Introduction: The approach I have taken through this series has been to cover the parables through the book of Matthew.However, when we read the other gospels, especially Mark and Luke, we find that they also record many of those same parables. As I've studied I've tried to reference those other accounts and share any noticeable details that help us understand the parables we have covered so far. Today, we are going to move to the gospel of Luke and begin looking at a few parables that are only recorded in this book. The parable that we will focus on today comes from Luke 10:25-37 which I've entitled the merciful Samaritan.
Transition: after reading the passage. Today we are going to walk through the text noticing some of the unique dialogue between Jesus and the Lawyer, then explore the parable and make some applications for today according to Jesus’ teaching.
In order to try to test Jesus, the Lawyer asks the first question. (10:25)
Notice the lawyer: His role was to interpret the Mosaic law for the people of God. He was a lawyer not in civil law, but the religious law according to the Torrah. He was viewed as a scholar because he instructed people in the ways of God.
Notice his question: It is focused on a future inheritance of eternal life. It is also focused on what a person can achieve by their own effort.
Jesus replies with a question to the lawyer. (10:26)
First, Jesus directs the lawyer to the place that anyone truly asking about eternal life should go to discover a right answer. What is written.... in the law! The lawyer would have been more than willing to agree with Jesus on this.
Then, Jesus appeals to the lawyer’s position and asks, how to you interpret the law? Basically, Jesus has just turned the question right back into the lap of the lawyer. In doing so we find that this conversation is about to get very interesting.
The Lawyer answers by quoting the Shema from Deut 6, and also quoting from Leviticus 19. (10:27)
He was a man of the Torah, and being well studied he offered the answer that every little Jewish child would have grown up learning. He is even perhaps saying the very thing that Jesus had previously taught. He is summarizing the whole law and the prophets. Then, Jesus replies...
Jesus replies by saying. “Right answer.” (10:28)
Now Jesus uses the mans own words to reveal his heart intentions. He quotes from Ezek 20:11 and tells the lawyer, “do this, and you will live.”
Jesus is answering the lawyer’s original question about eternal life. You want to know what to do… to inherit eternal life? Do what you just interpreted from the law. There you go, now you have it, great job!
This could have been the end of the conversation, except that Jesus knew exactly what was going down and he intentionally used the law as a means to reveal this man’s heart. Notice verse 29…
The lawyer, seeking to justify himself, asks another question. (10:29)
The scholar of Jewish law was not only aware of what the law said concerning life, but he was also aware that he had failed miserably at actually doing it. So in contrast to the straight forward answer Jesus offered, he was seeking a loop hole. He was making an attempt at self -justification. Justify literally means to pronounce himself in full accordance with the law. He was trying to find a way to have eternal life by his own standards. He wanted to redefine the meaning of what a neighbor was.
And so he follows up Jesus response with a question that might diminish the high standard of the law. He asks, “who is my neighbor, in order to bring the high bar of the law down to his level so that even though he realizes he is not keeping the law he might justify himself by lessening the righteous requirements of the law.
Transition: It is in response to this last question that Jesus tells a story about a merciful Samaritan. This parable is full of colorful truth and as we will see packs a punch for those seeking to justify themselves. I want you to notice 3 key components of the parable.
The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho was about 17 miles of treacherous road. It was common in this day for travelers to be robbed on this road and most of the time they did not travel alone because of the reputation of the thieves along this route.
This man in the story was brought to ruin. He was left for dead. He was helpless. He was in great need and was incapable of meeting that need by himself.
Transition: Jesus continues the story the plot thickens when there just happened to be a couple travelers who came by. Which shows the next component of the story…
2. Rejection (10:31-32)
a. The lawyer would have been very familiar with priests and Livites.
b. The priest: Would have been a decedent of Moses’ brother Aaron. His responsibility included offering temple sacrifices, performing the purifications rites for the nation of Israel, and other temple rituals.
c. The Levite: Was a descendant of the tribe of Levi and served as an assistant to the temple priests. He wasn't permitted to offer the sacrifices, but held a high position of respect among the people.
Transition: Both of these men reject the opportunity to be a neighbor. Both reject the helpless man in ruin and actually go out of their way to avoid him. Both men are examples of the same self-justifying motive that sparked the conversation from the Lawyer. As much as they possessed titles, creeds, knowledge, positions, and pedigree they did not possess the essential compassion to care for a dying man. Jesus continues His parable with the component of…
3. Rescue (10:33-35)
a. In contrast to the priest and Levit a Samaritan is introduced in the story and actually becomes the hero. The reason this is so colorful and even scandalous is because the Samaritans were outcasts among Jewish society. The division between the nation of Israel and the Samaritans was a nearly 800 year old feud between a divided kingdom. Briefly explain.
b. It is this man that Jesus says had compassion on the dying man. The Samaritan is the one who showed sacrificial love and commitment to a man who was about to die.
Transition: After telling this story Jesus throws the ball back into the court of the Lawyer with another question. 10:36. “Which one of the three guys proved to be a neighbor?” The lawyer answers.. I think begrudgingly… the one who showed mercy. Jesus replies for the second time, go and do likewise.
In order to understand the big point that Jesus is getting at we need to ask,
What is Jesus doing by telling this parable? Jesus is revealing the heart of the Lawyer. Jesus is also revealing the heart of the law. Jesus is using the summery of the whole Old testament to point out that this lawyer is missing the mark. The lawyer is trying to reduce the standard so that he might justify himself, but Jesus (with a simple little story) reveals that not only is the lawyer misinterpreting the law, he is also incapable of keeping his own interpretation.
Jesus doesn't answer his question , “Who is my neighbor?”, rather He reverses the question to ask , “Are you a neighbor?” In essence the Lawyer is asking, “What qualifies a person to deserve my love?” And Jesus is asking the lawyer (and us today) “What qualifies me as a person who shows love?”
And when Jesus impresses upon this man (vs 37) to go and do the same, he is not teaching some kind of moralism in which a person might earn a ticket to eternal life. No, Rather Jesus is confronting and challenging the man’s unbelief (mis-placed trust). Jesus is using this parable with the same purpose that he spoke of in Matthew 13. Jesus is concealing and revealing. He is concealing in the same way that He prayed in Luke 10:21 He is revealing the lawyer’s rejection of Jesus Himself. Why is Jesus doing this? Because Jesus Himself is the answer to eternal life.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Jesus has fulfilled the requirements of the Law and extends eternal life to those who trust in Him.
What is the condition of our hearts? We cannot do anything to inherit eternal life.
Eternal life is an inheritance that belongs to those who belong to Christ.
There is no boast in religious training or knowledge of the Law of God. No boast in titles, responsibilities, intelligence, or nationality. Our only boast is in Christ.
What is the heart of the law? Law produces Guilt. Grace replaces guilt with Faith. Faith produces love. Another way of say it is this. The Holy Spirit uses the law to expose our ruin. He by the grace of God offers us faith to rescue from the consequence of our sin and guilt. He then empowers that faith to serve Christ and show our love for God by loving our neighbors.
When we understand the gospel we see that we have been the lawyer seeking to make our own way to God. We find that we have been the man in ruin who is incapable of saving our own lives. We find that Jesus is our rescuer who has shown much mercy and compassion by coming to this earth, taking our shame and guilt on the cross, dying in our place, fulfilling all requirements of the law, raising from the dead in victory of sin and death and extending that eternal life to those who who trust in Him alone. John 3:16
For those who remain the condition of the lawyer there is a gracious offer of faith to you today to trust in Christ alone and have eternal life. There is cause for great warning here for trying to reduce God into our own self-justifying standard.
For those who are in Christ today we would do well to be reminded of the great sufficiency of Christ and be motivated by His grace to be the most merciful and compassionate neighbors in the world! There is cause for great rejoicing here in our great God and king who is amazing in all His glory and worthy of our praise. Behold our God!