The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The occasion that initiated our Lord's telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan was that a certain lawyer or "expert" of the law of Moses had tempted Jesus (vs. 25). This man was a theologian of that day and time; one who thought he knew it all. One who thought he understood the deep things of God and the interpretation of the Old Testament. He was taught in the school of the Pharisees, who had developed an elaborate system of interpretation of God's law. But their interpretation was one of vain traditions, developed to satisfy their own lusts and carnal minds, as they had not the Spirit of God. This was evidenced by our Lord's continual rebuke of them for their spiritual ignorance.
So this man tempted Jesus, hoping that Jesus would misinterpret the law, giving this lawyer and his sect an occasion to accuse Jesus, and catch Him up in His words.
The lawyer's religion was one of legalism: "What shall I do…?" Their system of religion was "do and live", not much different than most religious sects today. To show the blindness of natural man, the vast majority of so called "Christian" organizations today interpret the gospel of grace, as "do and live". How can men get "do and live" out of "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved"? They say "be baptized; join our church; partake of our 'sacraments'; pray through; keep the law; hold out faithful to the end…and thou shalt be saved". The Pharisees asked Jesus once: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?". To which Jesus replied: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:28-29). Since Cain and Abel, natural man has always tried to approach God and to please God by his own works, which God has never, and will never accept.
Jesus knew the man's heart and his evil motives (vs. 26-28). And Jesus always knew just how to answer every man, being the eternal Son of God, the author of all true knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Jesus answered the man's question with a question, as He frequently did. In Jesus' discourse we find that He upheld the very highest standard of God's law (vs. 27; also see Matt. 22:34-40). The demands of the law are impossible for man to keep! Man cannot keep the law because God's law is high and holy, and man's nature is corrupt and sinful. The law wasn't meant to be kept in order for men to be saved. It was intended rather as a spiritual schoolmaster to show men their true condition, and to point them to their need of a Savior. But the natural man is too proud to humble himself in repentance, and bow his heart at the feet of Jesus in child-like faith, believing in Him as their suffering sacrifice for their sins, and only hope of salvation.
The natural man chooses the road of legalism instead, which attempts to lower the standard of God's law to where he is able to keep it. This lawyer was a perfect example of this when he asked the question: "who is my neighbor?" How do we understand the law? The natural religious man interprets the law in a way that enables him in his own mind to keep it. "I love my neighbor, so long as I interpret 'neighbor' as one of my own nation; as one of my own sect; of my own social sphere; or of my own company or house." "I love my neighbor, so long as I interpret 'love' as doing no harm to others; or helping others when it is convenient; or helping others only to the extent that it doesn't cost me much or put me out.
Thus men can keep the law of loving their neighbor according to their own interpretation. Therefore, all men have to do is to interpret the entire law of God in this manner, and then they will be able to keep it. There is only one small problem. God doesn't accept man's interpretation of His law, and He will hold men accountable to His standard and not theirs. Therefore, all who desire to be justified by the law of God according to their own interpretation, are deceived. All such persons will die and go to hell if they are not brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the substitutionary sacrifice for their sins.
Jesus gave this lawyer a most astounding answer (vs. 30-36). His answer is so rich and so deep; and was certainly unexpected by this lawyer who vastly underestimated the knowledge and wisdom of the One he so arrogantly brought into question (vs. 37). The answer that Jesus gave was a complete reversal of reason. In the original question, the neighbor was the one receiving help. In Jesus' parable, the neighbor is the one doing the helping. And the good neighbor is not depicted as a religious Jew, but a despised Samaritan who helped a Jew in need. Jesus' answer took the lawyer by surprise! He totally confounded, and completely destroyed this lawyer's feeble attempt to justify himself. Thus the law of God, as all the Word of God, when wielded aright, is sharper than any two edged sword, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Wow! The lawyer's self-righteousness was destroyed, being evident that he not only didn't keep the law, but didn't even rightly understand the law of God.
We want to observe three points from this parable this morning:
1. The condition of lost humanity (vs. 30).
The man in the parable fell among thieves. He was weak and vulnerable by his very nature. He could not protect himself from his enemies in this world, much less the spiritual enemies of his soul. He fell among thieves, which is symbolic of how all mankind fell in Adam. In Adam the entire human race fell from their original state of dignity and personal holiness, into total and absolute corruption of sin.
He fell among thieves who robbed him of his possessions. Satan has robbed mankind of his standing before God. Sin has robbed men of their favor, fellowship, and relationship with God, leaving them enemies of God by nature.
He was stripped of his raiment. When mankind fell he was stripped of his upright nature, of his righteousness, and of his standing with God. The saints who attend the wedding in Heaven must have on a wedding garment, which depicts the righteousness of Christ. Any who would try and attend without one, will be cast out. We must be clothed upon with the righteousness of Christ if we are to enter Heaven, because we all were stripped of our righteousness in Adam.
He was wounded. Mankind was wounded by the corruption of sin. His nature was tainted to the very depths of his being. His wound was not a mere scratch or bruise. He was bleeding profusely; his life blood was swiftly fleeing away. He was as dead while he lived, and certain to die in just a short time. Time was not on his side, but was running out. So is time running out for every man. They think time will go on forever. They are in a spiritual coma and oblivious to there frightful condition.
He was left half dead. He was certain to die. There was no hope of recovery from his wound. There was no strength or ability whatsoever to help himself. He couldn't even move, much less attempt to effect his own cure. So much and more is the condition of every lost sinner. They are half dead. Physically they are breathing and their blood is flowing through their veins, but spiritually they are dead as a doornail. They have no spiritual life in them. They do not respond to the schoolmaster of the law or to the gospel of grace because they can not. They "will not" come unto Jesus that they might have life, because "no man can come" unto Jesus because they are spiritually dead.
2. The uselessness of dead religion.
First we see that the outward form of religion is useless. That is, all of the outward show of piety and religious garb. The priests of Jesus' day were the highest expression of outward religion. The wore all the religious garments. They walked and talked with all their proud and conceited piety. The commoners stood in awe of them, thinking them to be super-spiritual human beings! But there is no power in the outward form. They cannot help the needy and the dying, as they have no healing grace to impart. Neither is there any compassion in their hearts, but only hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
Dead formalism, as depicted by the Levite, is also useless. It may have correct theology. It may dot every "i" and cress every "t". It may have perfect order in its worship. This was the Levites job; to oversee the temple worship and to make sure everything was done just so so. But outside of the worship place dead formalism shows no evidence of true religion. One may not even know that such people profess religion at all. Dead formalism has no power to heal, nor compassion to help wounded, dying sinners.
Legalism is also useless, which was the religion of the lawyer in our text. "Do and live". "Heal yourself; bind up your own wounds and get on your own two feet and get down to the inn." But dead sinners need help; legalism is nothing but a mockery to their desperate condition. Legalism, like outward form and dead formalism, has no power nor compassion to help dying sinners.
3. The love, compassion, and healing grace of true religion (vs. 33-36).
In our text we see that the good neighbor is a certain Samaritan. The quality of a man's religion is not determined by, affected by, or connected to his ethnic background or his race; but by what is in his heart. God is not interested in a person's natural heredity, or of what religious background he may be from. Oh how prejudice even Baptists can be towards others who are a different color. Even those who know the same Savior, who believe the same truths from the Word of God. This just is not right! Those who are prejudice in this way need to repent before God, Who is not pleased with their prejudice.
He had compassion on the wounded man. True and pure religion, the religion of the Bible, is powered and motivated by love. The priest and the Levite no doubt stopped and reasoned within themselves, to justify why they should not help this dying man. "He probably deserved what he got" or "He probably sinned against God, and therefore God was punishing him". Love on the other hand, doesn't waste time with the "why" men are in the condition they're in, but is concerned with the "how" that we can help them to get out by the grace of God.
He went to him. He wasn't afraid to get involved with the man's ruined life, which proved to be demanding on this good neighbor. Today people don't want to get involved with people's lives. They don't want to take the time out of their busy schedules to help a fellow man in need. They don't want to get emotionally involved. They don't want the strain and demand on their hearts, that such caring for others involves. We are selfish and self-centered today. Who can honestly disagree. We are up to our ears in religion, but empty of love and compassion for our neighbors! We don't go to that one in need, because going means commitment of ourselves; and we just don't want to make such a commitment. What does this say for our religion if this is our case.
He bound his wounds and poured in oil and wine. This is symbolic of the administration of the gospel of Christ; which cleanses and heals the deepest wounds of sin. The law had already been there and condemned the dying man (the priest and the Levite); what the man needed now was grace! Oh, that the people of God would see their calling. To be administers of the precious gospel to a dying world, and not legalists who just condemn people because of their condition. Wow!
He set him on his own beast. He picked him up out of the blood and dirt. He wasn't afraid to bet get his hands dirty. Oh, we are such a clinical people today; so sterol. We wouldn't help someone for fear of being contaminated ourselves. I'm sure glad Jesus is a friend of sinners! The Samaritan didn't leave him in his miserable state, but lifted him up and brought him to a safe place where he could be cared for. He bore the man's burden literally. He risked straining or hurting himself out of concern for his neighbor. He didn't leave him in his old state, in the mire of sin, but carried him into a life of serving the Lord. People need to be carried along and helped spiritually until they are able to stand. They need a brother to show them all the ways of the Lord, and to give strength and encouragement on their journey, and to carry them if necessary. He brought him to an, to a New Testament Church where he would receive the spiritual care that he needed. He continued to provide for him for days, until he was spiritually strengthened.
There is power in true religion, and the gospel with all its healing graces. There is compassion in true religion. And true religion will fulfill the commandment of God to love your neighbor as yourself. No, we can't fulfill the letter of the law, but rather, and far more importantly, we can fulfill the spirit of the law. It is the spirit of the law that really matters in serving the Lord, and this is what mankind by nature cannot understand.
The good Samaritan wasn't a type of Jesus, as we often hear preached. Jesus wasn't a Samaritan, which were half-breeds, but Jesus was a full blooded Jew. But the good Samaritan was a type of a good neighbor in the true Biblical sense, which the Jews should have been if they had properly understood God's law.
Jesus, on the other hand, was the perfect example of a good neighbor. He comes to where the lost, wounded sinner is. He binds up the sinners' wounds. He applies the oil of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. He applies the wine of His precious blood to the sinner's soul. He gives the helpless sinner repentance and faith to receive the healing grace of His death, burial, and resurrection for his sins. He lifts the sinner up out of a life of sin and death, and places him on his own shoulder. He carries the sinner to His church where he receives spiritual care all the days of his life. And Jesus picks up the bill for all the sinners cure and care! All the healing and saving grace don't cost the sinner a single penny.
Do you know Jesus in the healing of your soul from sin? Has He brought you to His kind of church to receive care and nourishment? Where do fit in to this sermon this morning? Are you the priest, the Levite, the lawyer; or are you the good Samaritan? Maybe you are the wounded half-dead sinner. If so, may Jesus heal your soul even this very day from the wounds of sin. And may we show our love and care for you, by administering the gospel of the grace of God to your ears. We don't have power to heal your soul, this is in the power of the Lord Jesus Himself. But He has given us the gospel message to give to you, that through faith in the gospel you would be healed. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ today, not tomorrow or next week, for tomorrow may never come. Believe in Jesus today and be eternally saved.
(Sermon preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Florida)