Luke 10:25-37 (Who is my neighbor)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
What is the meaning of the Good Samaritan?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. That road was treacherously winding and was a favorite hideout of robbers and thieves. The next character Jesus introduces into His story is a priest. He spends no time describing the priest and only tells of how he showed no love or compassion for the man by failing to help him and passing on the other side of the road so as not to get involved. If there was anyone who would have known God’s law of love, it would have been the priest. By nature of his position, he was to be a person of compassion, desiring to help others. Unfortunately, “love” was not a word for him that required action on the behalf of someone else. The next person to pass by in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is a Levite, and he does exactly what the priest did: he passes by without showing any compassion. Again, he would have known the law, but he also failed to show the injured man compassion.
The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man. Samaritans were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion. The “Good Samaritan” saw only a person in dire need of assistance, and assist him he did, above and beyond the minimum required. He dresses the man’s wounds with wine (to disinfect) and oil (to sooth the pain). He puts the man on his animal and takes him to an inn for a time of healing and pays the innkeeper with his own money. He then goes beyond common decency and tells the innkeeper to take good care of the man, and he would pay for any extra expenses on his return trip. The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need.
Because the good man was a Samaritan, Jesus is drawing a strong contrast between those who knew the law and those who actually followed the law in their lifestyle and conduct. Jesus now asks the lawyer if he can apply the lesson to his own life with the question “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36). Once again, the lawyer’s answer is telling of his personal hardness of heart. He cannot bring himself to say the word “Samaritan”; he refers to the “good man” as “he who showed mercy.” His hate for the Samaritans (his neighbors) was so strong that he couldn’t even refer to them in a proper way. Jesus then tells the lawyer to “go and do likewise,” meaning that he should start living what the law tells him to do.
By ending the encounter in this manner, Jesus is telling us to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own conduct; i.e., we are to show compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities. We are to love others (vs. 27) regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need. If they need and we have the supply, then we are to give generously and freely, without expectation of return. This is an impossible obligation for the lawyer, and for us. We cannot always keep the law because of our human condition; our heart and desires are mostly of self and selfishness. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, failing to meet the law. We can hope that the lawyer saw this and came to the realization that there was nothing he could do to justify himself, that he needed a personal savior to atone for his lack of ability to save himself from his sins. Thus, the lessons of the Parable of the Good Samaritan are three-fold: (1) we are to set aside our prejudice and show love and compassion for others. (2) Our neighbor is anyone we encounter; we are all creatures of the creator and we are to love all of mankind as Jesus has taught. (3) Keeping the law in its entirety with the intent to save ourselves is an impossible task; we need a savior, and this is Jesus.
There is another possible way to interpret the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and that is as a metaphor. In this interpretation the injured man is all men in their fallen condition of sin. The robbers are Satan attacking man with the intent of destroying their relationship with God. The lawyer is mankind without the true understanding of God and His Word. The priest is religion in an apostate condition. The Levite is legalism that instills prejudice into the hearts of believers. The Samaritan is Jesus who provides the way to spiritual health. Although this interpretation teaches good lessons, and the parallels between Jesus and the Samaritan are striking, this understanding draws attention to Jesus that does not appear to be intended in the text. Therefore, we must conclude that the teaching of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is simply a lesson on what it means to love one’s neighbor.
The Parable Of The Good Samaritan: 5 Lessons Learned
By: Joe Plemon, crosswalk.com
England’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once observed, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions – he had money too.” Of course the Good Samaritan was not an actual historical figure; he was a fictional man in a story that Jesus told to a religious legalist who was trying to justify his unwillingness to walk the walk. The story goes like this:
Here are 5 Lessons we can learn from the Good Samaritan Story
1. The good samaritan was willing to get involved.
We may quote scripture and recite platitudes on love and God, but unless we are willing to get involved in the lives of others, we are only blowing smoke. The Samaritan treated and bandaged the wounds. He set the injured man on his donkey. He took him to an inn and cared for him throughout the night. The Samaritan could have said to himself, “I give regularly to my church. I donate to the Salvation Army every Christmas. I have done my part.” But he didn’t. As the scriptures say, he had compassion…and he acted on it.
2. The good samaritan ignored racism.
Even though he was considered a “despised Samaritan,” he rose above such shallowness to care for a fellow human being. I compare the Samaritan’s actions to an American 19th century slave showing compassion to a plantation owner or a Jewish prisoner demonstrating concern for a Nazi guard during WWII.
3. The good samaritan had money.
Margaret Thatcher was absolutely spot on: this was a man who managed his money. He undoubtedly lived on a budget, spent less than he made and maintained a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. My wife and I fully realize that we need to be very intentional if we are going to have such a giving fund, so we place cash into a “bless envelope” every month. Knowing that money is there has raised our antennae to the needs around us.
4. The good samaritan had a good name.
One wonders if the Samaritan had been to that inn before, perhaps paying for some other needy person’s stay. We know this: the innkeeper trusted the Samaritan, probably because he had proven himself to be trustworthy.
5. The good samaritan was generous.
The Samaritan didn’t know how long the injured man would be laid up, but I am guessing (because the text said the attack left him “half dead”), that it could be a prolonged stay. At any rate, the wellbeing of this stranger was more important to our Good Samaritan than whatever the cost might be. Again, this generosity would never have been possible if he hadn’t had money in the first place.
The central message of this story is that, if we are to be good neighbors, we need to be more like the Samaritan. The implied message is to get strong financially and stay strong financially so we can have the means to act on our good intentions.
Jesus concludes with this admonition, “Go and do likewise.” When we learn this lesson, we, and the world around us, will be better for it.
How will you follow Jesus’ challenge to “Go and do likewise”? What additional lessons from the Good Samaritan can you think of? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!