The story of the Good Samaritan was prompted by an expert in the law of Moses trying to tempt the Lord Jesus Christ into speaking something against the law.
He asked the question “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus responded by also asking him a question and that question was, What is written in the law?
The lawyer’s reply made it clear that obedience to the law was the requirement God had set for having eternal life.
This answer of course revealed that man was incapable of perfectly obeying the law and therefore something outside of man, something from man’s Creator was necessary for man to inherit eternal life.
Christ’s answer however seemed to have no effect on the lawyer whose only response was to generate another question as to who was his neighbor.
So we are given an inside look at a religious scholar who is more interested in scoring points than in knowing truth.
Scholarship is good but there is a danger in scholarship when scholarship becomes the chief thing for when it becomes the chief thing the tendency is that knowledge puffeth up which means pride enters the picture.
There are men who spend their entire lives in scholarship but God’s word not only emphasizes study, but the study should lead to the doing of His word.
God is a husbandman and intends his word to produce fruit.
What would you think of two farmers who spent their days discussing farming but never planted seed?
Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s word is to accomplish His will, So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it
James 1:22-24 says that hearing His word is not enough: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
So Christ, knowing the heart of this prideful scholar, goes to the crux of the matter and brings to mind the story of the Good Samaritan who was a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.
Luke 10:30-37, And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
We are told that a man went down to Jericho from Jerusalem.
Going down from Jerusalem is a matter of an elevation drop of 3325 feet and a 12 mile journey to Jericho which is below sea level near the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.
It would have taken eight to ten hours to travel this distance on foot as this was a road that crossed rugged and rough terrain alongside cliffs and embankments.
We are not told the nationality of this assaulted and robbed victim nor are we told of his religion.
But it is clear that the priest and the Levite are Jews and that the man who tended to the wounded man is a Samaritan.
The thing that matters about the traveler is that he is badly hurt and urgently needs help!
The inference is that a true neighbor does not ask what a man’s nationality or religion is before he renders help!
A true neighbor does not ask whether or not one in need fits a certain category before he helps.
He does not ask, is this my neighbor?
This man had been overtaken by robbers who beat him badly and stripped him of his clothes, leaving him half-dead by the road.
It doesn’t matter whether it is a Jew who needs help or a Gentile according to the scriptures for it is not who is your neighbor but to whom are you going to be a neighbor?
We are not to strive to decrease the group size of our neighbors but we are to expand our neighborliness.
So we are told that two of the finest of the religion of Judaism came upon the injured man as they made their way along the same road.
If anybody was expected to carry out the Old Testament law, it would be these two men.
The priest, saw the man lying by the side of the road as he approached and rather than getting involved, he deliberately walked on the other side of the road, so as to avoid getting too close.
Did the priest focus his eyes straight ahead or in the opposite direction of the injured man, so he would not see his suffering?
And if so he could not determine if the man was alive or dead.
But if dead and touched he would risk defilement with all of its attendant time consuming cleansing ritual.
The Levite was no different than the priest for his behavior was Act II of the scene with the priest and was of the same plot.
He passed by the suffering traveler on the other side of the road, 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 his awful condition.
The critical difference between the Samaritan, the priest, and the Levite is that the Samaritan had compassion while the priest and the Levite did not.
33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
Compassion is that which moves one to be a neighbor.
The priest and the Levite turned aside and both exhibited the opposite of compassion; they exhibited repulsion for this needy man.
They both refused to look beyond a look that simply revealed that there is a man in need.
At this point in the story, the Samaritan comes upon the same scene.
We have met Samaritans before in our Bible studies and we know that there was no love lost between the Jews and the Samaritans.
They were the peoples who had populated the northern kingdom after the Israelites were dispersed.
When the Jews returned there was no intermingling with them and the Samaritans and the Jews were very much apart, however over the years the Samaritans adopted portions of the Jew’s religion.
The “Jews” of Judah held the Samaritans in contempt and went out of their way to avoid any contact with them, putting themselves though great inconvenience to do so.
And there was justification for this for the Samaritans gave the returning Jews much opposition as they attempted to rebuild the walls and the temple of Jerusalem.
That same antagonism and hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans is widespread in the New Testament.
So you can imagine the response of the Jewish lawyer, when Jesus introduced the Good Samaritan into his story for in his mind there were no good Samaritans.
Two Jews, holding the most esteemed religious positions in Israel, have deliberately ignored the needs of a helpless, half-dead robbery victim for they were not doers of the Word.
And now, approaching the same crime scene, comes a Samaritan, the lowest possible rung on the Jewish social ladder.
This Samaritan is going to Jericho and by his arrangements with the innkeeper we know he has a definite appointment to keep in Jericho.
But he did not let his personal needs go before him taking care of this man in distress.
He did not pretend to not see the man as did the other two but drew near to the victim, rather than to veer to the far side of the road.
He treated the man’s wounds with his own oil and wine and bandaged him perhaps even using his own clothes to do so.
Placing the wounded man on his own beast he brought him to an inn, where he spent the night caring for the man. The Extra Mile!
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 man promising reimbursement to the innkeeper for additional expenses.
There is nothing more the Samaritan could have done to minister to the man on whom he had compassion. Compassion was the key!
At the conclusion of His story Jesus asks the Jewish lawyer a final question: “36Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”
The lawyer had asked who was his neighbor but Jesus asked who was neighborly among these three.
The lawyer had tried to tempt Christ to break the law and now the tables were turned on the lawyer as he was now faced with saying something good about a hated Samaritan.
In his response he could not find it in himself to pronounce the word Samaritan, and so he answers, “He that showed mercy on him.”
Twice now, Jesus has been asked a question by the lawyer and twice Jesus responds with a question.
And twice, Jesus then responded to the lawyer’s answer by telling him to “do” that which he had just said.
So Jesus twice tells 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?
I believe it is because he is talking to a man who believes and teaches that a person is saved by his works, by his law keeping.
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?”
Jesus’ answer 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 he first has to see the insufficiency of the law system he holds to 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.
We know as long as a man is propped up by some salvation system he will not turn to Christ.
As this is true with this lawyer Jesus Christ tells him to do what his system tells him to do, “Do this and live”!
An honest man would admit that he could not do what the law required and realize that he was condemned by the very law that he upheld in such high esteem.
An honest man faced with this dilemma would look for justification before God in some other way than keeping the law.
God’s mercy is all that is left to call upon when one realizes that the law cannot save a sinner who cannot possibly keep the law.
But this lawyer was not an honest man and he looked for some technicality, which would get him off the hook.
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.
Any religion is bankrupt that brings men to ignore another man who is obviously in need. Get out of the books and into the fields.
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 the only religion whereby one could enter the “kingdom of God,” and anyone who was outside was lost.
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.
Now if you are not a sinner you can live up to the demands.
But for a sinner this is impossible, and so this lawyer should realize that the law can only condemn, it cannot save a sinner.
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 that Jesus 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 suppose 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.
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.
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.”
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 fulfilling the law perfectly which God required of man.
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 telling 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: