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Parable of the Good Samaritan

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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August 31, 2022 12:01 am

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 31, 2022 12:01 am

When we encounter a person in need, our priority should not be to condemn him with questions about how he entered that situation, but to help him. Today, R.C. Sproul expounds on one of Jesus' most beloved parables--and one of the most challenging.

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After telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked a question. This was the easiest question that this lawyer had ever been asked. Which of the three men do you think was the neighbor?

The lawyer couldn't miss it. He said the one who showed mercy on him. The story of the Good Samaritan is one of Jesus' best-known parables. If you grew up in the church, you probably heard it in your earliest Sunday school classes to illustrate what it means to care for others. But the story is so familiar that we can overlook some of the key lessons Jesus wanted us to learn. Here's Dr. R.C.

Sproul. We're going to continue now with our study of the parables of Jesus. And in this session, we're going to be looking at one of my very favorite parables and one that's widely known among church people. It's the parable of the Good Samaritan. And we find that in the 10th chapter of the gospel according to St. Luke.

And to understand the impact of this parable, we have to see the context in which Luke has placed this story that Jesus gives. And so we read in chapter 10 of Luke, beginning at verse 25, these words, 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 neighbor 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 neighbor? 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 that 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. So he 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 neighbor 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. So the context in which we get the parable of the Good Samaritan is in the context of a brief interrogation that is provoked by this lawyer who comes to Jesus.

And Luke tells us that his purpose for asking questions of Jesus was not because he was genuinely seeking wisdom from the Lord, but rather his purpose was to put Jesus to the test. And so he came, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus, knowing that this man is a lawyer, said to him, Well, what is written in the law?

As a lawyer in Israel was one who was supposed to be a master of the Old Testament law. And so Jesus puts the test to him. He said, If you're an attorney practicing the mastery of biblical law, what does the law say that you have to do in order to inherit eternal life? And the attorney answers by reciting the great commandment. He said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind.

And I think he just added on as a concluding unscientific postscript, and your neighbor as yourself. Now obviously, he had memorized the great commandment as every student of the law had done in antiquity. And so it was not much of a test to answer this question for Jesus, and he gave the answer correctly. And so Jesus said to him, You've answered rightly.

Do this, and you will live. So Jesus is offering the promise of eternal life at this point to a person if all they did was to keep the great commandment, or to keep the law of God. Of course, Jesus knew that people like the Pharisees and people like this scribe or lawyer thought that they did a superb job of keeping the law, and in keeping the law they would merit entrance into the kingdom of God. We know also from Jesus' teaching elsewhere that he was trying to get people to see that if they really understood the law, the law would drive them to some other way of salvation than by seeking to work their way into heaven by their own good deeds. Because what the law does is expose our sin and our neediness if we examine it rightly. And I always said that it's not by accident that the two greatest magisterial reformers of the 16th century Reformation had both been diligent students of the law. Luther and Calvin both had training in the law. And as they studied the law of God, they were driven to the gospel because the law left them in despair. But there was no such experience in the heart of this lawyer. He assumed that he was keeping the great commandment, and Jesus said, go ahead, you keep it, you'll live.

You don't have anything to worry about. But the lawyer wasn't finished with Jesus. He wants to probe a little bit deeper. You know, it's interesting when you're in discussions of theology and debating certain issues that one of the standard responses you get from people is, well, what do you mean by this? Well, define your terms.

And that's usually just an escape mechanism from dealing with the matter that is on the table. But this lawyer was quick to do that sort of thing, and he said, well, Jesus, just who is my neighbor? What does the law mean when it says I'm supposed to love my neighbor as myself? I understand what it means to love God with all of my strength and all my heart and all of my mind and all that, but what do you mean love my neighbor as I love myself? Who's my neighbor?

Now, Jesus had an abstract question before him, and he could have given an abstract answer. He could have said, well, your neighbor may be defined as somebody who lives next door to you or on the street where you live or even more broadly extended to anyone who lives in your neighborhood. Anybody in your neighborhood can be construed as being your neighbor. Now, among the Jews, and particularly among the Pharisees, they gave a very narrow definition of who was one's neighbor. For them, it would be a fellow Jew and a fellow righteous Jew, presumably like one of the rest of the Pharisees.

And they distinguished between themselves as righteous men and the people of the land. The lower class people and certainly people who were outside of the nation of Israel were considered outside of the neighborhood of God. And of those outside of the Jewish neighborhood, perhaps those most despised would have been the Samaritans who, during the captivity, some of those who remained intermarried with pagans and produced what the Jews considered a half-breed race of semi-Jews, and the Samaritans had their own temple in Gerizim that they favored over against the temple worship in Jerusalem, as you recall from Jesus' discussion with the woman of Sychar, or the woman at the well. Also, when the Jews came back from captivity and tried to rebuild the temple, the Samaritans harassed them by throwing dead pigs into the construction area, and that would contaminate and defile the holy ground, and they would have to go through a couple of weeks of re-sanctification and put the construction on hold, where they dealt with all of this harassment at the hands of the Samaritans.

So there was very bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans, and we were told elsewhere that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. And in fact, Jesus shocked people when He traveled from Judea to Galilee that He even went through Samaria to get where He was going, rather than going the roundabout way that the Jews customarily did. So now Jesus answers the question about the neighbor by telling this story. And He tells the story of a man, presumably a Jewish person, who has gone from Jerusalem down to Jericho. Now this is not Old Testament Jericho where the walls came tumbling down. This is New Testament Jericho about 17 miles away from the city of Jerusalem, and the 17 miles is through some rather desolate countryside. And New Testament Jericho, it's a town that is built around a rather large oasis, and that was the attractive point. And so merchants would frequently travel from Jerusalem down to Jericho to sell their wares, because there were people living there on this oasis property. But it was also then and even to this day a favorite place for those who were highwaymen or thieves who would lay in wait for somebody who was traveling alone perhaps, or an unprotected small group of merchants, and they would hide in the rocks, and when the evening would come they would fall upon them and rob them of their wares. And so Jesus may even have been telling a story that actually took place.

This may not have simply been a made-up illustrative parable in this case. But he says, the man was going down to Jericho, on the way he fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, obviously stole everything of value that he had, and beat him severely, and they left him, as the parable says, half dead. So that this victim of the savage beating from the thieves was left in such a situation that obviously if no one rendered him help, or if no one came to his rescue, he would surely die.

There, naked, alone, beaten to the place of being half dead. Now the rest of the story tells of people who saw this poor man lying in the street and what their reaction was. By chance, a certain priest came down that road, and we saw him, he passed by on the other side. It's not that he failed to see him. He saw the man, he saw him lying there in a heap, and obviously from the priest's vantage point, he couldn't tell for sure whether this poor man was dead or alive. And so he gave the man a wide berth, walked to the other side of the road.

Now why was that? Well, there were all these laws among the priests and among the Pharisees and the Levites and the rest that had to do with defilement and cleansing rituals. And one of those laws said that you were not allowed to touch a corpse. And if you touched a corpse, then you would have to go through all kinds of cleansing rituals in order to resume your priestly activities. So this man, fearing that the fellow who had fallen among the thieves was dead, he went as far around him as he could. He didn't want to have to go through these rituals of cleansing that would interrupt the normal course of his priestly activities, and so he went to the other side of the road. And then we read, likewise, a Levite. A Levite consecrated in that whole tribe to do the works of God and of teaching.

When he arrived at the place, he came and looked, and he passed by on the other side. We know these two men who are members of the clergy who have been set apart for, among other things, performing works of mercy. Not only didn't stop to help this man, they saw him there, they looked at him, and went on the other side and gave no help whatsoever.

As far as they were concerned, if the man wasn't dead already, he certainly would be as a result of their refusal to give any ministrations to him. But now we read in the parable of a third man who comes along. And he is identified not as a priest, not as a Levite, that Jesus chose this carefully as a Samaritan. And he said, a certain Samaritan, this parable is called the parable of the good Samaritan, and if you told the Jews, I'm going to tell you a parable of a good Samaritan, the Jew would say, that's an oxymoron. There's no such thing as a good Samaritan. Or are you going to tell me the story of a dead Samaritan?

Because the only good Samaritan is a dead Samaritan, in their view. But this man was very much alive. And he comes along and we read, he says, he came to the place where the man was. And here's perhaps the most important sentence in the whole parable. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

This was exactly what the priest and the Levite did not have. They felt nothing for this miserable wretch that was lying naked in the street. But when the Samaritan saw this man brutally beaten, he had compassion.

Now, let me just stop here for a second. The story could have gone like this. Well, the Samaritan saw this man in the street, felt awful for this fellow, had overwhelmed with a sense of pity, and then walked to the other side and went down the street. No, no, no.

No. The compassion that he had led him to action. He didn't just say, I'll say a prayer for you, fellow, I feel your pain, and go on.

He acted to do everything in his power to show mercy to this enemy who had fallen among thieves. So he went to him, bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. And after he anointed this man in his misery, he picked him up.

The man obviously couldn't walk. And put him on his own animal, on his own beast of burden, presumably meaning that the Samaritan would then walk next to the donkey or to the camel or whatever it was, giving up his seat so that this injured man may have a place to ride, and brought him to an inn. Now, he didn't go to the hospital, to the emergency room, and just leave him at the emergency room and then go on about his business because he had an appointment in Jericho. Now, his whole day, his whole journey, his whole business has to be put aside because the top priority for this Samaritan is, I've got to see to it that this man is taken care of. So he takes him to the inn, he gets him a room in the inn, he makes sure that the fellow gets everything he needs at the inn, all the food and all the care.

And on the next day, he had stayed all night in the inn simply because of this poor man. When he departed, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said to him, take care of him. Whatever it takes, take care of him.

Whatever it costs, take care of him. You know me, I make this trip regularly. I'll be back the next time I'm in this neighborhood and whatever I owe you, I will pay you at that time. After the story, Jesus says to the attorney, which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? Again, this was theology 101. This was the easiest question that this lawyer had ever been asked. Which of the three men do you think was the neighbor?

The lawyer couldn't miss it. He said the one who showed mercy on him. He didn't just feel compassion. He showed compassion. And in this story, Jesus is not just simply enjoining us to treat people who are armed or hurt or in need with mercy and compassion.

Again, the whole point of the story is to answer the question, who's my neighbor? There are no limits, Jesus is saying. No ethnic limits, no geographical limits to the neighborhood of the kingdom of God. You know, we hear from 19th century liberals that God is the Father of us all and that we have this universal brotherhood. No, we don't have a universal brotherhood. In the New Testament, the brotherhood is made up restrictively of all those who are in Christ.

Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, and He is our elder brother. The only way we enter this brotherhood is through adoption. And people who don't believe in Jesus are not in this brotherhood. There's no universal brotherhood. But what there is, is a universal neighborhood. That is, every human being created in the image of God is my neighbor, which means I am called, this is radical stuff, I am called to love every human being on the face of this earth as much as I love myself, even if he's not a part of the brotherhood. Even if he's not in the household of faith, he's still my neighbor.

I mentioned this recently in the sermon. When we see people in need, we don't ask them how they got there. Our job is not to condemn the person who has fallen into the gutter and say, how did you get there? If they're in the gutter, it's our job to help them out of the gutter.

Why? Because we would want to be helped. And that person's my neighbor. And I'm supposed to love my neighbor like I love myself. Jesus says, do this and live. It's a pretty simple lesson, isn't it, but sometimes difficult to put into practice. The warnings we find, though, in these parables are meant to motivate us to take life and eternity seriously. How we love others matters in God's kingdom. We've heard a poignant summary of this parable today here on Renewing Your Mind, and all week we are featuring Dr.

R.C. 's role series, The Parables of Jesus. So far we've learned about the Pharisee and the publican, the unforgiving servant, and today, the good Samaritan. It's a series that takes us up close and personal with the teachings of Jesus.

Let me commend this series to you. There are 12 messages on two DVDs, and we will send them to you today for your gift of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. You can find us online at, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. You'll find thousands of additional resources, both online and when you download our free app. Sermons, teaching series, video and audio messages, and articles are available at the touch of a button.

Download the free app when you search for it in your favorite app store. Just look for Ligonier, that's L-I-G-O-N-I-E-R. Well, today we looked at that familiar story of the good Samaritan. Tomorrow, R.C. will focus on perhaps the best known of the parables, the prodigal son. It's another one of those stories in which we can miss the most important points Jesus wanted us to learn. I hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-04 06:40:56 / 2023-03-04 06:49:26 / 9

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