We have all either read or heard about the Good Samaritan.
It was a parable told by Jesus in response to a man hoping to be able to justify himself. This particular man was a lawyer who seemingly knew all the right answers, especially those regarding acquiring right relationship with God. In fact, when he asked the Lord what it would take to inherit eternal life, and Jesus turned the question on him, he responded with the correct answer. However, we find in Luke 10 that, in this man’s heart, he is trying to put the Lord to the test. The question that Jesus prompts him with in response is this, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” As is taught throughout Scripture, and as this man correctly answers, the whole Law can be summed up in this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
Although he answered correctly and Jesus encouraged him to do just that in order to have life, the lawyer still sought to justify himself. Usually the heart behind seeking to be justified is to remove all guilt. This man wanted to be seen as innocent in the eyes of those who held power in their position. That is why this led to the man asking his next weighty question, “And who is my neighbor?”
This then brings us to the parable told by Jesus of the Good Samaritan.
Over the summer, I had the privilege to work at Pine Cove, a Christ-centered family camp that lasts for ten weeks. During one of our sessions leading up to the start of camp, at which point we would be asked to serve and love on 250 families, the director of the camp spoke on this parable in a way that I had never heard before. He was urging us to not find strength in ourselves to make it through the difficult days that would soon be ahead. It was such a beautiful reminder of the gospel and gave so much empowerment to “go and do likewise.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to love the Lord and love our neighbor as ourselves. Oftentimes, when we listen to a sermon on this passage, we are encouraged to be like the Good Samaritan who selflessly loves the man left for dead as opposed to those who were religious yet cold hearted. It’s so easy for us to want to place ourselves in the story as the hero. Take for instance the way that we often like to apply passages like 1 Samuel 17 to our lives. In this Scripture we find the well known story of David and Goliath. After reading this empowering passage, it is the role of David, who placed his faith in God and defeated the giant, that we like to identify with. However, David is being portrayed here as the Savior who accomplished what the army of Israelites could not. It is a foreshadowing of what Christ would come to earth to accomplish.
Here’s the beauty of it: instead of placing ourselves in the shoes of the Good Samaritan, imagining ourselves to be people who are more than willing to go above and beyond for those who are in need, we need to first place ourselves in the shoes of the man left on the side of the road.
One of the gospel truths is this: we love because He first loved us. We will never be able to effectively be a conduit of God’s grace, love, or forgiveness until we have first experienced it for ourselves. Therein lies the beauty of this parable, in it we see Christ and the love that he has for us, the length that he is willing to go, and we receive the instruction to go and do likewise. As
Jen Wilkin puts this concept in her book In His Image, “Withholding mercy from others reveals that we do not recognize what we ourselves have received.”
The Bible teaches us that we once were dead in our trespasses and sins, until God made us alive in Christ. That is why it is so important to first see ourselves in this parable as the man who was attacked and left for dead as he was traveling.
That is when the Good Samaritan enters into the narrative.
Instead of walking by in avoidance, as those who had gone before him had done, he stops and has compassion on the sufferer. And not only does he stop to see what he can do to help in the moment, he goes to the extreme of taking responsibility for making sure that the man is restored to good health.
The Good Samaritan cares for and binds the wounds, places the man on his donkey, then takes him to an inn where he continued to care for the badly injured man. He then pays in full with his own money whatever the tab would cost for the man to stay at the inn and be well taken care of.
This is a picture of the gospel. When we have the eyes to see it, our hearts are moved to an even greater appreciation for the length Christ went to save us and the love that he has shown for us. Jesus came to earth as a man, knowing that we were helpless on our own, left for dead, he came with compassion. Meeting us where we were, he knelt down and bound up our wounds, taken upon himself the full weight of our sin. He cries out for us, “Paid in full.”
With hearts fully set on Christ, we then have the ability to go and do likewise as Jesus has beseeched us to do. As we truly love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and love our neighbor as ourself, we become in our own lives a reflection of the gospel.