Jesus Encounters: Jesus and the Lawyer - Who is the Good Samaritan?

Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies

Jesus Encounters: Jesus and the Lawyer - Who is the Good Samaritan?

by I Gordon

What do you know about the parable of the good Samaritan? What was Jesus teaching? What is the main point of the parable? When you study it, like most things Jesus said, you see that there is more than one level to this story. The obvious level is this: Jesus taught the parable to show who really is a good Samaritan and who is their neigbour. It is about helping those that are in need instead of just turning a blind eye to their difficulty. We'll discuss some of this as we go but there is another level to this story as well. Let's have a look.

What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 10:25-26 NIV On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (26) What is written in the Law? he replied. "How do you read it?"

So the context of our story involves an expert in the law who was trying to 'test' Jesus. Do you think that this lawyer was genuine? Was it a genuine question he was asking or was he just trying to 'test' Jesus in the sense of trying to trick or trap Him? It seems to me that this lawyer was genuine but also genuinely misguided in what he thought was required to inherit eternal life. We read first of all that he thought that eternal life is inherited on the basis of what they do. Later, when he heard Jesus' answer, we read that he asked another question because he 'wanted to justify himself'. 'What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' was a common question that one that was on people's minds. The rich young ruler came and asked the said thing to Jesus. Like this lawyer, he also thought that he could earn eternal life by doing some good thing.

Jesus answers this lawyer in the same manner as He did the rich young ruler and that is by pointing them back to the law. By why did He do this? Do we inherit eternal life by keeping the law? No! But here is the point - If someone truly believes that they can inherit eternal life by keeping the law or by being good then they haven't been schooled by the law of God yet, for the purpose of the law was to shut every mouth! Jesus knew their hearts. He knew that when the law has done it's work in the heart of a man or women they will come asking for mercy, not for direction on what good things they could do to gain eternal life. We see this quite often in the gospels: If a person comes by the law, Jesus answers them with the law. If they come by grace, they receive grace. We are 2000 years on but man still hasn't learned this essential truth!

Luke 10:27-29 NIV He answered: " '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.' " (28) You have answered correctly, Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (29) But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Did this sum up the law? Absolutely. Love is the fulfillment of the law as Paul says in Romans 13:8-10. There is a problem however. If this was the standard by which we obtained eternal life, which of us could say that we have done either of these things? Have we loved the Lord God with ALL our heart, mind, strength and soul? Whoever you are, the answer is no. Have we done the same with our neighbour? What exactly does it mean to love your neighbor as you love yourself? Do you care and think about them as you do yourself? Again, whoever you are the answer is no. We fail at both even if we truly desire both. Jesus said 'do this and live'. This should have been enough to frighten the lawyer. If he saw his own heart he would have been concerned over his failings in this area. Instead, as is often the case with legalists, he looks for a loophole! He wants to justify himself so he starts examining the fine print in search of an out clause and quickly starts the cross-examination! 'Who exactly is my neighbour?' he asks. He's probably thinking to himself. 'I've been nice to Barryaniah and Bettyel who live next door. Maybe that is good enough?' 'Well, actually they did get a bit mad when I chopped their tree down but that was a genuine mistake!' He wants to think that his little bit of good is good enough. Jesus is about to blow that thinking out the window!

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:30-35 NIV In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (31) A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. (32) So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (33) But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (34) He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. (35) The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

good samaritanHere is the very familiar story of the good Samaritan. A man has been beaten, robbed and left for dead. It is of a story that would have been familiar to Jesus' hearers for it was common for thieves and muggers to hide along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A priest and a Levite coming across the beaten man but don't want to help. David Guzik lists the following excuses that they could have come up with (which also speaks of the excuses we may have to not help someone!):

"This road is too dangerous for me to stop and help the man."
"He might be a decoy for an ambush."
"I've got to get to the temple and perform my service for the Lord."
"I've got to get home and see my family."
"Someone really should help that man."
"If I'm going to serve at the temple I can't get my clothes bloody."
"I don't know first aid."
"It's a hopeless case."
"I'm only one person; the job is too big."
"I can pray for him."
"He brought it on himself, he should have never been alone on such a dangerous road."
"He never asked for help"

Instead, it is a Samaritan, one despised in Jewish society, that has mercy and compassion upon the beaten man and goes out of his way (and at personal cost to himself) to see that this man is healed and taken care of.

J.Vernon McGee quotes at interesting perspective from Dean Brown of Yale University saying the three classes of men that represent three philosophies of life:.
1. The Thief: His philosophy of life says, "What you have is mine." This is socialism or communism.
2. The Priest and Levite: His philosophy of life says, "What I have is mine." This is rugged individualism that has gone to seed. His cry is, "Let the world be damned, I will get mine." This is godless capitalism.
3. The Good Samaritan: His philosophy says, "What I have belongs to you." This is a Christian philosophy of life. "What I have is yours if I can help you."

Luke 10:36-37 NIV Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? (37) The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

What was Jesus teaching? Why use the story of a Samaritan? This Lawyer was trying to justify himself to obtain eternal life. He was trying to narrow down the definition of neighbor to make it acceptable in his own mind and maintain his justification before God in his own mind. Jesus was showing that if you really want to be a neighbor to people then it is also to those that you normally don't want to help (Samaritan's and Jews despised each other). It is easy to be a neighbor to your own friends and those close to you. What about those that you don't normally like? It is easy to turn a blind eye but Jesus was showing that true love is like that of the Samaritan who loved and helped even those they normally stay clear of.

And again, but at a deeper level...

What we have discussed is one level. We can all learn from it for we all fail to love to some degree. But there is more to this story. In fact this parable is a far wider and far reaching story. Let's read it again and ask a few questions about the specific people and places in this story.

Jerusalem: We read first of all that the man is going from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem is the throne and city of God. It is where the temple is and as such is a type in this story for the presence of God.
Jericho: What about Jericho? Jericho was cursed in the Old Testament by Joshua. As a type it is a picture of the world. So the picture is of a man leaving the city and presence of God and going downward unto the cursed place.
The man: He is robbed and left for dead. The man represents humanity where the enemy, who comes to kill, steal and destroy, has left mankind for dead spiritually at the fall. Is that not how mankind now is? Is he not like this man left for dead on the way to Jericho? But here comes help!
Priest and Levite: A priest and a Levite come along. They represents formal religion. They were experts in the law and knew what it said. But alas they could not lend the smallest hand in help. So they passed by and left mankind laying dying. Is all lost for mankind?
The Samaritan: When all seemed lose One came! One despised... A Samarian. This represents the despised One - the Lord Jesus whom the Jews called a Samaritan. (John 8:48). He is the One who had compassion (Matt 9:36, Mar 1:41) and went out of His way to heal up the broken and give life to the dying. He used oil (Holy Spirit) and Wine (his blood) to bring healing.
The Inn: Just as the Good Samaritan tended to the wounds of the beat man and brought him into the inn, so Jesus brings those that are beaten and robbed into His church where they can be taken care of. Just as the Samaritan gave provision to the keepers of the inn so they can look after the man, so Jesus gives gifts and provisions to His shepherds to look after His sheep. That is the plan of God for this age. The church is to look after those that the Lord seeks and finds using the resources that Jesus gives. But look also at this great promise: 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' When Jesus returns everyone will be rewarded for how we have cared and helped His brethren!

Hebrews 6:10 NASB For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.


The Jewish lawyer who approached Jesus wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. He was looking at his own works and trying to justify himself. He was thinking that what he did was enough. On one level, Jesus' answer about the good Samaritan pointed out that this man didn't love like he should. It pointed out that he was actually like the priest and the Levite in the story who were only willing to help those they liked. But the story was used to teach this lawyer much more. It also pointed out the inadequacy of the law to actually save a man. Instead, it pointed the lawyer to the One, the despised One... the Lord Jesus, who was the true good Samaritan who went out of His way to save mankind. Jesus didn't cross over to the other side of the road. He saw the problem and didn't look for someone else to sort the problem. He made no excuses. He counted the cost and, knowing it would cost Him His very life, gave up all to bring us back to God.

 What a Saviour He is!