Sunday, February 6, 2022 Brad Barrett
The Good Samaritan
The phrase, “Good Samaritan”, may be familiar to many of us. I even hear it used in the news quite often. Someone helps a distressed person, and the rescuer is called a Good Samaritan.
The phrase from the Bible. It comes from the Gospel of Luke. From a story Jesus tells in Luke 10.
But what is the message of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan?? My guess is that if we ran a poll in our society, including polling us, most of us would say, “Well, it’s about being a really nice person.”
While there is a grain of truth in that, we will find this morning there is much, much more to it.
Luke 10:25–37 (ESV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Now let’s go through it slowly.
Lawyer— Lawyers in the ancient Jewish world were not concerned about secular or civil laws like a lawyer in Ames would be. These Jewish lawyers’ study…was the Scriptures. The Law of God. So this man was knowledgeable and well-trained in the Scriptures.
He “put Jesus to the test” This word could be positive or negative.
He might have, for genuine reasons, truly seeking answers to one of the most important questions of life: How can I find eternal life? It reminds me of Acts 16 when the Philippian jailer asked the Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?”
It is also possible that he was insincere, hoping that he could catch Jesus in some error. I tend to think this is the case.
In the end, it may not matter how sincere he was initially.
Jesus is incredibly wise, as always. Since the man knows the Law of Moses, Jesus asks a question back: “What does the Law say about inheriting eternal life?”
The lawyer answers brilliantly.
“The way to inherit eternal life is to love the Lord with everything you have. And to love your neighbor as yourself.”
He knows that this is the core of the Law of Moses.
Jesus affirms his answer. He commends the lawyer telling him, “Do this and you will live.”
“Now go and love like this, and you will have eternal life.”
We need to pause here. If we’re familiar with the message of salvation in the NT, we might wonder what Jesus is saying. Obviously we shouldn’t disagree with the importance of loving God and our neighbor. In another scene in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says these two commands are the most important ones in the Law of Moses. So we don’t disagree with the lawyer’s words here.
But is Jesus saying that one is saved—inherits eternal life— by works? If we know the NT gospel message, we may be uncomfortable here with Jesus’ words. Let’s hold that question until later.
Now in vs. 29 we are at a turning point in the story. Until now, everything seems potentially good and sincere. The lawyer has asked and now answered a great question.
But now Luke reveals what was really going on in the lawyer’s heart: He wants to justify himself. He wants an easier answer to the answer about inheriting eternal life.
We should note that the lawyer didn’t ask a question about loving God. Why? I suspect he did NOT really did love God with all his heart, but he thought he did. So he bypasses a question about loving God and instead asks a question about the loving your neighbor part. “So who is my neighbor?”
With that question before him, Jesus now launches into a story. The Bible calls them parables.
But before talking about this particular parable of the Good Samaritan, let’s examine parables. What are they? What is the purpose?
Summary of Parables
- They are earthly stories with heavenly meanings.
- They may or may not be an actual event, but they typically are like one.
- They tend to be simple and straightforward, not giving vast details.
- They reveal and conceal. They reveal truth to those genuinely seeking, and they conceal truth to those who are not.
- Because of this very purpose to “reveal and conceal,” it’s not always easy to determine the meaning of the story. Sometimes Jesus explains it, but other times he does not.
- Commonly Jesus has one main point to the parable. We don’t want to miss that point. And neither do we want to read more into the story than Jesus intended.
Now let’s look at this Parable in more detail.
The man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, getting robbed and beaten was a very realistic scenario to Jews.
This road, about 17 miles long, was winding and hilly, going through some rough terrain with many caves as hiding places.
It was well-known that bandits hung out there, ready to pounce upon travelers.
So in Jesus’ story, this Jewish man traveling on that road was attacked, beaten, stripped naked, robbed, and left for dead.
He may have been fighting for his life.
First, along comes a Jewish priest. He sees this dying man, but instead of stopping to help, he moves to the other side of the road and walks on by. Jewish priests, by the very nature of their work, were obligated to help someone in need.
In fact, the Law of Moses required all Jews to help even their enemies, even their enemies’ animals, not just their fellow Jewish friends.
Exodus 23:5 ESV If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
So the priest in Jesus’ story is violating the Law. And the lawyer talking to Jesus would know this quite well.
So perhaps as Jesus is sharing this story, the lawyer is shocked that the priest walked by without helping.
If it was caught on camera today that a pastor walked by a bleeding, dying man and did nothing, posts tomorrow on Facebook and Twitter would go viral with angry comments.
Now another religious man, a Levite, walks down the road. Levites were from the same tribe of Israel as the priests, the tribe of Levi. They were like assistants to the priests.
Again, we expect him to help, but he does the same thing as the priest: he avoids the dying man.
The lawyer may have been shocked once again.
But it gets more shocking. The story takes a surprising twist.
A Samaritan—a man from the region of Samaria—a Samaritan, of all people, stops to help this dying Jewish man.
Why is this shocking?
We need some history between Jews and Samaritans. The short answer is there was racist attitudes between these two groups. Generally, they hated one another.
There was a centuries-long tension between the two groups.
Going back to about 700 B.C., the northern part of Israel was sent into exile by God because of their persistent evil against God. The Assyrian empire conquered them and colonized Palestine with Assyrians. We could call them Gentiles. Over time, they inter-married with the Jews. So the people in that area were half-Jews. They were considered by Jews as apostates to the faith, having denied the Lord God.
This hatred toward the Samaritans continued for centuries down to Jesus’ day.
Given this long history then, this Samaritan man was the last person on earth this Jewish lawyer expected to help this beaten, robbed, naked, dying Jewish man. The Samaritan had every excuse (along ethnic lines) to avoid this severely injured Jewish man. But he did not use those excuses.
And he truly helped in every way imaginable. He bound up his wounds and treated them. He lifted him on his animal and took him to an inn. He cared for him overnight. The next morning, he gave the innkeeper two denarii. About two days of wages. And given the cost of staying in an inn in those days, this money was enough to care for the man at the inn for at least 24 days.
It’s a shocking story of compassion. The Jewish man’s spiritual leaders would not help. The hated Samaritan showed mercy.
Jesus is finished with this story. Now he asks another question of the lawyer: “Who was the true neighbor to the dying man?”
Notice Jesus doesn’t phrase it the way the lawyer had asked. The lawyer had said, “Who is my neighbor?”, hoping to justify himself…apparently hoping to find out that some people didn’t qualify as neighbors..
Instead, Jesus asks, “Who was the true neighbor?”
The answer to the question is obvious to the lawyer. “Well, the man who showed mercy.”
(Interestingly, the lawyer apparently doesn’t want to say the name “Samaritan” out loud. He simply refers to him as “the one who had mercy.”)
Jesus says, “You nailed it. You’re right. Now go and be like the Samaritan.”
It’s like Jesus is saying, “OK, Mr. Lawyer, you want eternal life, right? You say you love God, right? You say you love your neighbor? But you want to justify yourself by finding a loophole?
“OK, here’s the loophole. Here’s the minimum: Go and love…really love…your enemy. This will show me your heart. This will show me if you truly do love God with all your heart. With complete devotion and in faith.”
How to Inherit Eternal Life
Now let’s go back to an issue I posed earlier. A challenge in this passage is this: To love God and to love our neighbor in a way that leads to eternal life doesn’t sound like the NT message of salvation by grace through faith.
- Lawyer says: Well, to inherit eternal life, the Scriptures say to Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
- Jesus: That is right. Do this and you will live.
We may be familiar with the NT message of salvation that centers around the word “faith” or “believe.”
- The Philippian jailer in Acts 16 asked, “What must I do to be saved?”.
Paul told him simply in Acts 16, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
- Also passages like Romans 3 and 4. Ephesians 2. The message is clear all over the NT that righteousness from God is by faith, not by works. We cannot earn righteousness.
So are Jesus’ words to this lawyer contrary to that?? Is Jesus telling the lawyer he can inherit eternal life by his works? What about faith?
I propose Jesus’ words are similar, if not essentially the same, to other NT passages.
Why? Because to love God with all our hearts is to be devoted to him with our all. To surrender to him. To trust him. To humble ourselves before him and follow him. To worship him. THAT…. really is the essence of faith in God.
It always has been this way. As far back as 2000 years before Christ, Abraham exemplifies salvation by faith when it says in Genesis 15:6 that “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
So Jesus is in no way confused about the way to inherit eternal life.
Concerning this story in Luke, one author said,
“At the heart of entering the future life [SALVATION. ETERNAL LIFE.] is a relationship of devotion, a devotion that places God at the center of one’s spiritual life and responds to others in love.” (Darrell Bock)
Jesus is not telling the lawyer, “Just go out and be a nice person and then you will have eternal life.”
He’s telling him: “Put the Lord God at the very center of your life. Make him your highest longing. With all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
This is what Jesus is addressing in this story. Through his divine wisdom, he is using this remarkable story of a naked, dying man to dig into the lawyer’s heart, to help the lawyer see his own need for the Lord.
So we’ve looked at this remarkable story from Jesus..
What do we do now? What is some significance for us today from Jesus’ words here in Luke 10??
We could find multiple ways to apply this story in Luke to our lives.
Let me offer just one application for our lives this morning.
Show mercy like the Samaritan.
I do not mean that as some nice, trite expression. Few people would ever disagree with that.
But it’s deeper and harder than the world knows.
God calls us to show compassion, mercy when confronted with a need, even if it’s an enemy of ours.
Even if it’s someone we don’t like. Someone who annoys us. Someone who doesn’t deserve help.
It may be as dramatic as a naked, bleeding, dying man lying on the road.
It may be more mundane, such as showing mercy to my spouse or children. Or a co-worker or fellow student.
Even today we may have opportunities to show compassion.
One way to do that is found at our Ministry Fair this morning. We have three organizations represented:
- Together for Good,
- Obria Medical Clinic, and
- Home for Awhile.
19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, from England, said this:
“Compassion is a great gospel duty, and it must be hearty and practical… The Good Samaritan has earned for himself immortal honor… Such conduct will bring glory to God, and go far to recommend the holy religion which we profess. The Lord help us to do so, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” (Charles Spurgeon’s Devotional Commentary)
Whether the need is large or small… whether it’s a true emergency or not…whether it’s in the community or in our home…the point is, are we people prepared to show compassion?
Are we prepared every day to show compassion to someone God calls us to serve?
Let me offer four ways to prepare ourselves to be a compassionate Samaritan who reflects a deep love for Christ.
Be prepared in heart
This is most foundational.
As we anchor our lives first and foremost on the love God has for us, then and only then we can love like this Samaritan did. Our power to love like the Samaritan must come from God.
If I could summarize it, I would say it like this:
God loves us first, even while we’re his enemies. This is the core of the gospel message.
Then in response, we love him back (1 John 4:19). We could also say that we believe in him. We give our hearts and our devotion to him. This is essentially what faith in the living God is.
Then as we see God’s love for us and love him in response, the obvious outworking of that is to love others. To be a neighbor like the Samaritan man.
We prepare our hearts in this way by walking with Jesus daily. Spending time with God each day in his Word and prayer, getting strengthened and refreshed in him. It may not be exciting or highly motivating every day. It may even feel mundane, at times. But we seek to abide in Jesus, and so bear his fruit.
Moments to show mercy every day will arise, so when they come, will I be heavenly minded and not earthly minded?
So be prepared in our hearts.
Be prepared in prayer
Many mornings one of my prayers is what Jesus taught us to pray: “Lord, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” NOTE: The LORD’S will, not mine.
I pray through each task and each person I expect to encounter that day. And often I pray, “Also, Lord, help me to be aware of what else might come unexpectedly into my day.” Opportunities to show mercy may come up. Am I prepared in prayer? Am I expecting God to guide and strengthen me?
So be prepared in prayer.
Be prepared in schedule
To meet needs in a compassionate way, one thing that can hinder us is that our schedules are too full.
My observation is that we seem to love to say to one another, “I’m busy.” For many of us, it can even be almost a bragging point. Who can be the busiest and most frantic?
Being busy is not a badge of honor.
Doing God’s will is a badge of honor.
Are our schedules consistently so packed that we have no flexibility or strength to respond to genuine needs that God presents to us?
A fascinating word in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:10 NIV For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are not saved by good works. But once we are saved, God has good works prepared for us. He has a WILL for us.
Last week, my wife asked me to help her with something. I found myself resistant to it, and honestly somewhat annoyed.
But after some prayer and consideration, I realized I was annoyed because my agenda was MY agenda. If I helped her, MY day was not going to go MY way. I confessed my selfish attitude to the Lord and served my wife cheerfully.
Are we prepared in our schedules so that, when God presents opportunities to show mercy, we are willing and able?
Be prepared in finances
Whether we have a little or a lot, we and our money belong to the Lord.
So to be prepared in finances begins with our hearts.
Have we determined in our hearts every day that the Lord is Lord over our money? Our stuff? Do we believe he owns all we have? And….have we considered God’s generous heart to us—the giving of his Son—and determined to have that same generous heart?
And perhaps we need to set aside money just for acts of mercy. Perhaps we need to manage our finances better with a budget.
Perhaps we need a different job to earn more so that we can give more.
To be prepared to show mercy like God has shown us, we are prepared with our finances.
By the power and strength of God found in the gospel, God calls us to love him with everything we have. And then out of that love, to go and show mercy to others, even our enemies.
We are to submit our lives to him completely. He is our Boss, our Father, our Commander-in-Chief. We take our marching orders from him. That is, in part, what it means to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We can love him like that only as our lives are anchored in him, in his remarkable, stunning love and mercy that he demonstrated on the Cross of his Son.
The Apostle John loved to write about God’s love. And he says it so well here:
1 John 3:1 NIV See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!