This week I had the good pleasure of hearing 2 sermons on this parable from pastors with whom I was unfamiliar. While one sermon was vastly superior to the other, I gained insight from each and thought this would be a good topic for us to discuss today. From time to time you will see me talk about the need to preach both Law and Gospel. In the today’s church we seem to find some emergent/seeker-driven churches attempting to skip Law and only focus on Gospel. The problem with that (aside from not teaching the full counsel of Scripture) is that without the Law we are not convicted of sin. Without a conviction of sin, we cannot fully appreciate or grasp the Gospel. Other churches tend to err in the other direction. They consider Gospel just what you need to “be born again” and then they teach all Law… this is also dangerous, for the Law convicts us of our sin… and we live in a sinful world and our flesh is sinful. We still sin, and we need the Gospel every day of our lives. For we walk by grace, and we need to be reminded of the power of God’s grace every day of our lives, lest we slip into condemnation for our lack of perfection. Our primary text for today comes from Luke 10, and we will see how a single parable effectively teaches both Law and Gospel.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he 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.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
For a little bit of context, Jesus had just pronounced Woes to the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida for their unbelief and unrepentant hearts. The seventy-two disciples who had been sent out returned praising God and giving a joyful report. Jesus was careful to refocus their excitement away from the fact that the demons were submitted to them and onto the fact that their names had been written Heaven. Jesus then praises God aloud and I think we should look at this portion before diving into the parable.
Luke 10:21-24 (ESV)
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
And let it be known that we are recipients of that blessing, for by the Grace of God we now have the record of these events in God’s Holy Word, Amen. Look at the excitement in Jesus’ praise. Notice that he turns privately to His disciples to call them blessed. I mention this because I do believe that the events that take place in verse 25 take place soon afterward. Luke doesn’t specify a time-frame, but he does write “and behold” so I think this Lawyer’s test of Jesus came suddenly.
The Lawyer’s test
Now we are not talking about a Lawyer in the sense of a trial lawyer; rather, he was most likely an expert in the Law of Moses. Now, the lawyer was asking Jesus how he might inherit eternal life. Notice, however, that Luke clearly identifies this as a test (ESV) or that he tempted (KJV) Jesus with this question. He was looking for Jesus to give an unlawful answer. What kind of answer was he looking for? We don’t know, because Jesus turned the answer back onto the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it”? Let’s look at the answer the Lawyer gives. “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.” Jesus commends him for his lawful answer to the question and then tells him that if he does that he will live. Jesus confirmed the Law of Moses, and the Lawyer stood convicted by it. Let’s examine 2 portions of the Law related to the mans answer.
Deuteronomy 6:1-5 (ESV) 1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly,as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Leviticus 19:9-18 (ESV) 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. 11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Now immediately we are presented with the greatest and second commandments. In Matthew, Jesus was asked what the Greatest Commandment was and His answer to them was the same. Now the first commandment is one that is easier to claim (and harder to disprove) than the second. This lawyer might have been willing to claim ownership of the first law; however, in order to justify himself, clearly he needed a favorable definition of “neighbor”.
The Parable at Face Value | Law
This parable of the good Samaritan simultaneously teaches Law as well as the Gospel. Let us first see how the parable teaches the Law of God. This is how it would most likely initially have been interpreted by the Lawyer and those present at the time.
Luke 10:30-32 (ESV) 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
The hearers of this parable would likely place themselves in the position of either the victim, the Priest, or the Levite. This lawyer probably pictured himself as either the Priest of the Levite due to his level of study and expertise in the Law. At this point in the story, however, it is not clear that what either of these character did was wrong. That might be hard for us to understand but remember, the Law had specific rules regarding cleanliness and the dead. This takes place on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem (city of the Temple). When the scripture describes the man as being “half dead”, it is saying that he appeared to be dead. One would have to inspect him, check on him to determine if he were dead. This presents a Legal dilemma for the Priest and the Levite. Let’s turn for a moment to Levitical Law.
Leviticus 21:1-3 (ESV)
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people, 2 except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 3 or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean).
So, a Priest would not touch a dead person unless it was clearly one of the aforementioned exceptions. The High Priest is afforded no exceptions at all. The Law acknowledges that we are incapable of keeping it, and even specifies purification rituals. Let’s look at those in Numbers.
Numbers 19:11-13 (ESV)
11 “Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. 13 Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.
Yikes. This portion of the Law applies to Priests and Levites, so it includes both passers-by in the parable. Touching a dead body, even to see if he might still be alive, would make them unclean for seven days. They’d have to wash on the 3rd and 7th day to be made clean again and not to defile the Temple of the Lord. In order for the Priest or the Levite to assist the half-dead man, they’d have to be willing to give up their Legal cleanliness, for if the man is dead they would have been made unclean while still not being able to do anything for the dead man. Therefore, they passed by on the other side of the street (probably as a part of tradition) to fully demonstrate their acknowledgement that they must remain clean as they continue walking. “Someone else will take care of it”… someone not baring the responsibility of being a Levite or a Priest. After all, they have important business to attend to, they have a “calling” that does not include touching dead bodies. There are plenty of others who can render aid or bury the dead without jeopardizing their calling. This is Law. Let’s continue.
Luke 10:33-35 (ESV) 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
Now, the Samaritans weren’t simply a “lower class citizen”, they were outsiders, foreigners, gentiles. They were mixed in blood (due to the Assyrian defeat and occupation of the northern kingdom of Israel) and in religion (they worshiped in the “high places” those that were built to other gods). Remember what the law says about this sort of thing, they are to be cut off. The Samaritans were not granted access to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were well aware of where they stood in the eyes of the Jews. This animosity, this separation was lawful. For us to better understand this, let us look to John Chapter 4.
John 4:7-9 (ESV) 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
John 4:19-20 (ESV) 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
John 4:22 (ESV) 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
Remember, that the man who half-dead in the road is assumed to be a Jew. Jesus merely says “a man” but given the context He wouldn’t need to identify the man as a Jew, for that is the norm. Jesus identified the Levite and the Priest for a specific purpose. He also identifies the Samaritan for a purpose. He is an outsider and regarded as hostile. Jews have no dealing with Samaritans. Yet, this Samaritan had compassion on the half-dead Jew. Forsaking everything he had planned for that day, this man took the time to bandage (to bind up) his wounds, washing and cleansing him with oil and wine, and lifting the man and setting him on his own donkey and taking him to an inn and continued to care for him. Notice, that it isn’t until the next day that the Samaritan leaves his side, but he does so having paid for the inn and securing care and provision for the man while the Samaritan is away. He urges the inn keeper, the designated caregiver, to do what is necessary to care for the man with a promise that he will return and will repay any expense that wasn’t already covered. This Samaritan not only bandaged, washed, anointed, and carried the man out of the street, he brought him to a place of rest having paid the price for him to live and to continue healing.
Luke 10:36-37 (ESV) 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Here, we have the Legal answer to the question, “how do I inherit eternal life”? There are no loopholes, no caveats in the law. To love your neighbor as yourself and to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind is a high mark, who can pass this test? According to the Law? No one born of Adam. It isn’t enough to be justified in not taking action as in the case of the Levite and the Priest, for in doing so, you fail the commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself.
The Parable of the Samaritan | Gospel
Now, let’s take a slightly different look at this parable… one that likely didn’t resonate with the Apostles until long after these things took place, possibly not until God the Holy Spirit was reminding them of all that Jesus had taught. What if the first man in our story represents all of mankind, who had fallen to robbers and been left for dead? And we being dead in sin and trespasses, were too unclean to be rescued by the Law (Priests and Levites) for its requirements for cleanliness kept it on the far side of the road? What if the Samaritan in this story, is Jesus Christ? Who, having looked upon us in our mortal condition of sin… and loved us enough to bind up our wounds, wash away our iniquities, and pay the price that we could not pay, to enter in His rest. Not only did He pay for our healing, He promised to return again and will pay whatever expenses remained, and he didn’t leave us alone, but left us in the care of the Inn keeper? Let’s look at what the Scriptures say of Jesus Christ.
John 10:9-11 (ESV) 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Isaiah 53:1-6 (ESV)
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
John 14:18-19 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV) 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Matthew 5:17 (ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Praise the Lord. The Law of the Lord is perfect, but we who are dead in sin cannot find salvation by works of the Law, because the Law convicts us of our sin and separation from God. I’m sure you felt it as we worked through the legal implications of the Parable. But how beautiful is the Gospel once we’ve been confronted by our sin?
Romans 3:20-26 (ESV)
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Amen. The beauty and wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is brought into clear focus when we examine the Law and the Prophets. How gracious is our God. How Wonderful is His Gospel.
Revelation 22:10-17 (ESV)
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come. May the Lord bless you and keep you,