite direction of the injured man, so that he would not see his suffering. He did not check to see of the man was alive or dead. He did not ask the man if he needed help. He did nothing that would enlighten him about this man’s condition, and thus his need. For this priest, ignorance was indeed bliss.
The Levite was no different than the priest. He came upon the injured man some time after the priest. His actions were a virtual re-play of the scene with the priest. He passed by the suffering traveler on the other side, so that he would not feel obligated to do anything to help him. If the priest and the Levite felt any emotion at the sight of this man, it was probably revulsion at the sight of his injuries and deplorable condition.
The critical difference between the Samaritan, the priest, and the Levite is their compassion, or lack of it. So far as the attitude of the three travelers toward this man and his condition this the only difference the text indicates. The text tells us that the priest comes along and says (so to speak), “Yuk!” and he turns away. The text says virtually the same thing about the Levite. He comes along; he looks briefly, and then he turns aside. He doesn’t get too close. He doesn’t say, “Are you still alive?” He doesn’t listen for a heartbeat, or try to get a pulse. He doesn’t say, “I’ll send an ambulance.” He does not say, “I’d like to help you, but if I touch you, I may be ceremonially defiled.” He looks, and he says to himself, “How disgusting,” and he walks away. It is the opposite of compassion. It is repulsion. He doesn’t want to know any more about this man.
Have you ever seen somebody back into a car, hear the crunch and feel the cars bump, and then not even get out of their car to see what damage they might have done? They don’t want to know, because if they see the damage, they will feel more responsible for it. So they put their car in drive and move on. That is exactly what these two men do. They do not look; they do not know the extent of the need. All they see is a tragedy and a need, and that is enough to turn their stomachs and their heads. They go all the way around this man to avoid seeing, much less doing, anything about his need.
At this point in the story, the Samaritan comes upon the same scene. Before we consider his response to the injured traveler, we need to review a little concerning the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. When the Assyrians defeated Israel, they dispersed the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom among the Gentile nations. They also brought foreigners into the land of Israel to re-populate the land. The result was a half-breed race (half Jewish, half Gentile) that populated the Northern Kingdom of Israel from then on. When the Babylonians took the southern kingdom of Judah captive, they did not intermingle the races but kept the Jews separate, and so “pure” Jews returned to Judah. The “Jews” of Judah came to disdain the half-breed Samaritans, and not without reason, since the Samaritans gave those who returned from their Babylonian captivity much grief and opposition as they attempted to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, its walls, and the temple (see Ezra 4:10, 17; Nehemiah 4:2).
That same hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans is very evident in the New Testament. Perhaps the most enlightening text is found in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. When Jesus (deliberately) passed through Samaria, He became thirsty and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. The woman was surprised and asked Jesus why He, a Jew, would ask her, a Samaritan, for a drink, since Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other. This woman went on to discuss with Jesus some of the theological differences between the Jews and the Samaritans, but Jesus would not allow her to sidetrack Him from His presentation of the heart of the Gospel. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, we read that the Lord’s disciples went ahead of Jesus, into a Samaritan village, to make arrangements for the Lord’s arrival. When the Samaritans learned that Jesus was headed for Jerusalem, they would not allow Him to enter their village, and so the disciples asked Jesus for permission to call down fire from heaven to destroy the place, but were forbidden and rebuked by Him (9:51-55).
You can imagine the response of the Jewish lawyer, when Jesus introduces the Good Samaritan into his story. Two Jews, holding the most esteemed religious positions in Israel, have deliberately ignored the needs of a helpless, half-dead robbery victim. Rather than to help him they simply chose to look the other way. And now, approaching the same crime scene, comes a Samaritan, the lowest possible rung on the Jewish social ladder. This Samaritan, unlike the priest and the Levite, has a reason for his journey. He is on a trip. If anyone could excuse himself from getting involved, it was this Samaritan. But when he saw the man lying by the road, he reacted in a very different manner. The Samaritan, unlike the two religious Jews, felt compassion for the victim (verse 33).
He drew near to the victim, rather than to veer to the far side of the road. He treated the man’s wounds and bandaged him. The Samaritan does not seem to have had a first aid kit in his saddle bag; rather the wine, the oil, and perhaps even the cloth he used to bind the wounds came from his own food supplies and clothing. He placed the wounded man on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he spent the night caring for the man. The Samaritan had to continue his journey, but he did not let this keep him from providing care for the injured traveler. He paid for the victim’s room in advance, and saw to it that the innkeeper looked in on the recovering victim. He promised to return, and to fully reimburse the innkeeper for any additional expenses. There is nothing more the Samaritan could have done to minister to the man on whom he had compassion.
At the conclusion of His story Jesus asks the Jewish lawyer a final question: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” The lawyer really chokes on his words here. He cannot find it in himself to even pronounce the word “Samaritan,” and so he answers, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Twice now, Jesus has been asked a question by the lawyer. Twice, Jesus asked the lawyer a question in response. And twice, Jesus then responded to the lawyer’s answer by telling him to “do” that which he had just said. The lawyer asked Jesus what one must do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asked him what the law required, the lawyer responded with the two-fold command to love God and to love one’s neighbor. Our Lord then told the lawyer to do this. When the lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was, Jesus told this story of the Good Samaritan, and then asked the lawyer to identify who was a neighbor to the man in need. And when the lawyer reluctantly identified the Samaritan as the “good neighbor,” the Lord told the lawyer to imitate the Samaritan.
Why does Jesus twice tell this lawyer to “do” something in order to “inherit eternal life”? Why would Jesus tell a man to do something when He Himself taught that a man cannot be saved by his works? Here is the answer: because he is talking to a man who believes and teaches that a person is saved by his works, by his law keeping. If law keeping is the way to eternal life, no wonder this man is a lawyer! Jesus tells this man, “Do what the law requires and live,” because he has really asked Jesus this question: “Based upon the law, what shall I do to have eternal life?” The answer of our Lord is this: “You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Now we see why Jesus doesn’t go any farther with this man than he does; it is because this man first has to see the inadequacy of the law keeping system he embraces as the only means to obtaining eternal life. This man will not turn to Christ as the Messiah until he first turns from his dependence on law keeping to save him.
When a man like our lawyer friend in this text reaches this point, he has a fundamental decision to make: (1) Because he is condemned by the law, he must look for justification before God in some other way than keeping the law; or, (2) He must attempt to avoid being condemned by the law by finding (or creating) some technicality, which appears to get him off the hook. No wonder this man had become an expert in the law.
There is a great contrast in our text between the two religious leaders and the Samaritan, but at its very root, there is one thing that especially distinguishes the Samaritan from the Jews—compassion. When the two Jewish religious leaders saw the injured man, they seem to be repulsed, and they do everything they can to ignore and avoid him. The Samaritan, moved with compassion, does everything possible to minister to the needs of the injured victim.
What is Jesus trying to teach this Jewish lawyer here, by telling him this story? Overall, I believe that Jesus is attempting to show this lawyer that the Jewish religious system of that day was completely bankrupt. This lawyer obviously saw himself as the authority, and Jesus as the back woods preacher. The lawyer thought of himself as the accreditation agency, and of Jesus as the novice who was being tested for official approval. The lawyer thought of Judaism as owning the only franchise offering tickets to “kingdom of God,” and anyone who did not obtain their official approval as imposters.
Jesus sought to show this self-confident lawyer that by his own definitions, law keeping was not the pathway to eternal life, because no one is able to live up to the demands of the law. In order for one to be saved by law keeping, he must fulfill every requirement of the law all of the time, and with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength. This was impossible, and so this lawyer should realize that the law can only condemn, but it cannot save.
This lawyer’s confidence in the law and his ability to keep it was at the heart of his resistance to Jesus Christ. He confronted Jesus because he perceived (correctly) that our Lord posed a threat to Judaism. This lawyer was unwilling to accept faith in the Lord Jesus as the way to eternal life because his whole life was devoted to the preservation and promotion of law keeping. Until this lawyer saw the bankruptcy of his religious system, he could not cast himself on Jesus for salvation by faith.
The story of the Good Samaritan teaches some very important lessons to law keepers, to those who wrongly supposed they can earn eternal life by doing good works. It teaches that those in the highest offices of Judaism are guilty of a lack of compassion, which is at the heart of what the law required:
9 And as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he rose, and followed Him. 10 And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” 12 But when He heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 “But go and learn what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:9-13).
There was a very fundamental difference between our Lord’s way of salvation and that of Judaism. Our Lord’s way was that of grace, through faith in the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Judaism’s way was the way of law keeping, impossible though it may be. If a man actually supposed that he earned eternal life by his good works—by law keeping—then it is no wonder that he would be proud and self-righteous. Salvation (eternal life) was the result of his working. And so it comes as no surprise to see the priest and the Levite passing by the robbery victim with no compassion at all. They looked at the afflicted as those who suffered due to their own sin (see John 9:1), and they looked upon the affluent as those who had lifted themselves up by their own bootstraps. No wonder they had no compassion on the “sick.” No wonder the prophet Jonah wanted to watch the people of Nineveh be burned to a crisp, even the little children and the animals (see Jonah chapter 4). Self-righteousness is a subsidiary of legalism, and the mortal enemy of compassion and mercy.
Grace, on the other hand, is the mother of compassion. The lawyer was partially correct in his assessment of our Lord’s teaching about the way to eternal life. Jesus did teach that eternal life is granted by the doing (so to speak) of one thing—namely, believing in Jesus Christ. If one recognizes that law keeping cannot save, but can only condemn, then eternal life must come another way. And so it does. Those who accept the indictment of their sins by the law can be saved, apart from good works, by trusting in the only One who has ever kept the whole law, the One who died to satisfy the death penalty which the law pronounced upon sinners. Jesus Christ is the only righteous man to have lived on this earth. He alone fulfilled the law perfectly. And yet He took our sins upon Himself, bearing the curse of death which the law pronounced upon us. And by trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf, our sins are forgiven and we receive the free gift of eternal life.
Since this eternal life is not the result of our good works, but the result of God’s grace manifested in and through Jesus Christ, we have nothing to be proud of, no basis for feeling self-righteous. And because God has been merciful and gracious to us, we can show mercy and compassion toward others. Grace leaves no place for self-righteousness; it is the basis for compassion. That is what Jesus is trying to help this lawyer to understand through the parable of the Good Samaritan.
And just as this despised and rejected Samaritan became the “savior” of the robbery victim on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, so the despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth has become the Savior of all who trust in Him:
3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; he chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him (Isaiah 53:3-6).
Let me say one more thing as I conclude this lesson. This parable (and this sermon) are not intended to demean true biblical scholarship and study. I do believe that this parable was meant to condemn scholasticism, the intellectual and academic study of the Bible that is substituted for faith and obedience. How this lawyer seems to have enjoyed intellectualizing the truth of God’s Word. How hard he tried to keep the discussion scholarly and detached from life. But our Lord would not allow this man to deal with the truth of God’s Word in a test tube. Jesus would not define the term “neighbor” by doing a Hebrew word study. He defined it by telling a story. And Jesus will not allow the lawyer to deliberate and pass judgment as to whether someone else is our neighbor; He challenges us to ask ourselves whether or not we are good neighbors to those in need. That is what the truth of God’s Word is for, it is to be rightly understood and then rightly lived. God does not want us to give Him a textbook definition of loving our neighbor; He wants us to demonstrate love for our neighbor in the real world, by showing compassion to one in need, as did the Good Samaritan. Let us beware of intellectualizing the truth. Let us beware of keeping the Word of God in the classroom. And let us live out the grace of God that we have experienced it, if indeed we have experienced it.
(Adapted from URL:https://bible.org/seriespage/36-good-samaritan-luke-1025-37)
By asking the question “Who is my neighbor?” the law expert in our lesson text was looking for a loophole—a loophole of being able to choose whom he was responsible to care about and care for. Surely God didn’t intend for him to love all people. Surely some people did not merit his time and resources. Like the law expert, we can be guilty of looking for a loophole. When we hear the Bible’s teaching about loving our neighbors as ourselves, we can grasp the meaning in principle that we are to love and serve people everywhere in need. But it’s tempting to embrace that as a theoretical concept in a way that leads to no tangible action. Or we can be tempted to care for those neighbors who look like us, speak like us, or share our social status, and we fail to care for those who are different. How could Jesus possibly mean that every single person is someone we should strive to love? Jesus’ parable leaves no room for self-justification. If we are looking for a way out of loving that person who is too difficult, or in too much trouble, or frankly probably wouldn’t help us if the tables were turned, then we betray our hearts that do not love as God loves. Instead of looking for loopholes, let us search for opportunities to use what God has given us to bless all our neighbors.
A Different Way - Jesus' Sermon on the Mount set forth a new standard of living, especially in the area of relationships and our interaction with those we consider our adversaries or enemies. The religious leaders incorrectly taught to hate your enemies (Matt. 5:43). Jesus commanded the opposite: Love those who are against you. Why? Because that is how God responds to people—all day every day, no matter what. He loves those who love Him and those who do not. His followers should do the same.
Bless and Pray; Pray and Bless - Jesus prayed on the Cross for His murderers to be forgiven. Stephen, while being stoned to death, uttered the same request. Praying for one's enemies is asking God's favor or blessing upon the person, not harm.
Do Not Seek Revenge - Jesus was hated by many, yet He insisted not to retaliate, but be gentle, humble, and generous. He told His audience to refuse to stoop down to their opponent's level. Instead, they were to treat them kindly, the way they themselves would want to be treated. Jesus didn't say to let someone physically harm you and not defend yourself, nor was He saying to not protect your family. Rather, He was speaking about acting spiritually mature rather than as a petty, vengeful person.
Love Your Enemies - It is easy to love friends and family who are kind and affectionate. However, the heart is truly tested when you are called to love those who gossip, insult, offend, and spew hatred. Jesus endured those who called him a glutton, a drunk, a blasphemer, a madman, a liar, and so many other negative names. He responded to His accusers with the truth but also with sacrificial love. This is the kind of behavior God wants from His children. We do not imitate the ways of the world, but instead allow the Holy Spirit to transform us and love through us. The Holy Spirit needs to be depended on for His strength, wisdom, and guidance to carry out Jesus' command.