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Luke 10:25-37



        A Christian teacher was once addressing a group of students in his English class.  "All of you know," he said, "the verb which is used as follows:  `I am, you are, he is.'  Perhaps you are not aware of it, but the verbs in English, German, French, Italian, and Latin are all conjugated the very same way.  They always occur in this order, `I love, you love, he loves.'  But do you know that that is a very bad way for a verb to run?  The Hebrew people, with better discernment, arranged their verbs just the other way around.  They say, `he is, you are, I am'!"  Then he added, "That is the way in which Jesus also told us to look at life.  You should fix your attention on God, saying, `He is to be first in my love.'  Then, looking at your neighbor, declare, `You are to be second in my affections.'  Last of all you should humbly consider yourself and say, `I am to be the least.'  Remember, first there is God, then your neighbor, and finally yourself!  That is the Scriptural way to think and live."

        We have an illustration of this Scriptural way of thinking in Luke 10:25-37.  Would you turn there with me please.  I will read this aloud for us as you follow along silently.

(Let's use our standard narrative format to explore this story.  We shall start first with:)


The events of this particular chapter seem to run together, so it is difficult to tell the exact circumstances of this story.  But it is probably the typical situation of Jesus teaching the multitude.

        At any rate, a certain lawyer stands up and puts forth a question to test Jesus Christ.  In a moment we shall discuss the antagonists of the story that Jesus told, but here we have a real life antagonist of Christ's.  This lawyer was a Pharisee.  The Pharisees were in continual opposition to all that Jesus did, said and was.  But He is not merely a Pharisee, He is a lawyer or scribe.  The scribes were Pharisees who were interpreters and teachers of the Mosaic Law.  The scribes' duties entailed that of jurists who dealt with the theoretical development of the law.  They were experts in the Law of Moses who administrated the law by pronouncing legal decisions.  In New Testament times, the scribes held absolute supremacy over the people and demanded the highest of respect.  Since the law was unwritten and propagated by oral tradition, Jewish law became an extensive and comprehensive science.  These were the intellectuals!  They lived to study and mystify the law!

        The conflict before us is a character conflict.  The character conflict is between this certain lawyer and Jesus Christ, but this lawyer represents the Pharisees.  So, the conflict is between the Pharisees and Jesus Christ.  This scribe or lawyer put Jesus to the test and tried to discredit him by getting Him to answer His question incorrectly.  He asked,

"Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

        He didn't want His question answered.  In fact, he had no question!  He wanted to trap Jesus, but Christ's answer was brilliant!  First, he turned the table and asked the lawyer a question.  He asked the lawyer what was written in the law and how did He interpret that law.  The lawyer answered exactly as Jesus knew he would.  He answered by quoting part of the Shema.  The Shema was the declaration of faith that every orthodox Jew quoted daily in his prayer time.  The lawyer said, in effect, that you should love the Lord your God with all that you are; and your neighbor as yourself.

        Jesus knew that He had him.  He didn't argue with him or rebuke him.  He said simply, "You have answered correctly; Do this and you will live."

        But the lawyer could not live with that answer?  He had gone from offense to defense.  He had been testing Jesus, but now he was being tested.  "Strict Jews would not acknowledge that any non-Jew was his neighbor" (Wycliffe, p. 1047).  "The Jews split hairs over this question and excluded from `neighbor' Gentiles and especially Samaritans.  A neighbor is a nigh dweller to one, but the Jews made racial exceptions as many, alas, do today" (A. T. Robertson, Vol. II, p. 152).

        The lawyer still had a chance to trap Jesus, and furthermore He had to justify himself.  He was looking pretty bad in the eyesight of the bystanders, and the lawyers lived upon the honor and esteem of the people.  So, he put forth one more question, "Who is my neighbor?"

        These are the circumstances which led Jesus to put forth this narrative or parable.  A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  Parables were snatches of everyday life with a moral.  Let's go on and look at the parable that Jesus gave this lawyer to answer his question.

(Let's start with:)


The first character is generic, because he represents anyone's neighbor.  This certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He was probably on the Jericho road.  The Jericho road was infamous for the robbers that lay in wait all along the way.  This certain man fell among robbers who beat him, stripped him and left him half dead.

        The antagonist in this story will be seen to be the priest and the levite.  The protagonist in this story will be seen to be the Samaritan.

(With that awareness, let's dive into:)


The suspense of this story revolves around how the characters are going to respond to this victim of unfortunate circumstances.

        By chance a priest was going down that road and saw him, but passed by on the other side.  A priest was one who intervened between the people and God offering up the people's prayers, thanksgivings and sacrifices.  A priest was certainly a very religious person, but he was unconcerned with the plight of his neighbor.

        By chance a levite also was going down that same road and saw him, but likewise passed by on the other side.  The name "levite" was "The distinctive title of that portion of the tribe which was set apart for the service of the sanctuary, subordinate to the priests" (Unger's, p. 655).  Levites served in the Temple.  They were certainly religious people, but this levite was unconcerned with the plight of his neighbor.   Why?  Well, we can assume because of the group that asked the question, the direction in which this certain man was traveling, and the response of the priest and the levite, that this man was a non-Jew at the least, but probably a Samaritan.  Race kept the priest and levite from responding in a Christian manner, i.e. compassionately.

         Both, the priest and the levite, were religious, but not right.  Their conduct was the same.  They were both religious, refined, cultured, and intelligent, but passing by on the other side.  "A vivid and powerful picture of the vice of Jewish ceremonial cleanliness at the cost of moral principle and duty" (A. T. Robertson, Vol. II, p. 153).

        By chance a certain Samaritan went down that same road.  "The Samaritans were a mixed race with a heathen core (Ezra 4:2)."[1]   This Samaritan saw this victim of robbery, but he had a different response.  He felt compassion for the man.

felt compassion 4697 splagchnizomai "to have the bowels yearn," "to be moved in the inward parts," "to feel compassion."

splagchnizomai is from

4698 splagchnon "an intestine."

splagchnon "b. the bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence equivalent to our heart, [tender mercies, affections, etc.]."[2]

compassion splagchna "The verb gives the oriental idea of the bowels as the seat of compassion."

Compassion is "a deep feeling for and an understanding of suffering with an accompanying desire to relieve that suffering"  (Webster's Third New International Dictionary).

        Not only did this certain Samaritan have a deep feeling for and an understanding of this man's suffering, he sought to relieve that suffering.  He took some practical action.  He:

1.      Came to Him (v 34).

2.      Bandaged up his wounds (v 34).

3.      Poured oil and wine on his wounds (v 34).

4.      Put him on his own beast (v 34).

5.      Brought him to an inn (v 34).

6.      Took care of him (v 34).

He took care of the injured man for a while, but He had to go on a journey.  So he instructed the innkeeper to take care of the man and left a down payment (two denarii - two days wages) and a promise to pay the bill in full when he returned.

Add these six actions to the feeling of compassion and you have a sevenfold response, a total compassionate response to the plight of this victim of robbery. Seven is the great number of perfection, therefore seven stamps with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used.  Of time, it marks the Sabbath and the number of days in a week.  In the creative works of God, it completes the colours of the spectrum and rainbow, and satisfies in music the notes of a scale.  In each of these the eighth is only a repetition of the seventh.  Etc., etc., etc.  Here it represents a complete compassionate response.

        Jesus had drawn a striking picture here.  He contrasted the ceremonially righteous and self-righteous priests and levites with the hated Samaritans.  The meaning of His parable was shocking, but unmistakable.  He was saying that your neighbor is anyone you come in contact with, and secondly He depicted a hated Samaritan to be more righteous than a priest or levite for compassionately ministering to his neighbor.  The scribes and Pharisees knew that the parable was about them.

        We should learn first that anyone we come across, by chance, is our neighbor.  Race should never be a consideration when we are determining to minister to someone.  Nor should any other discriminating factor!

        The House of the Lord ministers to Red, Yellow, Black, and White, without regard to their race.

        Secondly, we should learn that whoever we come across, by chance, has actually been allowed in our lives by Jesus Christ that we might demonstrate His love and compassion.  There is no luck or happenstance in the life of a Christian.  The steps of a good man/woman/person are ordered by the Lord!!!

        Thirdly, we see how we should respond to victims of unfortunate circumstances that we come across by chance.

        The foil in this story which heightens the right action of the Samaritan is the priest and the levite.  The attitudes and actions of the priest and the levite are contrasted with those of the Samaritan.  They were both religious and refined, but they walked by on the opposite side of the road unconcerned and unsympathetic.

        The conflict in the parable is a moral/spiritual conflict.  In this case, what is moral is spiritual and vice versa, since we are dealing with religious persons.  The conflict is between the spirituality of the priest and levite as opposed to the spirituality of the Samaritan.

        The spiritual test here is between self-righteous unconcern and compassionate concern.  We have a choice as to our response towards victims of unfortunate circumstances.  This could be any unfortunate circumstance:  rape, automobile accident, loss of a job, parental problems, etc.  We can minister to them the compassion of Jesus regardless of race, creed, or religious affiliation, or we can pass by unconcerned, uninvolved, and ungodly!!!

        Morally good behavior entails being concerned about those who have encountered unfortunate circumstances.  What really matters, from a values perspective, is compassion towards anyone around us who encounters unfortunate circumstances!!!  This is Equal Employment Opportunity!  There in lies an opportunity for evangelism and edification which will lead to exaltation of Jesus Christ.

(In many stories we would have already reached the climax in the action of the story, but we are actually dealing with a parable within a narrative.  The narrative is about Jesus and the lawyer, but Jesus puts for a parable to teach this lawyer.  So, although we have reached the climax of the parable, the climax of the narrative is forth coming in the final words of Jesus to the lawyer.  So, let's go ahead and deal with:)


The climax is also the commandment, both of which are contained in the words of Jesus Christ, "Go and do the same!"  Christ's answer to the lawyer is now complete:  To inherit eternal life you must love God with all that you are and you must love your neighbor as yourself, i.e. in the same action and manner as the Good Samaritan.  The narrative ends at this point, because what more can be said.  Here we have Christianity in a nutshell.  The essence of Christianity is loving God and loving or being compassionate towards your neighbor.  So simple, yet so profound!  So admirable, yet so humanly impossible!  So practical, yet so spiritual.  So needed, yet so missing!  So important, yet so overlooked!

        Let's take the imagery one step further.  The self-righteous, but unconcerned, priest and levite represented the lawyer and the Pharisees.  Our churches are full of self-righteous, but unconcerned, uncompassionate individuals.  Maybe those of us who are doing the same don't recognize or realize what Jesus did for us?

(Let's take another look at the actions of that certain Samaritan, because He represents Christ's actions towards us and what our actions should be towards our neighbors.  Christ:)

A.     Felt Compassion (v 33).

Jesus felt compassion for us.

        We should feel compassion for anyone we come in contact with.

B.     Came To The Wounded Man (v 34).

Jesus came to us, i.e. to earth from heaven.

        We must take the compassion of the gospel wherever we go!

C.     Bandaged Up His Wounds (v 34).

Jesus healed us with His death upon the cross.

Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed."

We should take healing wherever we go!

D.     Poured Oil And Wine On His Wounds (v 34).

1.      Oil.

The pouring of oil is symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word for anointing means more than just pouring over, it means taking up residence in something or someone.  When Jesus ascended on high, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

2.      Wine.

Wine is made from the blood of grapes.  The pouring of wine is symbolic of the blood of Jesus Christ cleansing every believer.  Jesus forgives and cleanses every person who believes in Him.

Our lives ought to have a blessing, forgiving, cleansing effect upon everyone around us.

E.     Put Him On His On Beast (v 34).

This is symbolic of Jesus Christ bearing the burden of sin for us.  He paid our debt in full and carried our sins away.

        We must learn to bear one another's burdens.

F.     Brought Him To An Inn (v 34).

This is symbolic of the Church of Jesus Christ.  We are made a part of the Church the holy habitation of the Lord.

        We must bring people to the inn of the church.

G.     Took Care Of Him (v 34).

He took care of the church while He was here on earth, but He had to go back to the Father.

        So He left this newly delivered man in the inn:  in the hands of the innkeeper.  What does the inn represent, but the church.  He left us as a lodging place and a place of care for those who are delivered by Himself.  He left us the down payment of the Holy Spirit, the promise of His return and the exhortation, "Occupy 'til I come!"  Holiday Inn may be the innkeepers of America, but we are the innkeepers of the New Jerusalem.

        Our admonition is to go and do the same.  Our admonition is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ to whomever God allows in our lives.

(Now is the day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1957, p. 958.  

[2] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, pp. 584-585.

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