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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thoughts on "The Good Samaritan"

Writing these notes helps me work through scripture as I think (write) out loud. I have been in the process of undoing my theological assumptions since I became a Christian (25 years ago this October). So, today, I’m taking a fresh look at the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

My first reaction is that I’m upset with myself for not immediately recognizing it as a parable. Of course I know it’s a parable, but I have failed to treat it as such. Parables are not nice stories to make a point, they are given to hide truth from the shallow and to challenge the seeker to go deeper. That’s not my opinion, it is what the Lord says of them.

To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’ (Luke 8:10)

I have to give a hat tip to A.C. Gaebelein, but I really should have seen it myself. The Lord’s parables must be seen through the prism of his stated earthly ministry (“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” - Matt 15), confirmed by Paul (“Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers” - Rom 15:8). All men since Adam are cursed with death as the result of his sin and our own (Rom 5:14) , so there is an application to believers, but in the context (there’s that word again!) of Luke 10, the Lord is speaking to a “lawyer” who addresses him after he has sent out the 70 and after he has declared a judgment against those people and cities (in Israel - see Matt 10:5-7) who rejected him.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.” (Luke 10:13-14)

As with all these notes, I will not try to break down the entire passage nor will attempt a complete word study. This will be a bird’s eye view of the parable. The “big picture” in light of the chapter.

The lawyer, “testing” the Lord and “seeking to justify himself,” asks the Lord a question. The more I read it, the more it is apparent it is meant to be a trick question. “Who is my neighbor?” The scribes, lawyers and pharisees were always on the lookout for a chance to confound the eternal Son of God, and, as in all such cases, he was unsuccessful here. And as the Lord has done with his other “parables of the kingdom” (the promised Kingdom for Israel), he speaks words that will only be understood by the sincere, humble seeker (“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” - Matt 13).

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.

Back to Luke 10: we have a number of characters:

  • the traveler (sojourner)
  • the thieves
  • the priest
  • the Levite
  • the Samaritan
  • the inn-keeper 

We also have:

  • oil
  • wine
  • the inn 

Going down from Jerusalem to Jericho

Scripture presents Jerusalem as the eternal city of God. One always goes “up” to Jerusalem. In this passage, when you leave Jerusalem you go “down” to Jericho. Israel is in the world. She is among the nations which have stolen her covering, beaten her and have left her for half dead (there is an application here for all men dead in sin as well).

The first to come along is the priest (those who bring the animal sacrifices “which can never take away sin” - Heb 10:11) and a Levite (those who attend to the earthly tabernacle which was but a picture of the one who would “tabernacle among us [Israel]” - John 1:14). The shadow is done away with when the reality arrives. When the Samaritan arrives, he does what the sacrifices and earthly ordinances cannot, he starts the healing process and pays the entire debt. The finished work of Christ is pictured here. I will only reference it, assuming the reader understands the implications.

The Lord was called a Samaritan (John 8:48) and he was rejected by his own brethren (Israel) and sent outside the camp (Heb 13:3). And this is the one who brings wine (a picture of his blood) and oil (a picture of the Holy Spirit). The wounded man starts healing as he lives in a temporary dwelling (the inn) “looking for a city... whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10). The Samaritan promise that he would “come again” and pay any debt incurred after the initial debt was paid. The wounded man pays nothing.

Israel is a nation constantly under assault, hated without a cause. She is in the world, residing in a temporary dwelling awaiting the arrival of her Messiah. As sinners, we were rescued from death by the one who was rejected by Israel. He has paid all of our debt (Heb 10:14), washed us in his blood and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13)! Israel will experience her full healing when he “comes again” unto believing Israel (Rom 11:25-27). we will experience our complete healing when “this mortal shall put on immorality” and “this corruptible shall put on incorruptionin resurrection (1 Cor 15:54)!

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them [Israel],When I take away their [Israel’s] sins.” (Rom 11:25)

Israel's Future Delivery

Israel shall be delivered, but not by her priesthood, sacrifices or tabernacle. She will be delivered by her rejected son, when he “comes again.” She will be healed completely, all debts paid. The pure blood of the Lamb of God will take away all of her sins and she will enter into the New Covenant which is promised to Israel alone.

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (Zech 12:10)

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive study. It provides me a framework to seek out the words used in light of other scripture, in light of the Lord’s earthly ministry to Israel; his promises to them (“to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” -Rom 15:8).

I believe the Lord and the Holy Spirit put a period on the idea that the Lord is not interested in works, but rather in pure devotion to him (which results in works) by following this parable with the account of Martha and Mary. One can go about busily serving the Lord as we see fit, yet there is one thing more needful.

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Let us be careful not to get caught up in “serving” to the point that we neglect to sit at the foot of the Savior. It is there we are taught. It is there we find fellowship with him. It is there we find rest from our labors as we rest in this age of grace. We must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Lots of places to go from here, but I will leave it there for now. The links above provide additional thoughts on some aspects noted.

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him...

I cannot leave this parable without addressing the “compassion” within it. Surely, as ambassadors of Christ (and the Body, with Christ as our head - Ephesians), we are emulate his character. Christ had compassion for those in his midst. But that compassion always included (and was predicated upon) a sorrow at the lost state of Abraham’s seed in that age. As we look at our world with eyes of compassion (whether feeding the hungry or seeking to bring healing) we must never forget the eternal picture. Compassion must lead to the application of the wine (the blood) and the introduction of the oil (the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit). That is where true healing begins and ends.

True compassion sees beyond the nakedness of the body and the hunger of the body to the nakedness of sin and slavery to fleshly desires. When we cover the naked and feed the hungry in temporal terms, we must remember to present the covering of Christ. We never encourage the covering of our nakedness with the “filthy rags” of our own works (Is 64:6). We must feed the hunger of the soul with “the true bread which comes down from heaven” (John 6:58). This is the true cover which covers and the true bread which satisfies forever!

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Compassion serves the present with an eye on eternity.