Love Like the Good Samaritan

Luke 10:23-37: Turning to the disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 Indeed, I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things that you are seeing, yet did not see them, and to hear the things that you are hearing, yet did not hear them.” 25 Just then, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “What do you read there?” 27 He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” 28 He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 It just so happened that a priest was going down that way. But when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite also happened to go there, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 33 A Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was. When he saw him, he felt sorry for the man. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He put him on his own animal, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day, when he left, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. Whatever extra you spend, I will repay you when I return.’ 36 Which of these three do you think acted like a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he replied. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”   (EHV)

Dear Friends in Christ,

True biblical love is not an emotion, but an attitude put into action. Paul devotes a whole chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, to describing it. True love is selfless. And that love is rare. It’s a love that’s only possible in the true security that you yourself are completely and unconditionally loved. And by God’s grace, that is exactly what we are. To us then, who are confident that we are saved by God’s unconditional, mercy-filled love, Jesus says “Love Like the Good Samaritan.”

Jesus’ Disciples Are “Blessed” by What They See and Hear

The 72 disciples who had just returned from their training mission in missionary work felt loved. Jesus had personally called and appointed them as His own special emissaries. They were working closely with the Messiah Himself. And just in case any of the special significance of what they were personally part of was lost on them, Jesus told them: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 Indeed, I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things that you are seeing, yet did not see them, and to hear the things that you are hearing, yet did not hear them” (Luke 10:23–24). Blessed indeed! A blessing is always a gift, given by God. Jesus gave these disciples the privilege of being His coworkers, to go along with the blessings of hearing and believing His Word and inheriting the kingdom. None of it was deserved. It was all a gift, a blessing. These disciples got to see with their own eyes the Messiah that the prophets had been longing to see since the very beginning—for thousands of years. They got to see Old Testament prophecy finally coming to fulfillment.

There’s another special aspect to the word that’s translated “Blessed.” In short, it means “happy spiritually” or “happy unto salvation.” I knew a man who spent his whole work life as an aggressive businessman, too busy to think about spiritual matters. After he retired, he actually took a friend up on an invitation to go to a small, private Bible study in an apartment. That Bible study had a very capable teacher and he learned a lot. In fact, he was converted into a Christian, and from that moment on, not only did his life change. He changed. People who got to know him afterward would never have imagined he’d been ruthless in business, because he became the most gentle, kind man. He had a glow about him. There was always this angelic look of peace on his face. That’s what the word “blessed” calls to mind—the peace of knowing already in this life that eternal life with Jesus is just a matter of time until we are translated above. That’s what Jesus’ disciples had as they saw all the prophecies coming into fulfillment, and saw their salvation being created and provided by Jesus. And you do too, through their inspired record of Jesus’ works and words.  What a gift! Something the majority don’t have!

You Can’t Do Something to Inherit Eternal Life

The Lawyer that questioned Jesus didn’t have that blessed peace. In fact, he was offended at Jesus’ teaching. Jesus seemed to him to be teaching against good works as He preached the grace of God. God had given the descendants of Abraham, of all the peoples of the earth, the one true religion—salvation by grace—and still they turned it into a typical man-made religion of tit for tat, I do something to earn something from God and God rewards me 10 cents worth of goods for 10 cents worth of labor. That man-made religion is so trite, so trivial, so foolish, and yet it’s hands down, by far, the most popular religion on earth.  

The Bible teaching that eternal blessedness is a free gift from God is really a radical teaching. It goes against everything inside us human beings that says, ‘It can’t be free.’ ‘Not only that, I don’t want it to be free, because that would mean I don’t get any credit for all the good I have done!’ Grace was certainly a radical concept to the lawyer in the crowd who heard Jesus teach that day. As they sat in a circle around Jesus, this gentleman was uncomfortable and upset enough at Jesus’ teaching that he stood up and began to “test” him. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” By using the word “test” Luke reveals that the law expert was antagonistic. He doesn’t believe salvation can be a gift.

Jesus, master teacher that He is, questions him back. And at first blush, the man’s answer sounds quite good. He was not only able to quote Scripture, but he also even knew which Scriptures were truly applicable. Of all the laws and requirements God had established in the Old Testament, this Lawyer knew which were the two greatest commandments.  The lawyer answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.”

28 [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, [literally, keep doing this] and you will live.”

Still, the lawyer didn’t really get what Jesus was driving at. As Luke tells it, “he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” He’s thinking, ‘OK. I can do that.  Tell me who this one neighbor guy is, so I can do that. (Surely there can’t be more than two or three—four at the most!)

Jesus was about to pop his bubble. That’s the context of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan.

Only Jesus Can Do Enough

Jesus picks out two religious characters to show the inadequacy of their righteousness. Both the priest and the Levite temple worker pass by on the other side of the road and pretend not to notice the severely injured man lying in the ditch. The lawyer had asked “And who is my neighbor?” The real question should be “Who isn’t?” Anyone and everyone who needs me to be his neighbor is my neighbor. You see, there’s no minimum requirement, no low bar that you can eek your way over to “inherit eternal life” which is what he had said he wanted to do.

A Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was. When he saw him, he felt sorry for the man. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He put him on his own animal, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day, when he left, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. Whatever extra you spend, I will repay you when I return.’

If this were a high jump competition, the bar begins at 10 miles high. If you want to earn your way into God’s favor, you have to be as perfect as that Good Samaritan, and nobody’s as perfect as that except One, and that is Jesus, the holy Son of God. Jesus found us naked and bleeding on the side of the road of life. He took pity on us. He picked us up, washed and treated our wounds. He took care of us and paid the price—whatever it took, in this case His own life—so that we could become well and whole again.

What do you think? Did the Lawyer still want to justify himself? Did he still think he could do something to inherit eternal life?

We Can Learn from Each of These Characters

There are four characters in Jesus’ parable. The lawyer and you and I are best represented in the parable by the wounded man on the side of the road, helpless and dying.

The Priest and Levite both serve as examples of looking for a minimum requirement. They may have felt some sense of pity, but they were concerned about themselves first. ‘Might there be another robber in the hills? What if I’m late for work in Jerusalem? My family is waiting for me in Jericho now that my tour of duty is over. This is too inconvenient and it’s beyond my area of expertise. I’m not a doctor, after all. Anyways, he’s not my neighbor, nor am I his. I’ve never even met him before.’

Hasn’t every single one of us had those discussions in our own heads? Haven’t we put ourselves and our own convenience ahead of the needs of others? Let’s be honest, is there even one day that goes by when we don’t fail at loving our neighbor, even our own spouse, at least as much as ourselves?

The Samaritan, on the other hand, forgot all about himself, his own comfort, his own pocketbook, his own schedule and instead thought only of this man who needed help. What lengths he goes to! He dresses his wounds. He takes him to an inn. He personally cares for him overnight, and then when he leaves in the morning, he provides enough money for two months (!) of care for him—and then even promises to pay more, if needed!

When we compare ourselves to this Good Samaritan how do we come out smelling? Like a rose? Isn’t it more like a stinky starfish cactus flower, or a dead rabbit in a wash? Especially since Jesus says, “Go and keep on continually doing likewise.” Would I or even could I put others so selflessly above myself? Do I really have any reason to be proud of myself? No way, not before God! Not even before men! How foolish it would be to ever rely on ourselves for salvation before a God who expects perfect thoughts and deeds 100% of the time.

But because of Jesus we don’t have to try to do the impossible to save ourselves. We have our own Good Samaritan, a dear Savior who perfectly kept God’s Law for us as our substitute and died for our failure to do so. And because we know He did, we believers can and should see in this story an example and opportunity to thank God by striving to imitate Him in His selfless loving-kindness! Go back again to where Jesus began, before the Lawyer tried to trick and tempt him: “Blessed the eyes that see what you are seeing.” We have been blessed with full redemption by seeing and hearing Jesus our Savior in the Gospel. By faith, not by our deeds, we are eternally blessed. Now, not burdened by trying to earn our way into God’s good graces, we’re freed to share the love, like that Good Samaritan.

What a great God we have! What a wise teacher we have! In gratefulness to Him, let us “keep on doing this” “Lov[ing] the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, lov[ing] your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love Like the Samaritan”—fully, freely, out of thankfulness to the God who freely saved us. Amen.

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