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The Most Misunderstood Parable B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
May 20, 2024 4:00 am

The Most Misunderstood Parable B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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May 20, 2024 4:00 am

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Grace To You
John MacArthur

Social justice, that's not the issue here. Righteousness is the issue before God. There was Jesus, the personification of heavenly mercy and forgiveness, ready to give it lavishly to that lawyer if the man would simply admit his wretched condition. Trying to earn salvation by good works has been described as trying to climb to the moon with a rope made of sand. The religious leaders in first century Israel needed to learn that lesson, and it's truth that every one of us needs to embrace as well.

John's message today is going to help with that. So stay here on Grace to You as John looks at what probably is Jesus' most famous parable, and at the same time, maybe the most misinterpreted one. It's the parable of the Good Samaritan.

So open your Bible to Luke chapter 10 and follow along with John's study titled Stories with Purpose. We all know what it means when you call someone a Good Samaritan. That's a compliment. That generally means that someone shows kindness, mercy, compassion, care to some other person in need, and that's good. That's virtuous.

God is honored by that. But that being said, the parable of the Good Samaritan is largely misunderstood. People are familiar with the story, but not so familiar with the point of the story.

Pretty simple story, easy to understand. We even get the punchline, who's the neighbor? The man who helped the sufferer. A lawyer stood up, pulled out of the crowd, came before Jesus, took his position in front of him for the purpose of putting him to the test. So he says, what do I do to inherit eternal life? Now notice the path that Jesus takes. He said to him, what is written in the law? How does it read to you?

What does the law say? 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. He said, that's the right answer, verse 28. You have answered correctly. Do this and you'll live.

So go do it. Verse 29 makes it clear. But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, and who is my neighbor? I mean, he is so self-righteous, so self-justifying that he doesn't even think about how he loves God or how he loves man.

All he thinks about is maybe you've got a different definition of neighbor. Jesus replies to this man who is self-justifying and says, It's a very dramatic story to see this man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho on this road that was very familiar to everybody in ancient times. Fell among robbers, a group of highwaymen pounced on the man. They didn't just rob him. They stripped him, beat him, went, leaving him half dead. Just out of nowhere, they hit him, took everything he had, including the clothes on his back. He's left probably with undergarments, and that is it.

Every possession he had in his sack that he must have been carrying as they did on a journey. Even the clothes that he was wearing, they took. They beat him.

It's a constant verb. They kept on beating him. They kept beating him until he was virtually on the bridge of death. Critical condition. Now, he is in a desperate situation. He needs help. He can't help himself. He can't move.

He can't lift himself out of that condition. So here comes the priest, and this should provide a little hope in the story as the lawyer listens, but the priest passes on the other side. Very strong language. He uses the Greek term anti. It means he goes against, completely opposite the other side, the complete ignoring of this man.

Complete indifference. He shuns him, and he's lying there in critical condition. So the priest has zero love, right? Zero love for the man, and zero love for God, right? Because if he loved God, what would he do? He would obey, love the stranger, love the neighbor, show mercy, kindness. So here is a priest who is a typical priest in the Jewish system who is self-justified and seems to be righteous to those around him, but doesn't love God or others.

At this juncture in the story, it's really kind of interesting to see what commentators do. Some commentators say, well, he didn't go across the road because he didn't want to touch the corpse and become unclean. Some say he didn't want to go over there because he would be defiled and he had to go back to the temple later. Some say he didn't go over there because he thought the robbers might be lurking around over there and they might get him. Some say he didn't go over there because he realized that the man was in the condition he was in because he had the judgment of God on him and he was beaten because he was sinful and he wanted to make sure he paid for his sins.

Guess what? He didn't have any thoughts like that because he didn't exist. This is a story. He didn't exist.

After paragraphs and paragraphs of reading this, I'm saying this is complete fantasy. The guy doesn't exist. He had no reason, no motive, no excuse. He had no thoughts. He was not.

The point is simple. You would expect a priest who represents God and represents the people to God to love God enough to do what God said and love people enough to do what they needed. He didn't love God. He didn't love others.

He is, in a sense, a representation of that kind of self-righteous system, that kind of self-righteous system. Was that an indictment of priests in general? There probably were some exceptions. There may have been some priests that actually, if that had actually happened, might have cared for the man. We don't know that, but this would be a kind of generic attitude of priests in that religious system.

They hated people for the very reasons that I just gave you that the commentators bring up. And then Jesus says, a Levite came also in verse 32, and when he came to the place and saw him, he passed by on the other side from the tribe of Levi, son of Jacob, but not the family of Aaron, so not the priestly family. But the Levites still, from the tribe of Levi, assisted in the temple. When the priests did all their work, they needed assistance and helpers. They were kind of at the bottom of the priestly hierarchy.

They worked on the liturgy, policing the temple, taking care of things there, facilities and things like that. Well, this is a religious man. This is a man connected to the priesthood, connected to religion at its most intimate point. We would expect him to come over and help, but he doesn't love God either, and nor does he love men. If he loved God, he would do what God says. He would love his neighbor as himself. If he loved his neighbor as himself, he would care for the neighbor, so he doesn't love God or his neighbor. So we've just met a couple of people who don't have eternal life because they don't love the Lord their God, and they don't love their neighbor.

Will anyone do what's right? Will anyone show love? Verse 33, and this is the shock.

This is the shock. Our Lord has just indicted the Jewish religious establishment in the story, and now he introduces a hated person, a Samaritan. He was on a journey, came upon him.

When he saw him, he felt compassion. The very existence of Samaritans was seen as an evil. They were a pariah. They were a blight on the world. They were evil all the way back to the sins of Jeroboam. They were evil because they intermarried with the Gentiles when the northern kingdom was occupied. They were evil because they tried to disrupt the rebuilding of the Jewish city and the temple when they came back from the captivity. They were so evil that the Jews in 128 B.C. even attacked and destroyed their temple. They're half-breed traitors. In fact, if you wanted to say something bad about someone, you called them a Samaritan.

How do I know that? John 8, 48. The Jews said to Jesus, Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? The worst that you could possibly come up with would be to call somebody a demon-possessed Samaritan.

Shocking. Their worst, near enemy. Despised outcast. No access to the temple. No access to worship. No access to sacrifice.

No access to God. And he does the right thing. When he saw him, he felt compassion. Was this man in the kingdom of God?

One commentator asks. Again, I say, he didn't exist. It's irrelevant.

What's the point? Two men representing the Jewish establishment who thought they loved God and loved others as themselves had absolutely no love. The system is bankrupt. These people trying to justify themselves are lying and they are deceived. Two men were religious and failed to meet the requirement for eternal life. They didn't love their neighbor. They didn't love strangers.

They didn't love enemies. But this one man who is an outcast, this invention of Jesus demonstrates, at least for that moment, the quality of loving your neighbor as yourself. He takes center stage in the story, and this is just really shocking to the one who is listening.

Because what the Samaritan does is so extensive. He came to him, verse 34. He came to the man, must have knelt down, analyzed, evaluated, assessed, diagnosed his condition, his need, careful attention to everything. Then bandaged up his wounds since the man's clothes had been stripped off him and probably taken away in the plunder. He may have had to shred some of his own clothes to wrap the man's wounds, stop the bleeding of this man. Then he took the oil and wine with which people always traveled for preparation of their meals and poured on him. The word for poured there is a very rich word.

It has to do with a kind of lavish pouring compounded by a preposition at the beginning. So he just pours out oil and wine, soothing as well as an antiseptic. Then he puts him on his own animal. That guy can't walk, so he picks him up and puts him on his own animal. The term here for an animal means any kind of beast of burden, very likely a donkey or something like that.

Catenas in the Greek. So he lifts him up and places him on his animal and brought him to an inn, brought him to an inn. Inn is the word pan dokain.

Pan means all. It's a place for all. This is not like you would think of the Holiday Inn or any other kind of inn that you would stay in.

This is a rough, tough roadside lodging, brutally sparse. You would only want to be there if it were an emergency that got you in from some danger or because you just couldn't go any further. The man not only took him to the inn, but he stayed with him. He took him in the inn, put him down to rest, stayed at his side all night doing whatever he needed done, provided food for the man, provided comfort, water, cleansing. All night you say, well, how do you know he stayed all night? Because the next verse, verse 35, Jesus says on the next day. This is really amazing care for an enemy, a violent kind of enemy, all night vigil. Then the next day, he takes out two denarii, and that's a day's wage, and just to let you know how much you had to pay for an inn.

Not too long after this, there's some literature that has indicated that a board was found, some kind of a sign board from an inn in a city in the Roman Empire. The nightly cost was one-thirty-second of a denarius. One-thirty-second of a denarius would mean that the man for two denarii could do the math, stay for two months.

Two months? Again, what is the point? The point is this is lavish.

This is lavish. This is the ultimate attention that could possibly be given. You go over there. You check him out. You tear your own clothes. You bind up his wounds. You pour oil and wine as an antiseptic and soothe him, perhaps rubbing his wounds and bruises.

You put him on your animal. You take him to the inn. You provide for him to stay for two months in the inn. You stay overnight with him, and as if that's not enough, what do you do? You say to the innkeeper, take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you. Now, there's a formula for extortion.

What? You're telling an innkeeper, whatever you want to spend on the guy, spend on the guy, and I'll pay you when I come back. This is lavish love.

That's the whole point of this. This is lavish love. Amazing generosity for a complete stranger to one who is his enemy, who is hated by him.

But that's...what's our Lord saying here? This is loving your neighbor as you love. That's what you do for you, wouldn't you?

Of course you would. Have you ever done that for anybody else? Do you do that for everybody else in that condition? You know, the people who think that by giving money to poor people, they have enacted social justice and fulfilled the principle here, really should look at it again because they would be condemned by it. If you think sending some money somewhere, if you think buying a few meals for somebody is what this is, you miss the point. That's not wrong to do, but don't put yourself in this parable. Who does this?

Who does this? Say, well, I know somebody who did it once. That's not good enough. Once isn't good enough. Ten times isn't good enough.

If you want eternal life, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, all the time, and love your neighbor as yourself all the time. Who does that? Nobody.

Not you, not me. An open end. Whatever you want to do, do it and I'll pay it when I return. This is love without limit, love without boundaries. That's the whole point. He exposes himself, of course, to being extorted, but such is the nature of his love. This is what he would do for himself.

So the good Samaritan loves the man as he loved himself. Do we do that all the time? You probably can't even think of a time in your life when you do that. That's reserved for you and maybe your wife and kids.

But is this your constant life pattern? The people who do social justice work and think they're fulfilling this need to look at it again. Because unless you do that all the time perfectly and love God all the time perfectly, you're not going to have eternal life if you're coming by way of the law. Look, we make sure we get the best attention, have our needs met, get the best doctors, the best care, the best resources.

We do that for ourselves. But this is a simple story of lavish, limitless love by a person for somebody who was an enemy he didn't even know. So Jesus asks the question in verse 36, Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? Now, the Lord has just changed the question. The question in verse 29, who is my neighbor? You're going to define neighbor for me now? Are you going to mess with this neighbor idea?

I'm doing fine loving God perfectly, doing fine loving my neighbor perfectly. By my definition, unless you're going to redefine neighbor, He says mockingly. Jesus says in verse 36, this isn't about who your neighbor is.

This is about, are you a neighbor? It's not who is my neighbor who qualifies to be loved, but it's about, am I a neighbor who loves in an unqualified way? Deeply the point comes to the heart. Forget trying to decide who qualifies for you to love them and demonstrate love that knows no qualifications. Everyone in your path, everyone in your path, everyone in your path all the time with a need is to be loved, loved lavishly, loved sacrificially, loved generously, loved tenderly, loved limitlessly, loved kindly, loved as long as the need exists, every person, even if that person is your enemy. Who loves like that? Well, the man answered the question, the one who proved to be a neighbor was the one who showed mercy toward him. And then Jesus sticks a knife in.

Go do the same. You go love like that and you can have eternal life. What should have been his response? I've never loved anybody like that. I've never loved the people in my little narrow confines of who I'm supposed to love because I think they're my neighbor like that. I only love me like that. I've never loved anybody like that, let alone everybody like that. At that point, the knife goes in, the conviction is laid upon the man, and there's a blank space in your Bible between that verse and the next one.

The next words are, now as they were traveling along. Hmm. You say, is that kind of an odd way to do evangelism? There's no sense in telling people the good news if they won't accept the bad news about their condition.

And if you want to evangelize someone, you get the picture at the highest level you can. The issue is, do you love like that? Because if you love God perfectly, then you obey perfectly, and God says to love like that, the way you love yourself. We all have to say, I don't love like that. I can't love like that.

I can't love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength all the time, and I certainly don't love everybody around me in need the way I love myself. And if He had said, I can't forgive me, maybe this could have been a wonderful story if all of a sudden, like the Luke 18 story, He had fallen down and pounded His breast and said what? Lord, be merciful to me.

What? Sinner. I can't love like that.

Neither can you, neither can I. We need forgiveness. We need mercy. We need grace. No man is justified by the law, the keeping of the law.

Here's the law summarized, and you can't do it. How are we justified? By faith in Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins and through His sacrifice has paid in full our debt to God so that He can be just and still make us His own children and declare us righteous.

It's just too simple to say this is a story about going to the other side of the road and hugging somebody on food stamps. This is about salvation. You want eternal life?

You know what God requires, perfection, loving Him perfectly and loving others as you love yourself. You don't do that. You can't do that. You need mercy. You need forgiveness. You need grace. That's why Paul in Romans 7, 10 says, When I saw the law, it killed me. It slew me. And there He was standing in front of the one person in the world who could forgive Him, and He never asked.

Never asked, as far as we know. Social justice, that's not the issue here. Righteousness is the issue before God. There was Jesus, the personification of heavenly mercy and forgiveness, ready to give it lavishly to that lawyer if the man would simply admit his wretched condition. That's the message. It's the message to you as well.

You need to come for mercy and grace. Then, when you're saved, it's amazing how He sheds abroad His love in your heart, and you begin to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not perfectly, but that becomes the direction of your affection, and you begin to love other people as you love yourself.

Not perfectly, but that's the direction. This story is not to make people feel guilty about not giving their money to poor people. It's not to make people feel guilty about not taking care of those that are suffering. This story is designed to make people feel guilty for not loving God perfectly, and loving others perfectly, and then running to the one who alone can provide forgiveness for that sin and eternal life.

Let's pray. Gratefully, Lord, we ask You to fill our hearts with gratitude for the wonderful privilege of the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin, righteousness, judgment, that led us to recognize the bankruptcy of our own condition before You. It's so much harder for religious people to see their spiritual bankruptcy. It's one thing to see the sin in your sin, but it's something else to see the sin in your self-righteousness. Thank You for leading us to that conviction so that the gospel came as good news, great news, glorious news, of forgiveness and righteousness through faith in Christ. Father, we ask that You would draw to Yourself sinners and give them the gift of eternal life. We pray in Christ's great name.

Amen. John, you titled today's message on the Good Samaritan the most misunderstood parable, and I'm wondering why you'd say that this story, out of the dozens of parables that Jesus told, why does this one qualify as the most misunderstood? Well, I think it's true that many parables are misunderstood.

This one seems to lend itself to the notion that the point Jesus is making is related to social justice, that as Christians we have a role to take care of the poor and the broken and the hurting and the suffering. And that's true, but that is not the point of the parable. And that leads me to say, as I said a moment ago, most of the parables have somewhat clarity in the story, but the depth of the story eludes many people if we don't dig down deep enough. And that's why I want to remind you about a book that I wrote called Parables, subtitled The Mysteries of God's Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told. You may think you understand the parables, but I think when you get a look at what we've uncovered in the book, you'll find yourself going to a depth that you perhaps didn't see initially, and you will therefore ascertain the real significance of the parables.

And I would say just in general, they're always about salvation. If you'd like a copy of the book, The Parables, we'd be happy to get one to you. It's a 200-page book, and it looks at 12 of the most famous, most controversial of our Lord's parables, like the Good Samaritan, the rich man and Lazarus, the pearl of great price, the Pharisee and the tax collector, and even more. For a limited time, most all of our books, including parables, along with individual New Testament commentary volumes, as well as the MacArthur Study Bible in English and Spanish editions, are all available at 25 percent off the regular price.

So take advantage of the reduced prices in order today. Thanks, John. And friend, it is vital that you understand Jesus' parables accurately and how to apply them to your life. John's book titled, Parables, can be a big help.

With its focus on salvation, it's an ideal book to give to someone with whom you've been sharing the gospel. And take advantage of the discounted price for parables and for nearly all of our resources, available for a limited time. Contact us today. You can call us here at 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, Again, Parables is currently available at 25 percent off the normal price.

If you'd like to order, call 800-55-GRACE, or you can shop online at And remember, the sale runs through Friday, May 31st. During the sale, nearly every item we sell is available at 25 percent off the regular price, and that includes our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible. The Study Bible has about 25,000 footnotes that give you historical, cultural, and theological insights into virtually every passage, helping you know what God's Word means by what it says. And it makes a great graduation gift. And for anyone who wants to know God's Word clearly, it's a great tool.

So take advantage of our reduced prices. Place your order by calling 800-55-GRACE, or go to Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week with us, and be back tomorrow as John shows you what you can learn from a parable about a rich man and his date with death. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-20 05:46:23 / 2024-05-20 05:56:36 / 10

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