THE parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37, is a well known one, often quoted to children in schools and Sunday schools to illustrate that we should be helpful to those around us. But the wisdom that can be gleaned from the parable is worth much more than that. When our Lord Jesus spoke, His words carried tremendous value and an incredible depth of wisdom and power that changed lives.
The background to the parable was that several Jewish people were beginning to take offense to Jesus and His teaching, especially after He sent out 70 of his disciples into the neighboring towns to cast our demons, heal the sick, and in general, advance the kingdom of God. These disciples returned victorious after having done the work that God sent them out to do. Many of the beneficiaries of these miracles were not Jewish peoples, hence the ruffling of Jewish feathers. The Bible says in verse 25 of Luke 10, that a ‘certain lawyer stood up and tempted Him’ (KJV). The Jews sought to trap Jesus because they didn’t like what He was saying and doing, and this ‘certain lawyer’ was part of that group. Let us never come to Church to test God, but let us always come to church to worship Him.
The question the lawyer asked the Lord, was not overly complicated. In fact, he sought to provoke the Lord by asking Him a question that as a lawyer, he would have known the answer to. He didn’t ask the question to find out the answer, but to trap the Lord. And our Lord didn’t get provoked. Rather than get tied up in unnecessary arguments our Lord reached out to the person and didn’t really answer the question at all. In verse 28, our Lord says, ‘you will live’. But the question that the lawyer asked him was about eternal life. Praise God that He does not always answer our questions in the way we expect Him to, but He will always answer us in the way that we need it, in the way that is most beneficial for us. The Good Samaritan parable is not a story about the way to heaven, it is a story about the way to live.
Then the lawyer asked Him another obvious question. “Who are my neighbours?” And the Lord gave him a long explanation, which is popularly known as the story of the Good Samaritan. There are various actors in this story.
The man waylaid by thieves – He was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Generally Jewish people don’t go down that route. Whoever travelled that way, would have had to turn his back to God (Jerusalem). Spiritually, the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is considered backsliding. Jerusalem is considered the city of God, it was where the Temple was situated. Geographically it was located on a higher plane. Jericho was a cursed city (Joshua 5).
The Priest – a very respected figure in society. The priests represented the Law, religious authority, holiness and values of God. They were associated with the Temple.
The Levite – represented sacrifice and traditions. They were the keepers of the Law. They were religious policemen.
The Samaritan – Samaritan’s were from Samaria and were hated by the Jews, who thought they were an unclean race. Historically Samaritans were descendants of Jewish people who intermarried outside of the Jewish race. This was strictly forbidden in Old Testament times. Therefore the Jewish people considered them unclean and not holy.
The man fell among thieves. Many people would have thought this was fitting punishment for a backslidden man on his way to Jericho. Our Lord goes on to say that the thieves left the man on the side of the road, in a half dead state and the Priest and Levite passed by the same way. Our Lord does not say whether they were going from Jerusalem to Jericho or the other way around. Both the Levite and Priest saw the man and passed on the other side. Religion went around the man and did nothing for him.
Then came the Samaritan. Praise God that one who was not-so-perfect in man’s eyes, found a place in the story. That gives us hope that we too will find out names in the Book of Life in the final analysis. The Samaritan drew near the half dead man and had compassion on him. He bound his wounds and poured oil (signifying the provision of God) and wine (signifying the joy of the Holy Spirit). He took him to an inn and spent the night with him there caring for him. The next morning, he departed leaving the injured man in the care of the innkeeper and gave him some money, 2 coins. Some scholars say that the 2 coins are the Old and New Testaments and others say that the 2 coins denote the Law and Grace.
There are 3 principles that we can learn from this parable.
Be willing to give away to make your life better. Cultivate a desire to make someone else’s life better.
Be willing to try and take a chance, even on the half-dead. Be willing to take meaningful risks. Take risks by faith, after praying. Sometimes to taste success, we have to be bold.
Be willing to offer help to people who may not be able to return the favour. Our favour comes from God.
The Samaritan bears a resemblance to our Lord Jesus, who has compassion on each of us and takes care of us, binding our wounds and healing us in every area of our lives. This is what we are called to do in the lives of people we come in contact with.
The writer is the pastor in-charge of Bethel AG International Worship Center in Bangalore, India.