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The Good Samaritan

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV) is related as follows:

“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? 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 neighbour as yourself. And He said to him, You have answered rightly; do this and you will live. But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 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. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and 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. 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. So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, He who showed mercy on him. Then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.”

The lawyer basically wanted to know what needs to be done to inherit eternal life, i.e. how he could be saved. During the time before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus the law still prevailed. This man thus knew that the law demanded of him to have godlike life in his heart as only that would enable him to get into the right relationship with God and his neighbour. But as he was unconcerned about other people he didn’t really want to comply with this demand. In order to justify his selfish form of godliness he then asked who his neighbour was.

In reply to this question the Lord Jesus told a parable in which He explained that in the context of people’s spiritual need all are our neighbours – also those of other nations. God expects us to proclaim the Gospel to all with whom our ways cross, so they can be delivered from Satan’s power and inherit eternal life. In His reply the Lord Jesus also proclaimed the New Testament Gospel of salvation to the lawyer, as in the final analysis, Jesus Himself is the Good Samaritan who offers His saving grace to all people who have been overpowered along the way of life by the great robber, Satan. Those who have been saved by Christ are called upon to go out into the roads to proclaim this message of salvation to other victims of the devil.

The unfortunate man in this parable travelled on a lonely road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was a winding road which, within 30 kilometres, descended about 900 metres from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley. Because of the many ravines through which the road passed a traveller was often out of sight from other travellers. It was consequently easy for robbers to hide along the roadside and attack and rob the travellers.

The man in the parable was seized by robbers, almost beaten to death, and robbed of all his possessions. The wounded man, who could not even get on his feet to continue with his journey, was left lying next to the road.

The interpretation of this parable can be applied on three levels, i.e. (1) compassion to people who are afflicted, (2) the spiritual salvation of and caring for the victims of Satan, and (3) the relationship between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus.

Compassion

The robbed and wounded man was far from his home and family when he urgently needed help. Where he was lying he was dependent upon the assistance of the first stranger who would pass by. He was in great danger and without help he wouldn’t have survived.

According to this parable there rests a moral obligation on everyone who is near a suffering person to lend a helping hand by rendering medical and material assistance to the victim with a view to saving his life. He also needs help to get out of the danger zone. It does not matter whether this person is a foreigner or even an enemy – if you are close to him, and therefore his “neighbour”, you are obliged to help him.

It is conspicuous that it was a stranger who helped this man. Members of the victim’s own people did not take notice of him and passed by on the other side. They were only concerned about their own welfare.

An obligation to show kind heartedness to those who suffer is clearly determined in this parable.   We should remember that all people, the unsaved as well, were created in the image of God. The Lord Jesus identifies with their sorrows and problems and expects of His disciples to visit, help and care for them as best they can. He said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me” (Matt. 24:42-43). Jesus’ hearers were like that priest and Levite who looked the other way and said, “I am not concerned with that man or his problems – he can make do!”

Spiritual care

Victims should be assisted practically, but if we regard the rendering of material assistance as sufficient we would greatly fail in our duty. Physical assistance of the victim should also lead to meeting his spiritual need as that is by far his biggest problem. Such people are more open to spiritual counselling when great sacrifices have been made to meet their other needs. However, the important aspect of spiritual outreach to those in distress is often lacking in relief projects and the offering of support services. For instance, lending a helping hand to alcoholics and drug addicts by trying to rehabilitate them without giving any attention to their deep spiritual needs would be a futile exercise. It is only the Lord Jesus who can break their bonds of sin and unrighteousness and put them on the road to true restoration.

Christ primarily used this parable to describe His own role as the Saviour of lost humanity. He was an outcast among his own people. The Samaritans were also outcasts. Previously they were Jews who intermarried with Gentile nations and consequently were no longer regarded or accepted as Jews. They were a despised people. Likewise, Jesus was rejected as Messiah – the leaders of the nation ostracised Him and tried to kill Him.

In spite of this attitude Jesus was the one who had compassion on those who were spiritually miserable, poor, blind and naked. The scribes and Pharisees couldn’t do anything to alleviate the desperate spiritual plight of their own people; they are the ones who pass by on the other side. But the Lord Jesus came to save them, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In the spiritual application of this parable we are all seen as being on the journey between Jericho and Jerusalem. Along this road there are robbers lying in wait for us. They are intent on depriving us of our spiritual heritage and also to kill us. The robbers represent the devil and his henchmen.

The victims of Satan are lying alongside the way and they will die in their sin if nobody takes pity on them. Their own religious leaders are not interested in their problems – they cannot or do not want to help. But the Good Samaritan, Jesus, comes along and helps the dying victims by pouring wine and oil on their wounds. The wine points to His blood that was shed for our salvation: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. He regenerates, fills, strengthens, comforts and anoints us.

The Lord Jesus raises this man and helps him to continue with his journey as a renewed person. From now on he would never again be alone as he has a Friend who will not forsake him along the way of life. The Samaritan put the man on his animal and brought him to an inn. “Blessed be the Lord who bears our burdens and carries us day by day” (Ps. 68:19; AB). At the inn the Samaritan pays for the man’s accommodation. In this way the Lord tells us that He does not only save us but supplies all our needs according to the riches of His grace (Phil. 4:19).

Concerning relationships this parable teaches us that God, through Jesus Christ, enters into a relationship with lost and destitute people by saving them, welcoming them as sons and daughters into His family, and being with them always.

Although we are committed to helping others and to proclaiming the gospel to them, this parable does not call for the forging of intimate social ties with people of diverse cultures. Humanists who teach a social gospel wrongly see such connotations in the parable. An obligation towards spiritual and material assistance should not be confused with the relationships which should, according to the Bible, be maintained on the level of everyday life among members of particular families, societies and cultural groups.

He is coming again!

There is also a prophetic application of this parable. Jesus Christ came to earth to seek and save dying sinners on the way of life, wherever they are. The care for the wounded man in the inn underscores the fact that He will continually provide for and meet our future spiritual needs.

The Good Samaritan paid the innkeeper two denarii (two days’ wages) for the wounded man’s accommodation and care over the following two days. At his departure he told the innkeeper that he would reimburse him at his return for any extra expenses he might have. The indication was that the Good Samaritan would return after two days.

According to 2 Peter 3:8, one day is like a thousand years to the Lord. Approximately two thousand years after His first coming to provide for the salvation of sinners He will come again. He will bring His reward with him for all those who have incurred expenses in caring for His disciples. He said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me to give to every one according to his works” (Rev. 22:12).

We know that two days, or two thousand years, have virtually expired between the first and second coming of Christ. His ministry was early in the first millennium and we are now early in the third millennium after Christ. We are now living in the time when the Bridegroom delays His coming because there are still many people who have been overcome by the great robber on the way of life. They urgently need help.

Go out on the highways and country roads and gather spiritually dying people so that the Lord’s house can be filled. You will receive reward if you not only think about yourself but lend a helping hand to people in their need: “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so-doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods” (Matt. 24:46-47).

We have all been sent to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the Name of Jesus to all people. Have you trusted the Lord for the filling of the Holy Spirit to enable you to heed the Great Commission? He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The present situation challenges us to become involved. The harvest is great but the labourers are few.