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The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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September 18, 2022 12:01 am

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 18, 2022 12:01 am

The law of God requires that we love our neighbor as ourselves. But who is our neighbor, and how are we to love them? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of the gospel of Luke by teaching on Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan.

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In ancient Israel, traveling from one city to another could be dangerous.

Predators and robbers would hide in the hills along the way, and if they would see somebody coming unprotected, it was not uncommon for them to attack them, as happened in this case. Jesus said, this single man is making the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho, and on the way, he fell among thieves. Jesus used familiar scenarios like this to make His point.

Everyone understood the hazards of traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and everyone could imagine the terror and the helplessness that man felt. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind. Each Lord's Day, we are pleased to feature a sermon from a series that Dr. R.C. Sproul preached from the Gospel of Luke. We come to this well-known story found in Luke chapter 10, verse 25. It says in my Bible above the text that I've just read in bold letters, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now, these subheadings are not part of the actual biblical text, but they are helps for us, rendered for us by the editors of the Scriptures.

And this is certainly a legitimate topic heading, the parable of the Good Samaritan, because that's what it is, and I think I would like to change it a little bit and call it the contest between the lawyer and the teacher. As we have two people engaged in conversation here, and not only in conversation, but in a thinly veiled debate, a debate instituted by the nomarchos, or the lawyer, the one who is an expert in the law, and the other is called the didaskalos, or the teacher, namely Jesus. Jesus, going about the countryside, acting as an itinerant rabbi, had received from the masses the title of teacher. There's no record in the New Testament of Jesus ever going and studying under the great rabbis or theologians of his era, and having earned a degree, a doctor's degree in theology, that would give him this kind of academic credibility. But we are told again and again that he spoke as one having authority, because his mentor was not Gamaliel in Jerusalem, but God the Father in heaven, who revealed all things to the Son incarnate.

In any case, Jesus was acclaimed by the masses as being the teacher par excellence. But now comes the professional, the one who did earn his degree, the one who made it through law school and was the head of the law review, the lawyer. Now when we think of lawyers today, which we try not to do, we think of those who are for the most part experts in civil or criminal law in our nation. A lawyer in Israel was a professional academic expert on the law of Moses, which law included not only the laws that governed the religious community, but also the laws that governed the state. Israel, Old Testament Israel, was a theocracy, meaning there was no distinction or division between church and state.

The civil laws were governed by the same rules that governed the cultus or the religious life of the people. And so this man is the expert, the professional, and he comes and we are told that he stood up and tested Jesus. We could read it another way. He came to challenge Jesus. He came to expose Jesus' naiveté, to reveal to the adoring public that Jesus was simply an amateur and that this man, of course, was the professional. And so he tests Jesus by asking him a fundamental question about those things related to the law of God, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Now Luke tells us that this was a test, a test question. This was not a genuine inquiry. A man seeking salvation would come to Jesus and humbly say, Lord, tell me how I can get into heaven.

That's not it at all. He's probing Jesus' understanding of theology. And so Jesus, as he typically does and as all Jews in all of history have done, answers a question with a question. Do you know why Jews answer questions with questions? Why not answer a question with a question?

It's a tremendously insightful method of debate. But in any case, the man asked Jesus, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to him, what's written in the law?

This is kind of insulting. Like, you're a lawyer, duh. And you're asking me this simple question, what's written in the law?

You know what's written in the law. And then he says, what's your understanding and your reading of it? And so the attorney here answered and said, by going right back to the most basic of the laws of Israel that found principally in the Shema, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God, and so on, and you should love the Lord your God with all of your mind. So he says, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. That's the great commandment, by the way, dear friends. And as a matter of parenthesis, if I would ask you, what is the great transgression? I would have to answer the great transgression is to fail, to obey the great commandment. And that greatest commandment tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our strength, with all of our mind, with all of our soul. And Jesus said to him, good job. Congratulations. You've answered rightly.

You do this and you will live. Jesus knew very well that Matt had not kept the great commandment since he got out of his bed that morning. He never kept the great commandment fully for a single minute or a single second from the day he was born. And in that regard, this lawyer was no different from us because none of us have ever kept the great commandment fully from the day we were born.

But the man says, and we're given the editorial comment, wanting to justify himself. Jesus just put the basic law right in front of this man's face. And when we look at the question of the meaning of the law and the significance of the law of God, theologically, in Reformed theology, we follow John Calvin's idea of the so-called threefold use of the law. There are three basic functions that the law performs for us, and one of the most important functions of the law is that it is a mirror by which we look into that mirror and we see ourselves against the measuring rod of the law of God. It's a terrible thing to look at because our tendency is to not judge ourselves by the law of God, but to judge ourselves in comparison to the behavior of our friends and neighbors, and we come out thinking of ourselves very highly.

And as Calvin also said, that we have a tendency to keep our gaze leveled on the horizontal plane here, just gazing around at each other and begin to address ourselves as demigods. But once we lift our gaze to heaven and consider what kind of being God is and look into the mirror of His law, then not only do we discover who God is, but we discover who we are. And as the Apostle Paul tells us, that then the function of the law is as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ because the law reveals our sin. That's why we do the law every week, almost every week in St. Andrews, have one of the Ten Commandments, because you can't understand grace if you don't understand the law. You'll never understand the mercy of God until you really understand the law of God and how the law of God reveals to us our sin and our hopeless inability to justify ourselves. The law drives us to Christ, who alone can justify sinners who are unjust, but this man made the worst mistake he could possibly make. He thought he could justify himself. I'd be willing to say that at least 90 percent, and I think that's a weak estimate of every person walking around in America today, really believes that in the day of judgment they can justify themselves by saying, I led a good life.

Compared to what? Compared to the law of God, not a chance. Again, God doesn't have to pull out all the Ten Commandments.

He doesn't have to pull out all the rest of the holiness code of Exodus. He can just simply say on the day of judgment, did you love me with all of your heart? Did you love me with all of your soul? Did you apply your mind every day seeking the deepest possible understanding of my word?

And you want to justify yourself. If anybody should have known better, it should have been this man. He was a lawyer. I think it's ironic that in the history of the church that the two figures that were most prominent in leading the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century were Martin Luther and John Calvin, both of whom studied the law before they studied theology.

Luther, you recall, was a student in law school when he was almost killed by a lightning bolt in 1505. And scared to death, he said, help me, Saint Anne, I'll become a monk. And so he entered into the monastery at Erfurt, and he used to go to confession every day. Not for 10 minutes or 15 minutes or 20 minutes, but two hours, three hours, four hours until the Father Superior in the monastery began to think that he was shirking his duties or he was psychotic or something. He said, what's wrong with you, Luther? Come here with serious sins. How much trouble can you get in in a monastery? I coveted Brother Jonathan's extra piece of bread at dinner last night, or I stayed up reading my Bible past lights out. I mean, for four hours, the guy's confessing the sins that he had committed in the last 24 hours, and he would get his absolution, and he would walk out of the confessional, and on his way back to the cell would go into despair because he remembered a sin he forgot to confess.

Sick or astute. Luther said, you asked me, do I love God? Love God?

Sometimes I hate him. Why did he feel that way? Because he was under the burden of the law, and he knew he could not justify himself.

But the lawyer thought he could do it. He's going to trip Jesus up finally with his question. I'm supposed to love God and all of that, but then I'm supposed to love my neighbor as myself. Okay, Jesus, tell me, who's my neighbor? The guy that lived next door to me?

The guy in my community? How broad, how wide, how expansive is that neighborhood? And how many people in it am I commanded to love like I love myself? Of course, the Jewish tradition had said that it was only the Jewish community that was in view here, and those who were unclean, the Gentile, the Samaritans who were outside of that community were not to be included in the mandate to love as neighbors. And so, again, trying to trip Jesus up, he says, okay, I love my neighbor, but you have to tell me first who is my neighbor. Now, Jesus could have answered it very plainly. He could have said, everybody in the world is your neighbor.

And so every human being you ever come across, you have to love as much as you love yourself. And that could have been the end of the discussion. Instead, Jesus said, let me tell you a story. You know, any time a teacher says, I'm going to tell you a story, the attention level is immediately increased.

No more wool gathering. The whole world loves a story. And so Jesus gives him the story. And he said this, a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. It's just a few miles from Jerusalem to Jericho. If you've ever been to the Holy Land and been to Jerusalem, maybe you've had the opportunity to visit New Testament Jericho. This is a different city from Old Testament Jericho, whose walls came tumbling down under the onslaught of Joshua and his troops.

New Testament Jericho is a fascinating town. If you take the trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, as I said, just a few miles, you are in the desert. You are traveling through the barren wilderness under the heat of the sun. And you've all seen the movies or read the stories of people perishing in the desert when in the distance they have a mirage. They see water, and they rush to the water, assuming that it's an oasis. And when they get there, there's only sand.

Can you imagine a more discouraging experience than to be fooled by a mirage? But Jericho was not a mirage. Jericho was a bona fide oasis. It still is today, and when you go, you're crossing that wilderness, and you see in the distance green, green trees, water running in streams and canals.

And you see a whole town built around this place of refreshment where there was water in abundance. So you can imagine the traffic that took place between Jerusalem and Jericho. The only problem was that that road between Jerusalem and Jericho was isolated, and it was a perfect place for ambush. So predators and robbers would hide in the hills along the way, and if they would see somebody coming unprotected, it was not uncommon for them to attack them, as happened in this case. And Jesus said, this single man is making the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho, and on the way, he fell among thieves.

They attacked the man, stripped him of his clothing, took all of his possessions, everything he owned, and beat him and mugged him, and left him on the side of the road half dead. That's the scenario that Jesus tells the lawyer. And then by chance, a certain priest came down that road.

We also know that one of the favorite residences for priests that went and served different communities round and about was in Jericho for the reasons I mentioned above. So here we find a priest who came down the road, and he saw the man lying on the side of the road half dead, and he passed by on the other side. Now Jesus doesn't tell us why he passed by on the other side, and of course, New Testament scholars love to speculate on this point. They think, oh, the man thought he was dead, and if he were dead and he walked over and touched him, then one school of theologians in Israel said that he would contaminate himself by touching a corpse. The other school of thought was that it still would not contaminate him if he was ministering to the dead, helping him for burial. But the scholars say maybe that's why he walked on the other side. He didn't want to get made impure by contact with a corpse. Others guessed, well, no, he walked on the other side because he thought the robbers might still be nearby, and he didn't want to meet the same fate that this poor fellow Jew had met notice in the story. That the man who falls among thieves is not a Samaritan, and it's not that the priest is avoiding him because he's Samaritan. He's a Jew.

He's a fellow Jew. Others say he just was too busy. He had an appointment in Jericho. He didn't want to be late.

He didn't want to be inconvenienced. He didn't want to be bothered, so he passed along the other side. Likewise, a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and he passed on the other side. Now, some people say, what's going on here? First it's a priest, and then it's a Levite. Aren't they all the same?

Well, no. The Levite's the tribe, and all priests are Levites, but not all Levites are priests. There were other duties in the cultists that were assigned to Levites beside the priesthood.

They would take care of the buildings and take care of the liturgies and that sort of thing without rising to the level of the priesthood. But both of them are professional church workers, the priest and the Levite. Both of them left a dying man on the side of a road.

Now Jesus gets to the crux of the matter. He said, but a certain Samaritan… Again, the parable is called not in the parable, but by those who describe it as the good Samaritan. They understand that the Jew, and to this lawyer, the term good Samaritan was an oxymoron because the Samaritan was still alive. For the Jew, the only good Samaritan was a dead Samaritan. And in their view, there was no such thing as a good Samaritan.

As we know, the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. But Jesus said, it's the Samaritan who comes down the road. And when he saw the man, listen to this, he had compassion. What does that mean?

If we break down the word compasio, what do you have? You have with feeling. How we cheapen this concept in our culture today, we say, I feel your pain and walk down the other side of the street. No, true compassion goes far beyond feelings. Real compassion never stops at the feeling level. If a person really has compassion, he doesn't just feel it, he shows it. We sang a hymn this morning, Children of the Heavenly Father, and it's based on the text of Psalm 103, verse 13.

And you may have noticed that text when you sang the hymn. It reads this way, as a father has compassion on his children. So the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. What father would leave his son half dead in the ditch?

Because he had an appointment somewhere else. God's compassion for his children took Jesus to the cross. God didn't just feel bad for us. Jesus didn't just care for us, but he demonstrated that compassion by doing everything he could to heal us and to redeem us. And so this Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where the man was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. So, that's the next word.

So, so what? He had compassion, so then what? So he went to him.

See the different directions? The man's in the ditch, the priest goes this way. The man's in the ditch, the Levite goes this way.

The man's in the ditch, the Samaritan goes this way. The Samaritan goes to the man, and he bandaged his wounds. He poured oil and wine on his wounds. Then he helped him up and put him on his beast of burden. And he walked alongside the man who was now on the beast belonging to the Samaritan, and he guided the animal bearing the wounded man to an inn. And he didn't leave him at the front door of the inn and then went on about his business. He takes him inside the inn, and listen to what it says, he took care of him. And the next day, he was still there, but he had to go, and so he departed. He took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said to him, here's enough money to take care of him for several days.

I don't know how long it's going to take until he is fully recovered. But if this doesn't cover it, I'll be back, and you run the tab, and I'll pay every cent that it takes to get him well. We have a hymn, Jesus Paid It All. You know, the Samaritan here reminds me of Jesus. Luther had an expression when he was asked what it means to love your neighbor. He said what it means is that you have to be Christ for your neighbor. Now, Luther was never so crass, as crass as he may have been in other things, never so crass to imagine that you could ever save your neighbor, that you could ever offer an atonement for your neighbor. And so when Luther said that you must be Christ to your neighbor, he didn't suppose that you could be the substitute for Jesus in bringing salvation. But this was the original WWJD. What would Jesus do when Luther said, you do to your neighbor, you do for your neighbor what Jesus would do in his compassion so that your neighbor will see Jesus working through you?

Take care of him. Whatever more you spend, when I come back, I will repay you. So now, the moral of the story. Jesus says to the lawyer, so which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? Now, no human being was ever asked an easier question by Jesus, and the attorney got it right. He said, he who showed mercy on him. It was the Samaritan who was the neighbor. Then Jesus said, go and do likewise.

You know, in the 19th century, it seemed like everybody was in Germany. All the theologians were writing on the vazen of things, the being or the essence of things. And a famous church historian of the 19th century from Germany, Adolf von Harnock, wrote a little book on the essence of Christianity, translated into English by what is Christianity. And he tried to reduce the whole of the Christian faith to two primary theses, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He said, that's what Christianity is all about. God is the universal father of all men, and we are all brothers, one of another. Here's a case where Homer nodded.

As brilliant as Adolf von Harnock was, he blew it on both counts. The Bible doesn't teach the universal fatherhood of God. God is the creator of all people, but not the father of all people.

The filial image of fatherhood is restricted. Ultimately, he's the father of one, his monogenes, his only begotten son. But penultimately, of all those who are in his son are then adopted into the family of God. No one's ever born a Christian. You're not a child of God by nature.

You're a child of the devil by nature. The only way you can be a child of God is to be adopted, and the only way you can be adopted by God is through the Son. That's how we enter into the family of God. What about the universal brotherhood? All men, all women, they're not my brothers and my sisters. Again, the image in the Scripture is only those who are in Christ are in the brotherhood and in the sisterhood.

You're my brother if you have the same father that I do. If your father is God and my father is God, we're brothers. The Bible doesn't teach the universal brotherhood.

It does teach the universal neighborhood of God. All men are not my brothers, but all men are my neighbors. All men, all women are my neighbors, which means in the great commandment, I have to love everybody.

And that means in biblical terms, a verb more than a noun. I don't have to like everybody, and I don't like everybody, but to love everybody means to be loving to everybody, to do what love demands for everyone you come across, whether you like them or whether you don't like them, whether he's a Jew or whether he's a Samaritan. Jesus is teaching this lawyer the ABCs of the law of God.

The expert failed his final exam because he didn't understand who his neighbor was until he heard this story. The parable of the Good Samaritan requires all of us to stop and ponder, are we loving our neighbor, and do we share our Savior's understanding of who our neighbor is? Today's sermon is from a series that Dr. R.C.

Sproul preached from the Gospel of Luke, and we are nearing the end of chapter 10, but of course we still have a long way to go before we're finished with this expositional study. That means that our resource offered today will be a helpful study companion for you throughout the rest of this series. So we hope you'll contact us today with a donation of any amount so that we can provide you with a digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke. R.C.

traces the record of Jesus' life, his miracles, his ministry to the sick, and as we heard today, his parables. So request a digital download of R.C. 's commentary today with your donation of any amount. Our offices are closed today, but you can give your gift and make your request online at Another way to support Ligonier Ministries is by designating Ligonier when you shop with Amazon Smile. When you shop using your Amazon Smile account and select Ligonier Ministries as your beneficiary, a portion of your eligible purchases directly supports our teaching and discipleship ministry. So thank you. Your generosity makes ministry happen. We're glad you joined us today, and I hope you'll come back next week as we continue Dr. Sproul's sermon series from The Gospel of Luke, here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-24 14:35:35 / 2023-02-24 14:46:06 / 11

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