Do you look upon people as an inconvenience or an opportunity to serve? In your mind, are people obstacles to fulfilling your God-given purpose, or do people serve a central roll in God’s purpose for your life? Depends on how your day is going, right? In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus offers penetrating insights into what it means to be someone’s neighbor. He provides His own commentary on the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He describes two religious individuals who choose to ignore the needs of people on their way to accomplish their tasks. He then describes one individual who sets aside his infinitely-less significant tasks in order to serve another person and so fulfill this second greatest commandment. This week, which description will best fit you? (From an abstract of an online sermon entitled, What’s Your Hurry?)
NKJ Luke 10:25 And behold, a certain lawyer [νομικός, an expert in the law] stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
NKJ Luke 10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
NKJ Luke 10:27 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.’”
NKJ Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. [Note: The addition of the phrase “and with all your mind” in the lawyer’s citation was apparently in order to stress the idea that the Hebrew term lēḇāḇ– heart – included an emphasis on the mind, thus clarifying the meaning of the command and avoiding misunderstanding. That Jesus approved of this is clear from His own citation of the passage on another occasion – see Matt. 22:37 and Mark 12:30.]
NKJ Leviticus 19:17-18 You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
NKJ Luke 10:28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
NKJ Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. [Emphasis mine.]
It is at this point that our expert in the law becomes downright uneasy. Here is where beads of sweat must have started to form on his brow. Jesus has not yet told this man anything new. He simply asks the man how he reads the law, and the man reads the law exactly as Jesus does. Then Jesus says, “All right, you know what the law says; do it.” This is where it gets uncomfortable for us too, isn’t it? The law commands us to do what we cannot and persistently do not do. If you want to be saved by your works, by law keeping, then you must be saved by keeping the whole law; not most of the time, but all of the time; not in most of its commands, but in all of its commands. This is when beads of sweat should begin to form on all of our brows as well.
It is very important that we understand this: Jesus is not teaching works as a means of salvation here; He is actually teaching that doing good works (law keeping) cannot save anyone, because no one can keep the law perfectly. This man asks the question, “How can I be saved?” Jesus answers, “You tell Me, according to the law.” He responds, “One can be saved by perfectly and persistently obeying the whole law, with one’s whole heart, soul, mind and strength.” The lawyer is now on the spot. The system he is seeking to defend is a system that cannot save anyone. In seeking to condemn Jesus, the lawyer has just condemned himself and the whole world. (The Good Samaritan)
NKJ Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
NKJ Galatians 3:21-25 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
NKJ Luke 10:29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
NKJ Luke 10:30-35 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.’”
NKJ Leviticus 19:33-34 And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
But Jesus powerfully drives home this point in the parable by making a stranger the hero of the story. It is the Samaritan who actually obeys the very command that the priest and the Levite fail to obey, for it is the Samaritan who, himself a stranger, loves the stranger as himself! And in doing so, he treated the stranger like a neighbor, which was the point of the Levitical command in the first place. But this is something that was forgotten by the priest and the Levite in the story.
The priest and the Levite both refused to take a closer look to see if the man could be helped. Instead they just passed by on the other side of the road! But the Samaritan not only took a closer look, he also made use of his own resources, money, and time to actually help the man. He didn’t stop to ask himself, as the lawyer had done, “Who really is my neighbor?,” thinking that perhaps he could get out of helping the man on some kind of legalistic technicality that would allow him to be as selfish as he liked and still think of himself as a law keeper! Indeed, Jesus obviously intends the Samaritan’s example as a rebuke to the lawyer in this regard.
This parable has been applied to virtually every aspect of ethics. If compassion in the issue, this parable is applied most notably with regard to medical services and relief of hunger. Allen Verhey uses the parable as the means to discuss the scarcity of medical resources. Richard Hays applies it to abortion in relation to both mother and fetus: “Jesus, by answering the lawyer’s question with this parable, rejects casuistic attempts to circumscribe our moral concern by defining the other as belonging to a category outside the scope of our moral obligation.” In a world torn by war and genocide this parable will not allow us to be passive. A journalist commenting on the genocide in Darfur asked, “Where is the piety in reading the Bible and averting our eyes from genocide?” This parable is annoying, for it will not let us avert our eyes. (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 360)
NKJ Luke 10:36 “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
NKJ Luke 10:37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”