CONTEXT Luke 10: In verse 9:51, Jesus began his journey to Jerusalem and the cross, a journey on which he will continue until his Triumphal Entry in chapter 19. Thus, while traveling to Jerusalem, he tells a story about people traveling from Jerusalem (Van Harn, 368).
In a recent prayer, Jesus characterized his disciples as "little children" to whom God had revealed great truths-and contrasted them with "the wise and the understanding" from whom God had "hidden these things" (10:21). The Parable of the Good Samaritan acts out that contrast in a story-the story of a wise and intelligent lawyer who stands up to test Jesus (v. 25) and to justify himself (v. 29)-and of two wise and intelligent men who pass by on the other side without helping (vv. 31-32)-and of a lowly Samaritan who renders the help that is needed (vv. 33-35).
In this text, the lawyer answers Jesus by stating that two things are necessary to inherit eternal life-loving God, and loving neighbor (v. 27). Several scholars have noted a link between the parable of the Good Samaritan (vv. 29-37) and the story of Martha and Mary, which follows it (vv. 38-42). The parable shows what it means to love one's neighbor, and the story of Martha and Mary shows what it means to love God.
Bock takes that one step further by linking Jesus' teaching about prayer (11:1-13) with these stories. It is only through a deep relationship with God, fostered by prayer, that we can love God and neighbor (Bock, 195).
LUKE 10:25-26. WHAT SHALL I DO?
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?"
Note: Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:34-40 parallel this Lukan text. Matthew and Luke say that the lawyer was testing Jesus, while Mark does not. Mark has Jesus commending the lawyer, saying, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). Only Luke uses the story of the lawyer to introduce the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is found only in Luke.
The lawyer's training is in the Torah. He has spent much of his life asking and answering questions about the law. The question-answer format can lead to friendly contesting, rather like athletes testing their moves on each other. Perhaps the lawyer has exhausted the local competition and is anxious to test himself against this new rabbi. Jesus has just told his disciples, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which you see, and didn't see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and didn't hear them" (vv. 23-24). Now the lawyer wants to see whether one who talks so grandly can answer a simple question (Culpepper, 227).
"Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (v. 25). His use of the word "inherit" is interesting. The control of an inheritance is in the hands of the giver-not the person who would receive the inheritance. God promised Israel that they would inherit the Promised Land (Leviticus 20:24), and everyone understood the inheritance as a gift. Of course, it is possible for a person to offend a benefactor and lose an inheritance. It is also possible to impress a benefactor and gain an inheritance. The lawyer is asking what he needs to do to impress God and thus gain the inheritance of eternal life.
"What is written in the law? How do you read it?" (v. 26). Jesus' question returns the challenge to the lawyer. "You are the expert! You have spent your life studying the law! You tell me!" Jesus' answer also steers the debate toward the scriptures, the foundation of Jewish life, and affirms the faithfulness of those scriptures to lead us aright.
LUKE 10:27-28. LOVE GOD-AND YOUR NEIGHBOR
27 And he (the lawyer) answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 28 And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
"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." (v. 27). The lawyer's answer is drawn from two scriptures: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut. 6:5) and "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). The Deuteronomy passage is part of the Shema, which Jews repeat twice each day, so it is no wonder that it comes to this lawyer's mind.
Heart refers to emotions-soul refers to vitality and consciousness-strength refers to power and drive-mind refers to intelligence (Fitzmyer, 880).
"You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live" (v. 28). The lawyer is a scholar of the law who knows the requirements of the law. He began his questioning of Jesus by asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Now Jesus tells him that he has only to do what he knew all along that he should do. Then he will live.
LUKE 10:29. WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
29 But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
"Who is my neighbor?" This is a practical question posed by a skilled debater "wanting to justify himself"-wanting to score some points in the debate. How can he obey the second commandment until he knows who his neighbor is? It is the kind of question that rabbis debate endlessly. Such debate sometimes represents true devotion to the law, but easily deteriorates into academic exercise. By continually debating the law, one can delay compliance with the law.
Note vv. 10-37 - A NEIGHBOR STORY: Jesus could have answered, "Everyone is your neighbor," but instead he tells a story that encourages us to shift our focus from the fence to the neighbor on the other side. When our eyes are focused on the fence, we cannot see our neighbor clearly. However, when we look at the neighbor, we hardly see the fence. Jesus' story might have its roots in 2 Chronicles 28:5-15. In that story, Samaritans rescued Judeans who had been defeated in battle, fed them, clothed them, anointed them, and brought them back to their home in Jericho-very much like the Samaritan will do for the traveler in Jesus' parable.
LUKE 10:30. ROBBERS LEFT HIM HALF DEAD
30 Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.
"A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho" (v. 30a). Jesus tells us little about the traveler who becomes a victim of robbers. We don't know if he is Jewish, Samaritan, or an alien. We know neither his purpose for visiting Jerusalem nor the nature of his business in Jericho.
"and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead" (v. 30b). It would be possible for passersby to determine something of the fallen man's identity by his clothing or speech, but the robbers have stripped him of his clothing and have left him unconscious, thus rendering him unidentifiable. Passersby might be quicker to stop if they could identify the man as a member of their group, but they cannot do that (Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, 42-43).
LUKE 10:31-32. THEY PASSED BY ON THE OTHER SIDE
31 And by coincidence a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Comment: Both priests and Levites are from the tribe of Levi, but priests are also descendants of Aaron (Ex. 28:1). Priests serve as mediators between humans and God, and perform sacrifices and other rituals. Levites assist the priests with these duties (Num. 3:6ff.). We expect compassion from clergy and assume that the priest and Levite will help, but they pass by on the other side. Jesus does not tell us why they fail to stop:
Whatever their reasons, Jesus' story highlights that observing the letter of the law falls short of loving God and neighbor, which is the standard that the lawyer has outlined to qualify for salvation.
We would do well, however, not to demonize the priest and the Levite. Jesus did not choose the priest and Levite because they were the worst but because they were the best. If they are terrible people, the story loses its force. We would also do well to remember the good reasons why we pass by on the other side. We too have urgent duties that will not permit delay. We too want not to get dirty. We too are afraid of stopping on a deserted road to help a stranger. We too find ourselves overwhelmed with the logistics of helping needy people. These are very real concerns, and we must acknowledge them as such.
LUKE 10:33-35. A SAMARITAN WAS MOVED WITH COMPASSION
33 But a Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.'
"But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was" (v. 33). A Samaritan village only recently refused to receive Jesus "because his face was set toward Jerusalem" (9:53). Now Jesus has opportunity to get even-to make a Samaritan the butt of a story that will be told and re-told through the ages. But, as we will see, he will do the opposite.
"when he saw him" (v. 33b). This is the first of this Samaritan's redemptive actions-he sees the wounded man. He doesn't avert his eyes. He doesn't see the wounded man as some sort of hopeless, disgusting lump of flesh. He sees a human in need and, as we will see, he feels his pain.
"he was moved with compassion" (Greek: esplanchnisthe-moved to the depths of his bowels with compassion) (v. 33c). The Jews spoke of the seat of emotion as the bowels, just as we speak of it as the heart. In both cases, the intent is to speak of that which is at the core of our emotional being-of our feelings.
"pouring on oil and wine" (v. 34). Oil and wine are not only used for dressing wounds, but are also used in Jewish worship. The priest and Levite, who handle oil and wine at the temple, fail to use them to relieve human suffering along the road.
"On the next day" (v. 35). The Samaritan treats the man's wounds, manages somehow to get him on his animal, and transports him to the nearest inn. He gives the innkeeper two denarii, two days' wages for a laborer (Matt 20:2), and promises to reimburse him for any additional requirements. His generosity to the victim gives credence to his promise of additional payment to the innkeeper.
LUKE 10:36-37. WHICH SEEMED TO BE A NEIGHBOR?
36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" 37 And he said, "The one who showed compassion to him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
"Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" (v. 36). Again Jesus turns the lawyer's question back on him.
"He who showed mercy on him" (v. 37a). The lawyer could not even bring himself to say "the Samaritan," but answered only, "The one who showed him mercy." His answer reveals that he is not yet ready to accept the Samaritan as his neighbor.
"Go and do likewise" (v. 37b). After the lawyer's first answer, Jesus said, "Do this, and you will live" (v. 28). After the lawyer's second answer, Jesus says, "Go and do likewise," but with no promise of salvation, presumably because the lawyer has revealed himself so clearly as so calculating.
Jesus is already doing likewise. Despised (Isaiah 53:3), even as the Samaritan is despised, Jesus nevertheless heals the sick and sacrifices himself to save sinners. He is the embodiment of the person that he calls us to be.
With whom do we identify in this parable. Some people feel like the wounded man in the parable, and would be delighted to have a Good Samaritan bring them relief. Others identify with the Samaritan. I personally identify with the priest and the Levite. I try to do the right thing, but human need is so overwhelming that I am tempted to pass by on the other side.
Do This and You Will Live (Luke 10:25-28)
"On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'What is written in the Law?' he replied. 'How do you read it?' He answered: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and, "Love your neighbor as yourself."' 'You have answered correctly,' Jesus replied. 'Do this and you will live.'" (10:25-28)
The lawyer's question is an important one: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Later, the Rich Young Ruler asks Jesus the same question (18:18). In essence, he is asking Jesus to capsulize what is important for a Jew to do in order to be saved. And what is more important than salvation?
But Luke tells us that the lawyer has an underlying motive, "to test Jesus." The Greek word is ekpeirazō, "put to the test, try, tempt."396 In this case, the lawyer isn't trying to tempt Jesus in the sense of lead Jesus into sin. Rather, the skilled teacher of the law is testing this unofficial, Galilean lay teacher to see how well he will answer difficult theological questions. The lawyer's motive could be simple intellectual curiosity about Jesus' insight into the Scriptures. But he has doubtless already heard Jesus speak, or heard reports of Jesus' message. So his motive, more likely, is to see if he can expose Jesus' naiveté in contrast to his own sophistication. Perhaps intellectual pride or jealousy of Jesus' immense following prompt this testing. Jesus will face many such challenges in the Judean phase of his ministry: on rendering taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:17-18: Mark 12:15; Luke 20:22-23), on divorce (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2), on the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-32), on doing some sign (Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16), and on stoning a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:6).
In this case and in others, Jesus doesn't answer the question. Instead he appeals to the expert's self-perception of being an authority, and turns the question back to him. "'What is written in the Law?' Jesus replies 'How do you read it?'" (10:26) Jesus is saying, "You're an expert on the Torah. What does your reading tell you is the answer to your question?"
The legal expert's answer shows much insight. In fact, he agrees exactly with Jesus' own assessment of the Torah's essential message: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and, "Love your neighbor as yourself," quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, respectively.
Jesus compliments him on his answer: "You have answered correctly," and so in the balance of this relationship between expert and novice, Jesus now assumes the role of expert on the Law, commenting on the rightness or wrongness of another's interpretation. The lawyer who has sought to test Jesus is now himself being tested and evaluated.
But when you think about it, Jesus' compliment is remarkable. So often Jesus has to deal with Pharisees, whose understanding of the Law is all out of proportion. They emphasize the minor details and neglect the big picture; they "strain out gnats" but "swallow camels" (Matthew 23:23-24). But this man sees the big picture. He understands, or so it would seem, "justice, mercy, and faithfulness" that the Pharisees neglect (Matthew 23:23).
The lawyer recites what Jesus has termed the Great Commandment, to love God and love one's neighbor. "Do this and you will live," is Jesus' reply to the lawyer's question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Contrary to some who interpret this passage, I don't think that the issue is "works righteousness," a salvation based on doing good works. Rather the issue is: What is the quintessential message of the Torah? Let's not import Paul's important emphasis on faith vs. works into a Gospel context where it doesn't belong.
Who Is My Neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
"But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" (10:29)
The power of the truth that the lawyer has spoken is too much for him. By his own words he has correctly stated the heart of the Law: "Love your neighbor as yourself," and is feeling convicted by it. After all, he might say, the context of the verse he had quoted limits the definition of "neighbor": "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)
So, in typical lawyer fashion, he seeks to defend his position by closely defining words. What is your definition of "neighbor," he asks Jesus. At this point we see an exchange between a pair of rabbis, teachers. One has stated the essence of the law, and the other has acknowledged the truth of his answer. Now the first asks the second to clarify the answer. The rabbinical writings of the Talmud are full of carefully reasoned legal distinctions about when a law is in effect, and when it is not.
The Jews typically interpreted "neighbor," meaning "one who is near," in terms of members of the same people and religious community, that is, fellow Jews (as in Matthew 5:43-48). The Pharisees tended to exclude "ordinary people" from their definition. The Qumran community excluded "the sons of darkness" from their definition of neighbors.397
The lawyer agrees that the essence of the Torah is to love one's neighbor as oneself, but then seeks to limit the application of this to fellow Jews only. Love your own race and faith community, he believes, and you have fulfilled the law.
Luke tells us that his first motive is to "test" Jesus; his second motive is to "justify himself," to defend his own limited interpretation of the Torah. Here is a scholar struggling with integrity between his beliefs and actions.
Parables and Stories
"In reply Jesus said: 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho....'" (10:30)
If someone were to ask you the definition of "neighbor," you might respond with a carefully-worded definition, the kind of phrase you find in Webster's Dictionary. But Jesus answers with a parable. Parables are stories told to make a point. They aren't actual history, but they capture true-to-life details in such a way that hearers' identify with the elements of the story and can grasp the spiritual lesson of the story. There was no actual Good Samaritan that Jesus is referring to. But he is calling upon his hearers' awareness of the dangers of traveling alone on the Jericho-Jerusalem road, and from there, presenting a hypothetical situation designed to make a point.
Robbers on the Jericho Road (Luke 10:30)
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead." (10:30)
Jerusalem is located along the ridge of coastal mountains running north and south in Palestine. Jericho, on
the other hand is located in the plain of the Jordan River, in a geological rift zone hundreds of feet below sea level. The 17 mile road that connects these two cities descends some 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) through desert and rocky country that could easily hide brigands or bandits. Josephus notes that Pompey destroyed a group of brigands here, and Jerome spoke of Arab robbers in his time.398 Law and order hasn't eliminated robbery. American legend thrives on stories of Jesse James robbing stage coaches. Modern-day city dwellers live in fear of mugging on streets and in subways.
The robbers on the Jericho Road were pretty desperate. Even if a man had little of value, they would attack him for the value of his clothing alone. But they didn't just threaten him and take his clothing. They stripped him of his clothing and then beat him, probably with wood staffs. The Greek uses two words to describe the beating: epitithēmi, "to lay on, inflict"399 and plēgē, "blow, stroke."400 They beat him in order to incapacitate him from following them, or perhaps to intimidate him from trying to identify them. Apparently, they didn't seek to kill him, however. Jesus says that they left him literally "half-dead" (Greek hēmithanēs). Jesus isn't telling of an actual man, of course, but adding some details in order to paint a picture. His listeners are now eager to see what happens to the unfortunate man.
Priests and Levites (Luke 10:31-32)
"A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side." (10:31-32)
Jesus places in his story two well-known figures in society, priests and Levites. The priest would be returning to Jericho from service in the temple at Jerusalem -- Jericho was known as a principal residence for priests.401 In New Testament times, Levites were an order of cultic officials, inferior to the priests, but still a privileged group in society, responsible for the liturgy in the Temple and for policing the Temple.402 While both priests and Levites were from the tribe of Levi (descendants of Jacob's son Levi), the priests were also descendents of Aaron, the first High Priest.
In Jesus' story, both the priest and Levite see the wounded man and pass by on the other side of the road. They see the man's need but choose not to help.
"Typical!" the hearers are thinking. There were probably various anti-clerical stories circulating among the populace, and you can almost see Jesus' hearers nodding and smiling at the caricature. I'm sure that the legend of the hypocritical clergyman has been circulating since Biblical times.
The Excuse of Religious Purity
Some believe that the priest and Levite might have had some justification for their actions. After all, as temple officials they were especially concerned about ceremonial cleanness. The Law stated that the high priest "must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother" (Leviticus 21:11). Even a regular priest "will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse" (Leviticus 22:4; Ezekiel 24:25). What if the man lying beaten by the side of the road were dead? The man may not have been stirring. One can't be too careful, you know. According to scholar J. Mann, the Pharisees held that a priest would not be defiled by touching a dead body when there was nobody else available to perform the burial, but the Sadducees (that may have included many of the priests) contended that he would be defiled.403
On the other hand, the law is pretty clear about helping those who are in need, both man and beast, friend and foe -- even if he is your enemy!
"If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it." (Exodus 23:4-5)
"Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him." (Proverbs 24:17-18)
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." (Proverbs 25:21-22)
And, of course, the very verse the lawyer had quoted makes the priest's and the Levite's obligations clear: "Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:18).
Placing religious purity over helping a person who was perhaps still alive is gross hard-heartedness and selfishness. And walking on the other side of the road displays a deliberate "I don't want to know!" attitude. The less they saw about the man's condition, the less they would feel obligated to help him. After all, he might be dead and then there would be nothing they could be obligated to do. Our modern-day equivalent of this attitude is, "I don't want to get involved."
Samaritans, the Hated Step-Brothers
A priest, a Levite ... and the hearers would be expecting a Jewish layman to be the third and climatic character. Three people or situations are often found in stories of that period and our own (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; 14:18-20; 20:10-12). But, no. Jesus introduces a Samaritan into the story.
The Samaritans were particularly hated in Jesus' day. They lived in an area south of Galilee and north of Judea, part of the old Northern Kingdom of Israel. In 721 BC Israel was conquered by Assyria, and Sargon II conducted a mass deportation of the entire region, carrying off some 27,270 captives and resettling the area with colonists from other parts of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 17:24).404 Their descendents were looked upon as half-breeds and heretics by the Jews of Jerusalem. Though Samaritans believed in the Torah, they worshipped at Mt. Gerizim rather than Jerusalem (John 4:20-22). At times, relations between the Jews and Samaritans had been civil, but in Jesus' day feelings were definitely hostile. Sometime between 6 and 9 AD at midnight during a Passover, some Samaritans had deliberately scattered bones in the Jerusalem Temple in order to desecrate it.405 The Jews were outraged! What remained now was disdain and hatred, as John observed: "Jews do not associate with Samaritans" (John 4:9b).
For Jesus to introduce the Samaritan as the caring person, after a priest and a Levite had neglected mercy, must have been intended as an especially biting commentary on what passed for "mercy" among the pillars of Judaism.
Taking Pity upon the Man (Luke 10:33)
"But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him."
The Samaritan traveler doesn't move over to the other side of the road, but when he sees the wounded man he takes pity on him. The word translated "pity" is Greek splanchizomai, "have pity, feel sympathy," from splanchnon, literally, "inward parts, entrails," figuratively of the seat of the emotions, in our usage, "heart."406 Love, sympathy, and mercy are motivated by the need of another, while withholding mercy is essentially an act of selfishness, of self-protection.
Binding Up His Wounds (Luke 10:34a)
"He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine." (10:34a)
The Samaritan binds up the wounds (Greek trauma) of the injured man, perhaps with his own head covering or by tearing strips from his garment. The Samaritan also pours on oil and wine as healing agents. Olive oil was widely employed to keep exposed parts of the skin supple, to relieve chafing, to soften wounds, and to heal bruises and lacerations.407 We can see something of the treatment of wounds in a passage from Isaiah that speaks in literal terms about spiritual sickness:
"From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness -- only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil." (Isaiah 1:6)
Wine, perhaps, was poured on for cleansing. Though they had no knowledge of germ theory, we know that wine, which ferments naturally to about 7% to 15% alcohol, would have had some disinfectant properties.408
Prepaying the Man's Hotel Bill (Luke 10:34b-35)
"Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.'" (10:34b-35)
The Samaritan's love of his neighbor proved costly. He used his own supplies to cleanse and soothe the man's wounds, his own clothing to bandage him, his own animal to carry him while the Samaritan himself walked, his own money to pay for his care, and his own reputation and credit to vouch for any further expenses the man's care would require. Love can be costly. But if we have the means to help, we are to extend ourselves. The Apostle John taught,
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 Jn 3:17-18)
There wasn't an emergency room where the Samaritan could take the man. Instead, he took him to a hotel or "motel" and cared for the man himself that night. Edersheim sees the inn as a khan or hostelry, found by the side of roads, providing free lodging to the traveler. They also provided food for both man and beast, for which they would charge.409
It seems likely that the Samaritan was a merchant who frequently traveled this way and had stayed at this inn before. He trusts the innkeeper enough to advance him money to care for the wounded man. And he promises the innkeeper -- who also seems to trust the Samaritan -- to reimburse him for any additional costs when he returns from his trip. The Samaritan's mercy is a generous mercy. A mercy that doesn't just keep the letter of the law, but its spirit as well. "Whatever he needs," is the limit of his mercy.
Who Was Neighbor to the Man? (Luke 10:36-37a)
("'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'" 10:36-37a)
Now Jesus punches home his point. He asks the lawyer which of the three proved to be a neighbor to the wounded man, and the lawyer is forced to reply, "The one who had mercy on him."
The Greek word used for mercy is eleos. In classical Greek, eleos is the emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else. The New Testament meaning of eleos draws on the Hebrew concept of hesed, faithfulness between individuals that results in human kindness, mercy, and pity.410 One summary of godly piety is found in Micah 6:8:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy (Hebrew hesed, Greek Septuagint eleos), and to walk humbly with your God."
Mercy is required of us (Isaiah 58:6-7; Hosea 6:6). Jesus commands his disciples very specifically: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).
The lawyer began by asking for a definition of "neighbor" in order to justify limiting his love to his fellow Jews only. Jesus doesn't define "neighbor" in so many words, but his story makes it clear that our neighbor is whoever has a need. It doesn't matter who they are. Jesus' command to love our neighbor as ourselves knows no self-satisfying limits.
Go and Do Likewise (Luke 10:37b)
"Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (10:37b)
Jesus isn't content just to define what "neighbor" means. He commands us to do as the Samaritan does, to show mercy to our fellow man who is in need.
Are Christians to be "do-gooders"? Yes, I suppose. But our motivation for doing good must be love for others, an interest in meeting their basic needs, a heart of mercy that is moved by compassion.
I must ask myself, what we -- as disciples of Jesus -- are supposed to learn from this story. And for me the answer is to examine my own heart. What motivates me? How much have selfishness and a dogged adherence to my own agenda leached away the mercy that Jesus holds dear and wants to flourish in my heart through his Holy Spirit? I may be efficient, but am I merciful? When "push comes to shove" do I put myself first, or do I put the needs of others first? I think of the words to the song,
For me, Jesus' command, "Go and do likewise," means that I must value acts of mercy over personal priorities. What does it mean for you?
Prayer: Father, the parable of the Good Samaritan reminds me that sometimes I seek to justify my own selfishness. I'm a lot like the lawyer. I've studied much and know a great deal about theology and the Bible. But knowledge isn't what you seek. It is my heart that you seek, and the acts of love and mercy that should flow freely out of my heart. Forgive me, Lord, for my selfishness. Forgive me for excusing myself. And let your flame of love and mercy flare up afresh in my heart and consume my selfish tendencies. I pray this as a disciple -- in Jesus' name. Amen.
Introduction: We have before us this evening a well-known passage of the Bible. The Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Society is so familiar with the story there are at least half a dozen Hospitals in the US named after the Good Samaritan. So many sermons have been dedicated to it, searching the phrase "Sermon on the Good Samaritan" in Google returns over 481,000 results.
Besides all of you are familiar with the story you might ask why do I want to throw another sermon to the lot. Three important reasons.
Therefore in this sermon, I hope to probe the parable a little deeper in order to understand what it really means and what must we do?
Read Luke 10:25-37
The precise motive behind the Lawyer's question isn't clear. It's the question that matters. "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The question itself contradicts the core of Jesus' teaching because the inheritance of any form is the result of a relationship. It's not a goal achieved through effort. Likewise, eternal life is a gift we inherit from God through our relationship with him. Not something we earn through works of righteousness.
Jesus answered with a counter question. He asked, "What is written in the law? How do you understand it?" The Lawyer answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18) The Lawyer was right but got trapped. (He sought to prove that eternal life required the fulfillment of the Law. But his answer proved otherwise.)
Then he pulled out a wild card, in an attempt to justify himself. "Who is my neighbor?" In Jewish culture, only a fellow Jew was considered to be a neighbor. Gentiles weren't considered as neighbors. The Lawyer was implying he has fulfilled the Law by treating his fellow Jew with respect in keeping with the Law. Therefore he has earned eternal life by complying with the Law, not through a personal relationship with God. Our friend thought he finally had Jesus. But Jesus is smarter and wiser. He told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are introduced to four individuals.
In Jesus' time, the road from Jericho to Jerusalem was 18 miles long. May be it was not a road at all but a narrow strip of path sandwiched in between rocky mountains. Even today most parts of the highway connecting Jerusalem with Jericho runs in between mountains. It was common for the travelers of ancient times on this path to come under the attack of the bandits and thieves who occupied the mountains.
This Jew was one such victim. (Jesus didn't say he was but he was speaking to a Jew.) Back then clothes were rare and high in value. A Priest passed by him but did nothing to help. (In the Jewish culture a Priest was a very important person and a symbol of hope. It still is in any other culture also.) He passed by on the other side deliberately putting a safe distance between himself and the dying man. Maybe he feared ceremonial uncleanliness or was afraid the bandits were still around. The Bible doesn't say? The point is the Priest failed to be a neighbor.
Then passed by a Levite. I assume hierarchy wise Levites were little lower than the Priests. Nevertheless, they were a well-respected group in Jewish society. The Levite also passed by the other side of the road. Maybe he too feared ceremonial uncleanliness or was afraid the bandits were still around.
The history of the feud between Jews and Samaritans is as old as 722 B.C. The year the Assyrians conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity. Shortly afterward the invaders brought in Gentile Colonists to resettle the land. These foreigners brought with them their pagan idols, which the remaining Jews began to worship alongside the God of Israel. Intermarriages also took place. The Samaritans were descendants of these Jews who mingled with the Gentiles. Therefore the other Jews despised the Samaritans.
It was such a man that became the neighbor to the fallen Jew. Did he know the Law of Moses? Jesus didn't tell. But he said this, "But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him." Then Jesus closed the story with another question. "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The Lawyer knows the answer but he cannot even bring himself to mention the man's race. He is picky about his neighbors. He answered, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus said, "Go and do likewise." By telling this parable Jesus wanted us to understand,
Isn't it interesting in the 10 Commandments only the first 2 commandments deal with our relationship with God? The other 8 deals with our relationship with humans.
Jesus said "Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose." (Matthew 5:17 - NLT) We are not under the Law. But when we love others and show mercy its purpose is accomplished spontaneously which makes us heirs of eternal life.
Jesus showed one cannot hate another human being and still claim to love God. Our love for God and man is best expressed in showing mercy to people in need. Let us show mercy wholeheartedly and God will reward us with eternal life.
Luke 24:13-35 - EXEGESIS
Fantastic! Outstanding! Incredible! Thanks to blockbuster movies, thrill rides, and Madison Avenue ad campaigns, we have come to expect that if life isn't "sensational," something must be wrong. If we are not careful, we can apply those expectations to our spiritual journey and fail to see the hand of God in the ordinary events of life. Even more tragic, we might fail to recognize His loving care for us in the midst of trials.
Let's face it, life typically isn't fantastic. Usually, life is ordinary and sometimes painful. But that is when we do the most learning and growing. That is when we have the greatest opportunity to encounter the risen Jesus . . . if we have eyes to see.
1. Understand the Setting (Luke 24:13-16)
Prior to His arrest, Jesus traveled up and down the strip of land once ruled by David and Solomon, inviting the people of Israel to become a part of His kingdom, promising abundant life. His followers fully expected that He would become their king and that Israel would again be prosperous and free. He was their Messiah. But on one fateful Friday afternoon, as the sun fell behind the horizon, the Son of God hung cold and lifeless on a Roman cross just outside the city walls.
As the sun rose on Sunday morning and the Passover feast came to an end, two of Jesus's followers, disillusioned and resolving to leave their foolish dreams in Jerusalem, left for home. The dejected pair began the seven-mile walk to Emmaus even as rumors of resurrection circulated among the ranks of Jesus's disciples (Luke 24:13).
Luke describes the disciples' conversation as bantering ideas back and forth with great emotion in a shared search for answers (24:14-16). The Greek phrase homileo suzeteo, "talking and discussing" (24:15), would be more literally translated as "conversing" and "disputing." The disillusioned followers desperately wanted to know why their expectations of the Messiah had come to such a tragic end.
2. A Revealing Question (Luke 24:17-29)
Luke employed a clever narrative device called literary irony, in which the reader is aware of important facts that are hidden from the characters.
And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" (Luke 24:14-17)
Jesus asked a question designed to engage the men in conversation, but Cleopas' reply reveals a delightful paradox for the reader: "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" (24:18). Of course, if anyone understood what had happened, it was Jesus! They did not believe Jesus had risen from the dead, so they were left with three faulty perspectives.
First, their viewpoint lacked a spiritual dimension, leaving them with a human understanding of the events. Take note of how Cleopas characterized the death of Jesus. Don't miss the lack of any divine involvement.
Second, their own agenda determined their expectations. Many disciples made the mistake of thinking that the Messiah would merely recapture the glory days of King David. In other words, they hoped Jesus would bring Israel the same power and prosperity she once enjoyed, only magnified and multiplied. Given their exclusive worship of God, this would not be an inappropriate wish. But compared to the reality that lay before them-Roman oppression and a dead Messiah-their hopes for glory seemed to have been utterly destroyed.
Third, they failed to acknowledge the resurrection. If these two followers believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, two things would have been true. First, they would have been walking toward Jerusalem to see the risen Lord, not away. Second, they would have seen the trials, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus as the fulfillment of all He promised, not as the end of their hopes.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus's life were originally documents intended to be read aloud in Christian gatherings. When the reader reached the part of the story in which Cleopas recounted the events of the past three days, the tension among the listeners must have been unbearable, because the two followers simply did not have the eyes to see what should have been plainly visible (24:16).
Finally, Jesus broke His silence to bring a reproof, ask a question, and offer an explanation. In the reproof, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!" (24:25), Jesus demonstrated that the two followers knew the contents of Scripture but did not accept its message as truth. As a result, they failed to see God's sovereign plan. His question, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" pointed to the reason for their unbelief (24:26). They had confused their own expectations with the hope God was offering, and they had failed to see God's ultimate purpose.
To help the two followers see, Jesus reviewed the entire history of Israel from the time of the Exodus to His own resurrection, highlighting God's plan for the Messiah (24:27).
3. A Fascinating Dinner (Luke 24:30-35)
In keeping with ancient Near Eastern rules of hospitality, the two followers then invited the "stranger" to stay the night. Jesus accepted their offer, yet maintained His cover in order to complete the lesson He had begun teaching them just outside Jerusalem.
According to Luke 24:16, their eyes were prevented from recognizing Jesus. He revealed His identity only after taking great pains to explain to them "the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" (24:27).
Luke concludes this story with another bit of irony. The disciples had been staring into the face of the risen Jesus, yet they were prevented from seeing Him until they buried their faulty expectations. Then, a careful review of the Scriptures gave them a divine perspective on what they once saw as dismal circumstances. Once their eyes were opened to the reality and implications of the resurrection, Jesus became visible to their physical eyes. The Greek phrase ophthalmos dianoigo epiginosko, translated "eyes were opened and they recognized Him," literally means "their eyes were completely opened" and "they came to fully comprehend Him." This action was more than a mere recognition of His features. They came to recognize Jesus in all His significance as the Messiah, the Son of God, and their risen Lord! Then Jesus literally became "invisible"-aphantos-meaning that He suddenly vanished from their midst once their eyes were open. Now, their new, resurrected hope carried them back to Jerusalem to bear the good news to others (24:33-35).
As Luke tells the story of the two despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus, we cannot help but identify with their pain. We, too, are pilgrims on a journey through life. We, too, despair of life's circumstances from time to time. We, too, lose heart when our expectations come to a tragic end. But remember, every trial is an opportunity to discover what God wants us to see.
As in the case of the two followers on the road to Emmaus, we must allow God to open our eyes. While this is something He must do on our behalf, we can nonetheless make the process less difficult in four specific ways.
Circumstances, especially those involving loss, are usually perceived as difficult because reality does not mesh with our expectations. The two followers on the road to Emmaus undoubtedly felt utterly alone as they mourned the death of their dreams. During their suffering, God was indeed nearby, and He allowed their pain to continue until their own desires no longer held them captive.
Like the two on the road to Emmaus, you do not travel alone. God is with you. Are you willing to see Him?
Luke 24:13-35 - Extra Commentary
We have before us this morning one of the most vivid and insightful accounts of our Lord's appearances after His resurrection. Luke is the only one of the four gospel writers to include this story. It is a story that reveals to us not only something about who we are, but how Jesus opens our eyes to see Him for who He is and about how we can come to know Him.
The journey to Emmaus is both a literal and a spiritual journey. On one hand it recounts the story of two disciples who, after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, walk seven miles from Jerusalem to their village of Emmaus. On the other hand, it outlines for us the journey that we all take from not recognizing Jesus, to understanding what the Scripture says about Him, to recognizing Him for who He is, and finally to our giving witness of what we have experienced.
Notice with me, as we celebrate our Lord's resurrection this morning, five things from this passage.
Although the disciples knew who Jesus was, they did not recognize Him. They knew a lot about Him. They had been witnesses to all those things that had happened in Jerusalem. They had heard, no doubt, on many occasions the things Jesus had testified about Himself. Yet, they were not able to recognize Jesus when they met Him.
There were several reasons they did not recognize Jesus:
The original language conveys the sense that they were kept from recognizing Him because God had a purpose in blinding their eyes from reality. Jesus is not being cruel here. His gradual revelation of Himself allows them to learn certain lessons about trusting God's promises. The disciples had been told about these events many times, but they had not believed.
They had a preconceived idea of who Jesus was, what He had come to do, and how He should do it. But when things did not turn out like they thought they should, they dismissed the whole thing as a mere failure, as misplaced hope and trust.
While God always has a plan, we are not always privy to that plan. When things don't turn out like we expect, instead of giving up and admitting defeat, perhaps we would be wise to see things differently, to see if maybe God is up to something we simply do not understand.
They had heard the reports of the women who went to the tomb. They had seen the empty tomb for themselves and yet they had not believed. The supernatural working of God to raise Jesus from the dead was outside their paradigm. They had never seriously considered who Jesus was.
We need to be careful not to make the same mistake, to discount what God has done simply because we cannot explain it or understand it. While God often uses natural things to accomplish His will, He also does things we can neither explain nor understand. These two disciples knew something had happened, but it was beyond their level of faith to see things as they truly were.
Just because they knew about Jesus does not mean they knew Him. Just because they could see Him does not mean they could see who He was. Many people today know who Jesus is. They have heard about Him, read about Him, use His name, and many even claim to know Him. They would not recognized Him if they saw Him. Their eyes have not been opened. Knowing about Him and knowing Him are two different things.
Secondly notice that ...
Verse 27 says, "Then beginning with Moses and from all the prophets Jesus interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scripture."
While we do not know the specific passages Jesus used, we know He opened to them the Scriptures with a view toward showing them how all the Old Testament pointed to Him as its fulfillment.
Perhaps Jesus began with Genesis 3:15, where God cursed the serpent saying, "I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. And He will strike your head and you will strike His heel."
From there maybe He pointed them to Deuteronomy 18:15, which says, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him."
And from there to Isaiah 7:14 where God says, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son and name Him Immanuel."
From there Jesus could have taken them to Isaiah 53:3: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like one people turned away from; He was despised, and we did not value Him."
Perhaps Jesus showed them what Isaiah 53:7 says: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep silent before His shearers, He did not open His mouth."
Maybe Jesus quoted to them Zechariah 12:10: "Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn."
We know that Jesus walked them through the entirety of the revelation to show how it gave witness to who He was, why He had come, and why it was necessary. Jesus wanted them to see that if they would only believe what the Scriptures say about Him, they would understand why He came and why He had to suffer. They would have known who He was.
Scripture gives testimony of who Jesus is. He uses it today to open the eyes of those who do not know Him.
Luke 16:31: "If they don't listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead."
John 1:45: "Philip found Nathaniel and told him, 'We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!'"
In John 5:46: "For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me."
Many people will try to tell you who Jesus is. They will tell you He is one of many ways to get to Heaven. They will tell you He was a good man, a great prophet, a good teacher, or a rebel who defied the Roman authorities. But outside of a knowledge of Scripture you will never have a proper understanding of who Jesus is.
That is one of the reasons it is so important to believe in that all of Scripture is God's word. For if it is untrustworthy at any point then it can be untrustworthy at every point. It is either all God's word or it is not His word at all. When you know the Scriptures, they will build your faith, and only through faith can you come to Jesus. The truth of Scripture about Jesus leads to personal faith in Jesus.
God prevented these two disciples from recognizing Jesus to convey a deep truth: Even if we were to see, we might still not believe. We must trust the testimony of Scripture.
Jesus tells us that we must have the scriptural truth to understand who He is. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
Outside of the word of God there is no reliable witness to who Jesus really is.
The scripture tells us the truth about Jesus.
But look in verse 30...
It was only as they had fellowship with Jesus that He disclosed Himself to them. Jesus reveals Himself to those whose eyes He has opened through the truths of His Word.
It is not without significance that it is around the supper table that the disciples' are opened and they see Jesus for who He really is. After the resurrection, many of the appearances of Jesus are associated with table fellowship. This is true here, in Luke 24:41-43, in Acts 1:4, and in John 21:9-15. In the intimacy of fellowship Jesus reveals Himself to us. His working in our lives becomes clearer, and His provision and protection come into focus.
But when they recognized Him He disappeared. Fellowship with Him was not going to depend on their ability to see Him, but rather upon their taking Him at His word.
And notice finally their response. Once they recognized Him, they could not help but share Him.
When your eyes have been opened, you will want others to have their eyes opened.
Can you imagine the excitement they must have felt? They said to one another, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" Their encounter with Jesus had been emotional. It had stirred them on the inside. It had moved their very hearts. And once moved they could not help but share.
That very hour, dark as it was, late as it was, dangerous as the road was, they left for Jerusalem. They gave witness that Jesus was risen, that He had walked with them and talked with them, explained the Scriptures to them, and broke bread at their table.
All who have experienced the risen Savior should be moved with similar emotions. All who have come to know Him should react the same way. We should not be able to contain it. Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed."
Do you know Jesus this morning? Have your eyes ever been opened to who He is and what He has done for you? Do you know that He walks with you and talks with you? Can you testify to His presence in your life? Do you have fellowship with Him? Has your experience with Him been so real, so moving, so life changing that it has caused you to tell others about Him? What will you do with Jesus this morning?