Parable of the Good Samaritan – Luke 10.25-37
Jesus told this parable in response to “an expert in the law of Moses” asking him two questions, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?”
What Must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?
-A vital question that everyone needs to ask Jesus
-Assumes something needs to be done. Achieve a certain level of goodness (righteousness)
–Shema from Deuteronomy 6.4-5 and Love to neighbor from Leviticus 19.18. Quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22.40
Who is My Neighbor?
-Seeking to justify himself. Beware of narrowing the interpretation of God’s Word by familiarity and selective application.
-Road to Jericho is a dangerous
-Priest did not want to become unclean and did not have compassion. Leviticus 21.1-3; 22.4-7; Ezekiel 44.24-27
-Levite did not want to become unclean
-Samaritan, half-breed, unorthodox, worship at Mount Gerizim (see John 4). Had compassion and cared for the man who was half-dead.
1) Eternal life is not about achieving a certain level of goodness but about loving God and loving others with God’s love. Galatians 5.6
2) Be aware of narrowing God’s Word by familiarity or selective application.
3) To love God and to love your neighbor is to keep God’s commandments.
4) Any professed love for God should be seen in love to others. 1 John 4.20-21
5) You are everyone’s neighbor.
6) Be an alert neighbor this week. Remember you were on the Jericho road of sin and God rescued you in Jesus Christ.
The Good Samaritan Luke 10.25-37
This well-known parable teaches some important lessons and I hope to summarize some of those lessons at the end of this message.
Jesus told this parable in response to “an expert in the law of Moses” asking him two questions. Jesus was teaching the people and this expert in the Mosaic Law stood up and asked Jesus a question. Verse 25 says he asked this question “to put Jesus to the test”. This does not necessarily mean that he was trying to trick Jesus. It could mean he wanted to know how the teaching of Jesus lined up with the Law of Moses. So he said, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Some of you here need to ask Jesus this vital question because your eternal destiny depends on knowing the right answer. May God stir up your mind and heart until you come to know the peace of God in Jesus Christ.
Notice that this question assumes that something needs to be done to inherit eternal life. Most people who think about getting to heaven after death think in terms of achieving a certain level of goodness to be accepted by God. The Bible teaches us that the level of goodness required for heaven is perfect righteousness before a Holy God. That level of goodness can never be achieved “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The Bible teaches us that the way to inherit eternal life is not by works but by faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us to inherit eternal life.
Jesus recognized who this man was by the way he was dressed asked him to answer his own question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The man answered by reciting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6.4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” and a quote from Leviticus 19.18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”. The Shema was recited two times a day by every Jewish male and was also one of the verses included in the phylactery worn on the forehead and left arm during worship. In Matthew 22.40, Jesus quoted these same verses as the two greatest commandments of God and said, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”.
To this expert on the Law Jesus said, “You have answered correctly; do this and you shall live.” This man knew that to inherit eternal life he had to love God with all his heart, all his soul, all his strength, and all his mind, and to love his neighbor as if he were loving himself. This man believed he was fulfilling the command to love God by his meticulous obedience to the letter of the Law but wanted to know what Jesus thought of loving your neighbor.
In verse 29 we read, “desiring to justify himself, he said to Jesus, and who is my neighbor?” So far this expert in the Law is convinced that he is on the road to inheriting eternity because he loves God and his neighbor. But he wants further confirmation of his righteousness before God and seeks the assurance from Jesus that he is loving his neighbor. Jesus is about to show this expert in the Law that he is not loving his neighbor as himself, and by extension is not loving God with all his heart. This expert in the Law knew the commands of God but did not properly apply them in his life. He missed God’s intent in the Law because he focused on the details of the Law and not on his relationship with God. He thought he loved God and his neighbor because he narrowed the interpretation of the Law of God.
Before we too harshly condemn this man we need to examine ourselves. We can be guilty of narrowing the interpretation of God’s Word in our own lives in two ways. 1) The first way is by becoming so familiar with a truth in God’s Word that we actually begin to believe we are living out that truth. An inspection of our lives would prove that is not the case. We can become so familiar with the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ that we come to believe that we have salvation in Jesus Christ when in fact we are not born again and do not have the Spirit of God living in us. We can talk so much about loving our neighbor and our community that we come to believe we are loving our neighbor and our community when in fact we do not have anything to do with our neighbor and our community. 2) As second way that we narrow the interpretation of God’s Word is by selectively applying a truth to our circumstances as the man in our study today. The lifetime commitment of this expert in the Law was to apply God’s Law to daily life but he was selective in his application of the Law. This man applied the love of neighbor to fellow Israelites only. Not to Gentiles or Samaritans. Some narrowed the scope of neighbor love to fellow Pharisees only. Some taught love should only extend to the community you belong to, excluding all others. We can subtly limit the demand of God’s truth to justify ourselves but God does not judge us on our limited interpretation on of His truth but on the fullness of His truth.
Jesus answers the expert in the Law with a parable. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” A traveler literally goes down from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is 2700 feet above sea level and Jericho is 800 feet below sea level. Over the 17 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho the road drops over 200 feet per mile. It twists and turns and provides many places for thieves to hide and ambush travelers. In my reading this week I found that even up to the 1960’s robberies were taking place on this road. The Jericho road was not a safe place to travel. I also read that Jericho was a favorite residence for the Jewish priests to live and so this road was frequented by priests. In the beginning of this parable we have a man who is robbed, beaten and left for dead on the Jericho road.
“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” When this priest saw the half dead man he made sure that he passed him on the other side of the road. In Leviticus 21.1-3 priests are commanded not to make themselves unclean by touching a dead body so this priest had a biblical reason to move away from this man who may well have appeared to be dead. Even the shadow of a coffin was considered defilement by a dead person. The priest had to be at least six feet away from any dead person. If a priest was to become unclean in any way he remained unclean until the end of that day (Leviticus 22.4-7), and could not perform any religious duties for a week and the first thing he had to do after seven days was to present a sin offering for his uncleanness (Ezekiel 44.25-27). So this priest was obeying God and keeping himself pure before God. Notice that this priest was returning to Jericho from Jerusalem “going down” and had probably discharged any religious duties in Jerusalem but he chose to stay pure rather than to help this man in any way.
“So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Levites were helpers to the priests in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. They too needed to remain ritually pure and this Levite chose to pass by this man on the other side of the road.
At this point in the story everyone is asking themselves, “who will come around the corner next, a business man, a common Jew, maybe a Gentile?” What a shock when Jesus introduces a Samaritan into this parable. The Jews hated the Samaritans. They considered them half-breeds and unorthodox in their beliefs. When Shalmaneser the king of Assyria captured Israel and the city of Samaria he took many of the Jews to Assyria and replaced the population with Assyrians. They intermarried with the Jews who had remained in Samaria so the Jews did not consider Samaritans as Jews but as an impure, mixed race. The Samaritans only used the five books of Moses and did not use the rest of the OT. When the Temple was being rebuilt in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity the Samaritans offered to help the Jews rebuild but were rejected and so built their own Temple on Mt Gerizim and set up a rival worship to the Temple in Jerusalem. (see John 4).
Jesus said, “when the Samaritan saw the half-dead man he had compassion”. He bound up his wounds with wine and oil, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him there, and then paid for his lodging for one to two months and promised to pay more if it was needed.
Then Jesus turns to the expert in the Law and asks him, “which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the thieves?” The obvious answer is the Samaritan. Then Jesus says, “You go, and do likewise.”
This interaction between Jesus and this expert in the Law of Moses, and the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us on many different levels. I encourage you to meditate on these verses this week. What are some lessons we can take home from today’s study?
1) Eternal life is not about achieving a certain level of goodness but about loving God and loving others with God’s love. Being a loving and compassionate person does not earn you a place in heaven. A heart that is filled with genuine love for God that knows God as Father by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and loves others because of the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the assurance of eternal life. I think Galatians 5.6 has one of the best definitions of a Christian, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
2) Be aware of narrowing God’s Word by familiarity or selective application. Examine familiar truths to see if these truths are actually part of your life and not just assumed to be part of your life. Ask God to expose your true spiritual condition. Review your interpretation of God’s Word to make sure you are not limiting the application to suit yourself and your circumstances rather than meeting God’s demands in those truths.
3) To love God and to love your neighbor is to keep God’s commandments. Jesus said that loving God with all our being and loving our neighbors as if they were us, keeps all God’s commandments. To keep the outward details of a commandment of God without a heart of love is not obedience to that commandment. To worship God and to serve others in God’s love even though we are not perfect is to fulfill the Law of God. If the priest or the Levite in this parable had a Law from God that said, “If thou shalt see a man lying half-dead upon the highway, thou shalt not pass him by unheeded but take care of him”, they would have stopped and helped the half-dead man. They were motivated by the letter of the Law and not by love. Eternal life is about love not law. In this parable it is the Samaritan half breed, with the unorthodox doctrine, who worships God on Mt Gerizim not Jerusalem, who loves God and loves his neighbor and is fulfilling the Law of God.
4) Any professed love for God should be seen in love to others. John writes, “If anyone says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4.20-21).
5) You are everyone’s neighbor. You cannot define a neighbor you can only be one. It is not nearness that defines a neighbor but God bringing you into the circumstances of someone’s need. God’s love has no room for prejudice, racism, nationalism, bigotry, or superiority.
6) Finally I want to warn you. Now that you have heard this sermon you will “by chance” this week or next week come across a person in need to whom God wants you to be a neighbor. So be alert, be aware, and be ready to deviate from your agenda. Be ready to pay the cost and the time that will be required to meet that need. All of us here who know Jesus Christ as our Savior were rescued from the Jericho road of sin and death. In our gratitude to the love of God we are asked to love God and love others in His name.