One of the most familiar and well-loved stories in the Bible is that of the good Samaritan. However, we must ask ourselves whether we leave it in the past, thinking of it as merely a good story, or look at it from a modern-day perspective. We certainly live in days when the spirit of the Good Samaritan is needed, and the place it should be displayed is in the lives of Christians.
Before we examine the story of the good Samaritan, we must understand the context (vv. 25-29). A lawyer who was an expert in the law of Moses asked Jesus a question to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” In reply the lawyer said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and will all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus affirmed that he had answered correctly, saying, “Do this and you will live.” But the lawyer wanted to justify himself by bringing into question who qualified as a neighbor.
In this passage, Jesus is not discussing how to be saved, but is helping the lawyer see a problem in his heart. He thought that being good and keeping the law was the most essential issue, but using a simple story, Jesus shows him that it’s a matter of the heart.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead” (v. 30). The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was seventeen miles of rugged and dangerous territory. The altitude decreased three thousand feet, and there were many caves and rocky places for thieves to hide. Travelers were continually in danger, which explains why this Jewish man was attacked.
The Religious Passers-by
On the same day, two other men were also going down this road. The first one was a priest who served in the temple, offering sacrifices to the Lord. When he saw the man lying in the road, he passed by on the other side. The next man was a Levite whose responsibility it was to take care of the temple. He too saw the dying man but passed by on the other side.
Although they were both religious men, they didn’t stop to help. Since the man on the road is described as being half dead, they may have thought he’d already died and didn’t want to defile themselves by touching a dead body. So they just looked, went around him, and kept going.
The next person to come down the road was a Samaritan who was on a journey. The Jews and Samaritans wanted nothing to do with each other, yet when he saw the injured Jewish man, “he felt compassion” (v. 33). He “bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him” (v. 34).
This was amazing kindness, yet the Samaritan man did even more. “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you’” (v. 35).
At the end of the story, Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three proved to be a neighbor to the man who’d been robbed. The lawyer had to admit that it was the Samaritan because he’d shown mercy. Jesus’ command to the lawyer is one we should take to heart today, “Go and do the same” (v. 37).
Our country has no shortage of needy people, but are we as God’s people willing to help? The Christian life is not something we merely do on Sundays by going to church. Our Christianity should be on display in our daily lives. Therefore, we must reflect on whether we are merciful and compassionate to those in need. If we could use improvement in this area, we should make the necessary changes to become more Christlike in our everyday lives.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “A Modern-Day Samaritan,” which airs this weekend on TV.