Welcome today to Christ’s Community Church. This morning we’re continuing in Part Two of our series OUTCASTS as we look at a story that many of us are familiar with, but one that is most often misunderstood. The story found in Luke chapter 10, is known as “The Good Samaritan” and is one of Jesus’ most well-known parables. This heart wrenching tale is rich with meaning and significance making it not only memorable but profound. Possibly one of the greatest illustrations Jesus ever told, this parable has become so familiar to Christians and non-Christians alike that it’s familiarity has caused us to think that we know what the story is really about. As a matter of fact, we all know that when you call someone a “Good Samaritan” it’s a complement, it’s recognition for someone that has shown unusual mercy and compassion to someone in need. The majority of us have missed the point of the story, we’ve missed the truth that it was intended to convey, we’ve missed the reason why Jesus told it, thinking that it’s a story about helping someone in need, but it’s not!
So, this morning, I’m going to give you a hint, the point of this parable is about how one inherits eternal life. That’s the question that initiated the whole conversation from the beginning, and the parable of the Good Samaritan is the answer and the conclusion of the story. Beginning in verse 21, we find Jesus doing a little personal evangelism on a religious man who confronted him, a man much like Nicodemus in John chapter 3, or the rich young man in Matthew chapter 19. This parable is the result of Jesus doing a little evangelistic outreach. And I tell you all that, because this parable could very possibly be the most misunderstood parable ever, which honestly shouldn’t be surprising, because the truth of our Lord’s parables are often hidden.
To give you a little more insight let’s begin reading in Luke chapter 10, at verse 21. Here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus prays with his followers,
"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”
Then speaking to the crowd, he says,
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Luke 10:21-24).
Here in this chapter our Lord begins to teach this most misunderstood but familiar parable. And honestly, all of the parables present truth that’s hidden from those who have no ears to hear, from those who don’t believe, but they’re revealed to those to whom it’s explained. Every one of the parables are about salvation in one form or another. Each one is profound, containing redemptive truth that remains nothing but a riddle if not explained. And this was the purpose of Jesus speaking in parables.
Let’s look at verse 25 and following because this establishes the intent of the parable. Jesus is teaching the people, and in the middle of his teaching, an expert in the Jewish law stood up to test Jesus.
"Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25).
Now this has got to be the greatest question asked by humanity throughout the ages, but it was a question that was on the minds of devout Jews all the time. You see, they knew the Old Testament promised eternal life in the presence of God, and even though they trusted in their Jewish ancestry, their circumcision, and their religion with their ceremonies and traditions, there was still this sense of nagging in their hearts, because of the realization of their own sin, and the accusations of their own conscience, that made them fear that in spite of all the righteousness on the outside, inside they weren’t worthy to be part of that Kingdom. There was always this concern, this fear that they would miss the Kingdom, and therefore this question was asked on many occasions in the gospels.
But here’s what I want you to notice, this man who confronted Jesus wasn’t seeking the truth, he wasn’t seeking information, he was doing what the scribes and Pharisees always did, he was trying to trap Jesus so they could condemn him. He was asking the most important question that any person could ever ask; it’s the right question, but his motives were all wrong. You see, number one, motives matter.
This expert in the law stands up to put Jesus to the test, asking him the same question the rich young ruler asked, asking the same question that Nicodemus had in his heart, but he didn’t ask it with sincere intentions, he asked it to frame Jesus, to shame him, and to somehow find him guilty of some crime, but watch how Jesus answers. He said to him in verse 26,
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
I love that, because just like the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus takes him back to the Word of God, “What does the Law say?” And this guy is sharp, he knows the Old Testament Scriptures and gives the right answer combining Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses four and five, with Leviticus chapter 19 verse 18. Two familiar scriptures that sum up the entire Law of God and which was actually the same thing that Jesus said in Matthew chapter 22, and the man said in verse 27,
“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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
In verse 28, Jesus said to him,
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:28).
Do this and you’ll have eternal life. You know the Law, love God perfectly, love your neighbor as yourself, do that and you’ll have eternal life. Jesus quotes back to him Leviticus chapter 18, verse 15,
“Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them” (Leviticus 18:5).
Now honestly, at this point the lawyer should’ve said, “I can’t love God like that, I can’t love every person as much as I love myself, I just can’t do it, I’m not capable of it, and I seriously don’t even think I can do it in the future. There’s just no way I can be as perfect as my Father in Heaven is perfect. I can’t be holy as he is holy. He should of fallen on his knees crying out for mercy like the tax collector in Luke chapter 18, beating his breast saying,
“God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
This expert in the law should have been convicted and cried out for mercy, but instead he drowned his conscience with his self-righteous pride and said in verse 29, wanted to justify himself,
"And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29).
He’s so self-righteous that all he thinks is that maybe Jesus has a different definition of neighbor. He’s oblivious to his true condition, that he’s not justified in God’s eyes, that he’s not right with God, but instead he wonders if maybe Jesus has a different take on “who is my neighbor.” And this was a problem for many of the Jews.
If you remember, Jesus told the crowds,
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:43-44).
So, Jesus acknowledges that they’ve been taught that their enemies were not their neighbors even though the Old Testament clearly teaches that they should love the alien and the stranger in their midst. You know, Deuteronomy chapter 10 tells us,
“You are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
Even though love had always been required, they didn’t love their enemies, they didn’t love the strangers, and they didn’t even love other Jews. The only ones they loved were those who were just like they were. They were very narrow minded. Even in the Psalms they sang of the virtue of hating your enemies. Psalms 139, verse 21 says,
“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies” (Psalms 139:21-22).
They were so self-righteous that they redefined who their neighbor was, turning hatred of the enemies of God into a virtue, justifying themselves while hating other people, strangers, and those Jews who were not part of their elite group. With pride this expert in the law says, “And who is my neighbor?” Signifying just how depraved he is, how far he was from God, and how incapable he has of coming to an understanding of his true spiritual condition. He thinks he loves God perfectly, loved the people he supposed to love perfectly, and you can almost sense that he’s mocking when he says, “Maybe you’d better tell me who my neighbor is!”
And honestly, that’s the way a lot of people feel about Christians, that we don’t really care, that we’re this elite group, and if we talk to them, we have an agenda to get them to pray a prayer or do this or that. Number two, we need to be people who take a genuine interest in others.
You know, like Jesus did with this expert in the law. This was just another one of many religious people that Jesus encountered who thought that they could earn eternal life by their morality, by their religion, and by their emotional connections to God. However, instead of walking away like many of us might have done Jesus took a genuine interest in this man.
As a matter of fact, there is an interesting verse in Scripture found in Philippians chapter 2 that really describes where a lot of people are today. This was Paul talking to the church in Philippi and he said this:
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon…I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:19-21).
Now that’s a pretty sad statement to be included in the Word of God, but honestly, I wonder how often that’s a very real reflection of where I am and maybe where you are? You know, how’s this going to benefit me, what’s it going to cost me?
Now Jesus could’ve left this expert in the law standing there, he could’ve walked away and never said another word, but instead Jesus engages with this man and gives him another chance to respond. The purpose of this parable which were about to read, was really a wake-up call to crush this guy’s self-righteousness. This parable was intended to shatter his pride, to crush his imaginary spirituality, and bring about a life-changing work of conviction. In his grace, Jesus is going to give him one more opportunity to repent by giving him some insight into his own sinfulness, a sense of awareness of his position before God, as one who has violated God’s law and who neither loves God nor his neighbor. But how will Jesus do that? How could he penetrate the hard heart of this man?
This parable gives us the answer, because it is an unforgettable story that produces great conviction and was intended not to be a story to teach believers how to live, but it was designed to be an evangelistic effort. The story is told to a nonbeliever, a self-righteous man who can’t enter the kingdom of God. And it’s the same as if we were sharing the good news with someone who was self-righteous because they’re religious, because they go to church, because they’re baptized, because they love God, because they know about Jesus, because they do good works, or maintain a certain level of morality. How are you going to approach them?
So Jesus told this story in an effort to bring this self-righteous man to an awareness of his own sinfulness so that he may repent and cry out for mercy. His goal was first to get him lost so that he could get him saved. So in verse 30, in reply Jesus said to this self-righteous expert in the law:
"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”
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.
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 and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have" (Luke 10:30-35).
Number three, this man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho found himself in a desperate situation.
This man fell into the hands of robbers, he needs help, he can’t move, he can’t lift himself out of that condition. It’s really a fascinating story but there’s no sense trying to outline this passage or make certain allegories because there’s only one point. This is an illustration Jesus made up, to make a point he wanted to drive into the man’s heart and ours as well.
This parable is really simple because we simply have a story about a man’s journey on a dangerous road, when he found himself in a desperate situation lying half dead on the side of the road. Jesus says in verse 31, a priest happened along, and suddenly there’s a glimmer of hope, like maybe this would turn out good after all, because a priest was somebody who like the expert in the law knew the Old Testament, knew that you were to show kindness to strangers, but the priest … passes on the other side. He ignores the man, he shuns him, and leaves him lying there in critical condition. The priest who himself is self-justified, who seems to be righteous, by his actions shows that he doesn’t love God or others either.
Now Jesus says, “So too, a Levite, when he came…passed by on the other side.” Once again, there was a glimmer of hope, he was a religious man, he was connected to the priesthood, connected to religion, worship in the Temple. We would expect him to come over and help, but he doesn’t love God either and nor does he love the man. Because if he loved God, he would do what God says and he would certainly love his neighbor as himself.
Jesus has introduced us to a couple people who don’t have eternal life, because they don’t love the Lord their God, and they don’t love their neighbor. The story is building to a great climax, verse 33, this other man a Samaritan, who by the definition of this lawyer, this expert in the law, would have been the enemy of this Jew lying there half dead “came where the man was; and when he saw him he took pity on him.” Now we don’t have to consider whether this man was a believer, because this was a story, this man doesn’t exist, but we need to ask ourselves what’s Jesus trying to say.
Here’s the simple point of this parable. Two men had no love and one man did. Two men who outwardly were religious had no love, their religion did nothing for them, while on the other hand the Samaritan, an outcast, showed love to this man in a desperate situation. So the issue of loving God and loving your neighbor is not a matter of one’s religion; it’s something else. This is amazing, this is not just an obligated concern, this is over the top, because what this Samaritan does is lavish, this is the ultimate of attention, this is how we care… for ourselves isn’t it?
You know, we make sure that we get the best attention, we have our needs met, we get the best doctors, the best care, and 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. We might do this for a friend or a family member but we’re talking about a stranger, an enemy. Jesus asked the question, verse 36,
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" (Luke 10:36).
Now notice, that Jesus has just changed the question. In verse 29, the man asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus responded in verse 36 saying, “This isn’t about who your neighbor is, this is about are you a neighbor?” It’s not about, “Who is my neighbor?” It’s about forgetting to determine who qualifies for you to love them and demonstrating a love that needs no qualifications. It’s a love for everyone, for all the time, sacrificially, generously, limitlessly, as long as the need exists.
Verse 37, the man answered the question,
“The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37).
Jesus made his point, the conviction was laid upon the man, and there’s a blank space in your Bible between that verse the next one. The next verse states, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way…” You see, Jesus knew that when you take a genuine interest in someone in a desperate situation there’s no sense in telling them the good news if they won’t except the bad news about their condition.
Here this expert in the law, this self-righteous man, was standing in front of the one person in the world who could forgive him and as far as we know he never asked. Social justice, doing good, was not the issue, it was about our righteousness before God. Here was Jesus, ready to pour out all the love, and mercy, and forgiveness of heaven on this lawyer if he would simply admit his sinful condition. That’s the message we need to learn from this parable. We all need to come for mercy and grace. Once you’ve received his grace you can begin to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, not perfectly, but in a way that shows the direction of your affection. And you begin to love other people as you love yourself, not perfectly, but that’s the direction.
This parable is not to make people feel guilty about not caring for the poor. It’s not to make people feel guilty about not caring for those suffering. This parable was intended to make people feel guilty for not loving God perfectly and loving others perfectly while driving us to seek the One who alone can provide forgiveness for that sin and eternal life. Let’s pray…
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
March 19, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.