The Good Samaritan
[This chapter is based on Luke 10:25-37.]
In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of
true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or
rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest
good to others, in genuine goodness.
As Christ was teaching the people, "a certain lawyer stood up,
and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal
life?" With breathless attention the large congregation awaited the
answer. The priests and rabbis had thought to entangle Christ by having
the lawyer ask this question. But the Saviour entered into no
controversy. He required the answer from the questioner himself.
"What is written in the law?" He said; "how readest
thou?" The Jews still accused Jesus of lightly regarding the law
given from Sinai; but He turned the question of salvation upon the
keeping of God's commandments.
The lawyer said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all
thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus said, "Thou hast
answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."
The lawyer was not satisfied with the position and works of the
Pharisees. He had been studying the Scriptures with a desire to learn
their real meaning. He had a vital interest in the matter, and had asked
in sincerity, "What shall I do?" In his answer as to the
requirements of the law, he passed by all the mass of ceremonial and
ritualistic precepts. For these he claimed no value, but presented the
two great principles on which hang all the law and the prophets. This
answer, being commended by Christ, placed the Saviour on vantage ground
with the rabbis. They could not condemn Him for sanctioning that which
had been advanced by an expositor of the law.
"This do, and thou shalt live," Jesus said. He presented
the law as a divine unity, and in this lesson taught that it is not
possible to keep one precept, and break another; for the same principle
runs through them all. Man's destiny will be determined by his obedience
to the whole law. Supreme love to God and impartial love to man are the
principles to be wrought out in the life.
The lawyer found himself a lawbreaker. He was convicted under
Christ's searching words. The righteousness of the law, which he claimed
to understand, he had not practiced. He had not manifested love toward
his fellow man. Repentance was demanded; but instead of repenting, he
tried to justify himself. Rather than acknowledge the truth, he sought
to show how difficult of fulfillment the commandment is. Thus he hoped
both to parry conviction and to vindicate himself in the eyes of the
people. The Saviour's words had shown that his question was needless,
since he had been able to answer it himself. Yet he put another
question, saying, "Who is my neighbor?"
Among the Jews this question caused endless dispute. They had no
doubt as to the heathen and the Samaritans; these were strangers and
enemies. But where should the distinction be made among the people of
their own nation, and among the different classes of society? Whom
should the priest, the rabbi, the elder, regard as neighbor? They spent
their lives in a round of ceremonies to make themselves pure. Contact
with the ignorant and careless multitude, they taught, would cause
defilement that would require wearisome effort to remove. Were they to
regard the "unclean" as neighbors?
Again Jesus refused to be drawn into controversy. He did not denounce
the bigotry of those who were watching to condemn Him. But by a simple
story He held up before His hearers such a picture of the outflowing of
heaven-born love as touched all hearts, and drew from the lawyer a
confession of the truth.
The way to dispel darkness is to admit light. The best way to deal
with error is to present truth. It is the revelation of God's love that
makes manifest the deformity and sin of the heart centered in self.
"A certain man," said Jesus, "was going down from
Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, which both stripped him
and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance a
certain priest was going down that way: and when he saw him, he passed
by on the other side. And in like manner a Levite also, when he came to
the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side." Luke
10:30-32, R. V. This was no imaginary scene, but an actual occurrence,
which was known to be exactly as represented. The priest and the Levite
who had passed by on the other side were in the company that listened to
In journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho, the traveler had to pass
through a portion of the wilderness of Judea. The road led down a wild,
rocky ravine, which was infested by robbers, and was often the scene of
violence. It was here that the traveler was attacked, stripped of all
that was valuable, wounded and bruised, and left half dead by the
wayside. As he lay thus, the priest came that way; but he merely glanced
toward the wounded man. Then the Levite appeared. Curious to know what
had happened, he stopped and looked at the sufferer. He was convicted of
what he ought to do; but it was not an agreeable duty. He wished that he
had not come that way, so that he need not have seen the wounded man. He
persuaded himself that the case was no concern of his.
Both these men were in sacred office, and professed to expound the
Scriptures. They were of the class specially chosen to be
representatives of God to the people. They were to "have compassion
on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way" (Heb. 5:2),
that they might lead men to understand God's great love toward humanity.
The work they were called to do was the same that Jesus had described as
His own when He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because
He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to
heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and
recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are
bruised." Luke 4:18.
The angels of heaven look upon the distress of God's family upon the
earth, and they are prepared to co-operate with men in relieving
oppression and suffering. God in His providence had brought the priest
and the Levite along the road where the wounded sufferer lay, that they
might see his need of mercy and help. All heaven watched to see if the
hearts of these men would be touched with pity for human woe. The
Saviour was the One who had instructed the Hebrews in the wilderness;
from the pillar of cloud and of fire He had taught a very different
lesson from that which the people were now receiving from their priests
and teachers. The merciful provisions of the law extended even to the
lower animals, which cannot express in words their want and suffering.
Directions had been given to Moses for the children of Israel to this
effect: "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray,
thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him
that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help
him, thou shalt surely help with him." Ex. 23:4, 5. But in the man
wounded by robbers, Jesus presented the case of a brother in suffering.
How much more should their hearts have been moved with pity for him than
for a beast of burden! The message had been given them through Moses
that the Lord their God, "a great God, a mighty, and a
terrible," "doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and
widow, and loveth the stranger." Wherefore He commanded, "Love
ye therefore the stranger." "Thou shalt love him as
thyself." Deut. 10:17-19; Lev. 19:34.
Job had said, "The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I
opened my doors to the traveler." And when the two angels in the
guise of men came to Sodom, Lot bowed himself with his face toward the
ground, and said, "Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into
your servant's house, and tarry all night." Job 31:32; Gen. 19:2.
With all these lessons the priest and the Levite were familiar, but they
had not brought them into practical life. Trained in the school of
national bigotry, they had become selfish, narrow, and exclusive. When
they looked upon the wounded man, they could not tell whether he was of
their nation or not. They thought he might be of the Samaritans, and
they turned away.
In their action, as Christ had described it, the lawyer saw nothing
contrary to what he had been taught concerning the requirements of the
law. But now another scene was presented:
A certain Samaritan, in his journey, came where the sufferer was, and
when he saw him, he had compassion on him. He did not question whether
the stranger was a Jew or a Gentile. If a Jew, the Samaritan well knew
that, were their condition reversed, the man would spit in his face, and
pass him by with contempt. But he did not hesitate on account of this.
He did not consider that he himself might be in danger of violence by
tarrying in the place. It was enough that there was before him a human
being in need and suffering. He took off his own garment with which to
cover him. The oil and wine provided for his own journey he used to heal
and refresh the wounded man. He lifted him on his own beast, and moved
slowly along with even pace, so that the stranger might not be jarred,
and made to suffer increased pain. He brought him to an inn, and cared
for him through the night, watching him tenderly. In the morning, as the
sick man had improved, the Samaritan ventured to go on his way. But
before doing this, he placed him in the care of the innkeeper, paid the
charges, and left a deposit for his benefit; and not satisfied even with
this, he made provision for any further need, saying to the host,
"Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come
again, I will repay thee."
The story ended, Jesus fixed His eyes upon the lawyer, in a glance
that seemed to read his soul, and said, "Which of these three,
thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the
robbers?" Luke 10:36, R. V.
The lawyer would not, even now, take the name Samaritan upon his
lips, and he made answer, "He that showed mercy on him." Jesus
said, "Go, and do thou likewise."
Thus the question, "Who is my neighbor?" is forever
answered. Christ has shown that our neighbor does not mean merely one of
the church or faith to which we belong. It has no reference to race,
color, or class distinction. Our neighbor is every person who needs our
help. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the
adversary. Our neighbor is everyone who is the property of God.
In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus gave a picture of Himself
and His mission. Man had been deceived, bruised, robbed, and ruined by
Satan, and left to perish; but the Saviour had compassion on our
helpless condition. He left His glory, to come to our rescue. He found
us ready to die, and He undertook our case. He healed our wounds. He
covered us with His robe of righteousness. He opened to us a refuge of
safety, and made complete provision for us at His own charges. He died
to redeem us. Pointing to His own example, He says to His followers,
"These things I command you, that ye love one another."
"As I have loved you, that ye also love one another." John
The lawyer's question to Jesus had been, "What shall I do?"
And Jesus, recognizing love to God and man as the sum of righteousness,
had said, "This do, and thou shalt live." The Samaritan had
obeyed the dictates of a kind and loving heart, and in this had proved
himself a doer of the law. Christ bade the lawyer, "Go, and do thou
likewise." Doing, and not saying merely, is expected of the
children of God. "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself
also so to walk, even as He walked." 1 John 2:6.
The lesson is no less needed in the world today than when it fell
from the lips of Jesus. Selfishness and cold formality have well-nigh
extinguished the fire of love, and dispelled the graces that should make
fragrant the character. Many who profess His name have lost sight of the
fact that Christians are to represent Christ. Unless there is practical
self-sacrifice for the good of others, in the family circle, in the
neighborhood, in the church, and wherever we may be, then whatever our
profession, we are not Christians.
Christ has linked His interest with that of humanity, and He asks us
to become one with Him for the saving of humanity. "Freely ye have
received," He says, "freely give." Matt. 10:8. Sin is the
greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity and help the sinner. There
are many who err, and who feel their shame and their folly. They are
hungry for words of encouragement. They look upon their mistakes and
errors, until they are driven almost to desperation. These souls we are
not to neglect. If we are Christians, we shall not pass by on the other
side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who most need our
help. When we see human beings in distress, whether through affliction
or through sin, we shall never say, This does not concern me.
"Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of
meekness." Gal. 6:1. By faith and prayer press back the power of
the enemy. Speak words of faith and courage that will be as a healing
balsam to the bruised and wounded one. Many, many, have fainted and
become discouraged in the great struggle of life, when one word of
kindly cheer would have strengthened them to overcome. Never should we
pass by one suffering soul without seeking to impart to him of the
comfort wherewith we are comforted of God.
All this is but a fulfillment of the principle of the law,--the
principle that is illustrated in the story of the good Samaritan, and
made manifest in the life of Jesus. His character reveals the true
significance of the law, and shows what is meant by loving our neighbor
as ourselves. And when the children of God manifest mercy, kindness, and
love toward all men, they also are witnessing to the character of the
statutes of heaven. They are bearing testimony to the fact that
"the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Ps.
19:7. And whoever fails to manifest this love is breaking the law which
he professes to revere. For the spirit we manifest toward our brethren
declares what is our spirit toward God. The love of God in the heart is
the only spring of love toward our neighbor. "If a man say, I love
God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his
brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not
seen?" Beloved, "if we love one another, God dwelleth in us,
and His love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:20, 12.
[ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]