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THE GOOD SAMARITAN

Luke 10:25-10:37
Key Verse: 10:37

In the previous passage Jesus said to the seventy-two, who were sent out in Jesus’ name to proclaim the kingdom of God, “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus wants us to keep this true joy due to our true hope in the kingdom of heaven through the salvation of our souls in Jesus. We also pray that this joy may increase in our hearts. In today’s passage a certain man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” One’s name being written in heaven, the salvation of the soul and inheriting eternal life are in essence all the same as the marvellous blessing of God through his Son Jesus. In the course of helping this man Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Let’s listen to Jesus. We can learn how those whose names are written in heaven should live and be assured of inheriting eternal life.

First, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (25-28). Look at verse 25. “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” We can imagine the situation. Jesus was teaching a certain group of people who were sitting down. Then an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Who can stand up to test Jesus? Usually, a superior person can test those who he thinks are inferior to him. A professor can test his or her students, not vice versa. However, this law-expert stood up to test Jesus, not knowing who Jesus truly was. In his polite manner, this law-expert called Jesus ‘Teacher.’ His question was, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It is interesting that his testing question was very personal. He did not inquire, “What must we (or people) do to inherit eternal life?” He inquired, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Presumably, in his testing question, he revealed his inner agony. Jesus said to the Jews in John 5:39, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life…” This man also began to study the Law in the Scriptures to possess eternal life and became an expert in the Law. However, he could not feel the life of God in himself. Consciously or unconsciously, in posing his testing question to Jesus, he wanted to be sure of inheriting eternal life. In truth, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” can be the most fundamental question in life. Men long for eternal life, for God set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ec 3:10). Another time a rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked, “Good, teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mt 19:20,22; Mk 10:22; Lk 18:18). When Paul was in prison, a jailer asked desperately, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Biblically speaking, these questions are closely related.

How did Jesus reply? Look at verse 26. “‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’” Jesus did not give him the answer directly, but instead gave counter-questions. Jesus helped him in relation to his specialty, that is the Law. So he asked, “What is written in the Law?” And then he did not stop there. He asked more, “How do you read it?” In another translation (NET), “How do you understand it?” What is written can be one thing and a person’s understanding of it can be another. Jesus wanted him to not only know what is written in the Law but also understand it correctly and personally.

What was his answer? In verse 27, “He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’” Once one of the teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered, “The most important one is this: ‘…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’…” (Mk 12:28-31; Mt 22:36-40). Amazingly, the law-expert's summary of the Law and Jesus’ summary of it were the same, written in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. So Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” To love God wholly and to love one’s neighbour as oneself is the way to inherit eternal life. The law-expert had the correct knowledge to obtain eternal life. But the punch line is “Do this and you will live.” This is in accordance with Leviticus 18:5, “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.” Here “live” is to have abundant life and joy at the present and live beyond death to eternity. God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, which begins with the words, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex 20:2). God wanted them to love God in God’s grace of deliverance and to love their neighbour out of love for God so that they might truly live. What Jesus said concerning eternal life is a clear teaching of the Scriptures. The law-expert stood up to test Jesus, but now Jesus let him be tested before God.

Here we wonder why Jesus helped him in this way. Romans 3:20 says, “…no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” According to the Bible no one is able to keep the law perfectly. So all are sinners before God. That’s why Jesus came. So why did Jesus not say to him, “Repent and believe in me” or “Follow me” and “you will have eternal life”? Yet, we believe that Jesus knew the law-expert best and helped him in the best way. Jesus knew that at the man’s current stage, what he needed was to put his correct knowledge into practice. (This expert in the law was like a man who had eaten an enormous amount of rich food and never exercised and as a result became too weak control his heavy body. Spiritually speaking, he looked like a monster whose head was like that of a lion and whose legs were like those of a sparrow). While he really strove to love God solely and love his neighbour as himself, which is the whole point of the Scriptures, he would be led to Jesus, since the Scriptures testify about him (Jn 5:39b). Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews in John 5:42, “…I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts,” and in John 8:42, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here.” Those who believe in God and love him will also love Jesus. And it is God draws people to Jesus (Jn 6:44). So God certainly leads those who sincerely struggle to love God and love their neighbour to Jesus. And Jesus said in John 7:17, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” In other words, when one truly loves God and chooses to do God’s will, he can come to know Jesus. Jesus also said before Pilate, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (Jn 18:37). When one truly struggles to live a righteous life, he can find Jesus, a truly righteous man. So when a centurion who joined in the execution of Jesus saw how Jesus died, he exclaimed, “Surely this man was a righteous man” (Lk 23:47). In Acts there is a man named Cornelius, another centurion in the Italian Regiment. His prayers and helping the poor pleased God (Ac 10:4b). That could be his expression of loving God and his neighbour. When Peter came to his house and preached the gospel of Jesus, he humbly listened to Peter and was baptized in the name of Jesus along with all those who gathered there with him (Ac 10:48). The mistake of the unbelieving Jews was that they did not truly love God, but they sought to establish their own righteousness by keeping the law. So in their self-righteousness which is like filthy rags before God they rejected Jesus. Here we should make clear that one’s righteous good acts can never earn salvation or eternal life. Yet, loving God and loving our neighbour is the right path to inherit eternal life.

Second, “go and do likewise” (29-37). When Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will,” the law-expert must have been pierced in his heart. But he did not want to admit it. Since he was an expert in the law, he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?" Instead of dealing with the major point of loving God, the man diverted the conversation to the secondary issue of loving his neighbor. His intention was to define the word "neighbor" in such a way that it excluded many people. To some orthodox Jews, "neighbor" excluded women, children and Gentiles. If the man could restrict the definition sufficiently, making the circle of people he had to love small enough, there might be a chance he could live up to this second teaching.

When he asked, “Who is my neighbour?” in this manner he supressed the teaching of the Bible and hid his feelings of guilt. There are many who have the knowledge of the Bible, but when they have to put into practice what they know, they quickly turn the Bible teachings into theological arguments or denominational differences. To them, Christianity is one thing and life is quite another. They should learn practical faith, getting out of theoretical faith, which is not faith at all.

In order to help this man Jesus told the parable so called, “The Good Samaritan.” Look at verse 30. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” Jerusalem is about 900 m (3000 ft) above sea level, and Jericho, over 300 m (more than 1000ft) below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. Since the distance between Jerusalem and Jericho (to the east) is about 27+ km (17 miles), it is obvious that the decline is rather steep. This road passes through mountainous territory. It is rugged and rocky, and during the days of Jesus and—and in fact, until rather recently—dangerous for travelling.

How does the story progress? In verses 31 and 32, “a priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So, too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Priests and Levites, as religious leaders were supposed to help their fellow Jews who were in such a dangerous condition. However, in this story a priest, who seemed to have finished his duty in Jerusalem and was going down to his home in Jericho, one of the priestly cities, saw the half dead man and passed by on the other side. Perhaps he had memorized Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God…” and Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbour…” Through these Bible verses, he could have learned how to love God and his neighbour. He only remembered that he who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days (Nu 19:11). A Levite also acted in the same way. Then the audience may have expected that Jesus would introduce a lay Jew. But to everyone’s surprise, now he spoke of a Samaritan, whom they despised so much (Jn 8:48; Lk 9:35). Look at verses 33-34. “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him, bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.” The Samaritan seemed to be a business traveler, so must have been very busy. But when he saw the man, he took pity on him. First of all, he had a beautiful compassionate heart that was responsive. When his heart was moved, his legs also moved. He went to him. Then he immediately administered first aid by washing his wounds with wine for cleansing the wounds (because of its alcoholic content being a disinfectant and antiseptic (antibacterial)), and by pouring into them oil for soothing and easing the pain, and bandaged the wounds. The Samaritan’s care did not stop there. Then he put the man on his own donkey, walking himself, took him to an inn and took care of him, most certainly the whole night. The next day he took out two silver coins, which by Greek measures was two denarii, (two days’ wages of the average labourer (cf. Mt 20:9), a sum which, according to the prices charged at that time for “room and board,” would suffice for several days). and gave them to the innkeeper. Since he was a traveller for business, he had to leave. Yet, the Samaritan did not just leave, thinking rather about doing what he could for the man until completion. He said to the inn keeper, “Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” He wanted to be responsible for the man until he would be fully recovered.

In this Samaritan we see true humanity: the Samaritan had pity on a helpless man. In order to help him, he interrupted his own business. He gave him a ride while he himself walked. He spent a great sum of money. He even endangered his own life. His pity on a helpless man overcame all his calculations. He lost a lot in order to help the helpless. Yet he must have had the deep joy and life of God inside.

Then Jesus asked, “Which of the three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Now the man could not justify himself any more, with no way to escape. So the expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” It is right that the one who had mercy on him was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers. The man had asked, “Who is my neighbour?” So through this parable Jesus taught him that his neighbour is one who is in the need of his help. The Samaritan was an excellent example of how to be a neighbour to the needy. It is also noticeable that the law-expert did not say, “The Samaritan” at Jesus’ question. In this story Jesus purposely introduced the Samaritan, who could be the last person to love a wounded man because of the long hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. Yet, the Samaritan considered him as his neighbour and took care of him. So Jesus was teaching him that even a Samaritan could be his neighbour. Jesus wanted him to expand the circle of his neighbours. This was a clear answer to his question, “Who is my neighbour”, which is an important question to all who claim that they love God. Finally, Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus wanted the law-expert to go and practice it likewise, not copying each act but having the same heart and spirit. Then he would be in the right path to eternal life.

Who in the world can love his neighbour as the Samaritan did? In other words, “Who can obey God’s command, “Love your labour as yourself” up to God’s standard? No one. Again, no one is righteous before God by keeping the law. Jesus is the only one who truly loved God and his neighbour perfectly. In the Good Samaritan we see an image of Jesus. While we were half-dead beaten by sin and Satan, Jesus came to us and took care of us. He bandaged and healed our wounds with his own wounds. He shed his blood to wash the poison of sin our souls and made us new. In this grace of Jesus we are saved and inherit eternal life. In this amazing grace of Jesus God wants those who have received this grace of Jesus to walk on the right path of eternal life by keeping the law of love, loving God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind and love our neighbour as our self. We have lived a selfish life enough, only loving ourselves. But God wants us to live a life of love and sacrifice in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 5:2 says, “…live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” By practicing the life of love, God wants us to imitate Jesus and be like him. This is God’s calling purpose in Christ Jesus. Jesus said, “Do this and you will live” and “Go and do likewise.” When we love our neighbour out of love for God, we can truly have life in us. This is also the reason Jesus said, “Do you truly love? Feed my lambs.”

There are people who try to do good, the act of the Good Samaritan. However, if it becomes just accumulating his good act and thus trying to earn salvation by himself, they are not on the right path of eternal life. They are like self-righteous and bigoted Jews, who became the enemies of God. When one tries to love God and love his neighbour, he can find his shortcomings and be in the need of Jesus’ grace again and again for his help to truly love God and our neighbours. In that way one can come to Jesus and grow in his image. This is truly the way of life.

An Indian Christian missionary, Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929) was one day climbing over the snow-laden Mountain Himalaya. After walking for a while, Sundar saw ahead of him a man lying fallen in the cold. He saw at that moment, a man who looked at the lying man and then passed by. Sundar hesitated for a moment. Then he remembered the grace of Jesus and decided to help the man. He took him and put him on his back. After piggybacking for quite a long time, Sundar sweated a lot in hard labour and the man on his back began to be restored, melting from his frozen state by the heat generated by Sundar's body. And Sundar himself could overcome the severe cold because of his hard labour and sweat, continuing persistently on the mountain road. As he walked further, he saw a man lying there, and found dead frozen in the extreme cold. The dead man was the one who just hurriedly bypassed the helpless man for his own survival. When Sundar helped one helpless man, both could survive. But when the other man tried to save himself only ignoring one pitiful man, he himself was found dead. It is true that loving our neighbour is the way of life for our neighbour and for oneself as well.

God led our family to move near the U of T campus in March of 2011. At that time I had in mind to meet U of T students on campus more frequently and invite them to Bible study. But when I walked by U of T campus, most of the time I walked fast to save time and give more time to message preparation. In a sense I was like the priest or the Levite. But the Lord had mercy on me and helped me through the study of Luke’s gospel, especially through the words, “Let the dead bury his own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” and “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Accepting these words, I tried to speak to the students, even for a short time, whenever I passed the campus. I could see more and more that they are ripe for harvest and the harvest is plentiful. Their response was much better than I expected. I came to believe that truly lovely young women and strong men are fainting for hunger and thirst for the word of God. One student has been studying for the last three weeks. My neighbours are my family members and our church members whom God put under my care. I need to pray all the more for each of them. In this study I newly accept that U of T students are my neighbour, and ask God that I may be able to see half-dead souls and serve them one by one with the spirit of the Good Samaritan as my expression of loving the Lord Jesus.

Thank Jesus who is our Good Samaritan. In his grace may we love God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our strength and with all our minds and love our neighbour as ourselves. May God help us to obey Jesus’ word, “Go and do likewise” in his abounding grace and walk on the right path of eternal life.

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