The great extent to which the Samaritan went to save a complete stranger and a would-be enemy (see John 4:9) in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:25-37) is really quite remarkable. We are all, no doubt, aware of the Scriptures’ admonitions to us to love our neighbor as ourselves; but when we read this account we are struck by the unusual length to which the Samaritan went in saving the man who had been left for dead. This parable has been labelled the parable of the Good Samaritan, but a close reading will show that this is not about the “Good Samaritan,” it’s about the “Perfect Samaritan.” It’s in the details of this passage that we discover the Gospel we all so desperately need.
Jesus tells this parable to a self-righteous religious Lawyer who wanted to find a loophole in God’s Law. He thought he was without sin. He stared the Savior in the face and told Him that He didn’t need His saving work in order to gain the inheritance. He actually thought that He had loved God perfectly. He knew that he hadn’t loved everyone around him as himself so “he sought to justify himself. It’s interesting to note that he actually thought he had done the harder of the two commandments (i.e. to love the LORD with ALL the heart, soul, mind and strength). In order to make the law of God more manageable he asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” This man wanted Jesus to tell him that the neighbors he was supposed to love were people that he surrounded himself with (those who he was like)–perhaps those Jews who thought they were lawkeepers by thier own works of obedience–or perhaps just his immediate neighbors (i.e. those who lived in direct proximity to him). Regardless, Jesus’ answer is much more searching than any could wish. The Lord tells this man the story of a man who was attacked by some robbers as he travelled on the road. Then Jesus tells us that two prominent religious leaders came by and both passed by this man without the least regard for his well-being. Finally a Samaritan came by a saw the man and had compassion on him.
What should stand out so surprisingly to us in the text is the extent to which the Samaritan went to help this wounded man. The Scripture says “He had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
This Samaritan’s heart was moved with compassion for this wounded man. He went to bandage his wounds (probably severely bloodied), and he used oil and wine–which were not inexpensive resources–to cleanse and fix his wounds. He then put the man on his own animal while he walked him to an inn (maybe not very close by)–and made accomidations for the man. Now that alone would seem to most as if it would be a sufficient act of mercy. Simply to have dressed this man’s wounds and to have carried him to an inn for a good nights sleep was above and beyond the call of duty. But Jesus tells us that the Samaritan satyed the night at the inn–most likely to personally keep a watch on the man. In the morning he took out a considerable amount of money and made sure that someone would be able to take care of the wounded man. Finally, he promises to return to see the man and find out what had become of him. He promised to pay any other expenses that might be accumulated. All this for a stranger! How can this be? Who has ever gone to such an extent for a perfect stranger (and an enemy at that)?
There was One, in human history, who went to such an extent for His enemies. The Lord Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven in order to heal the wounds we had received from our sins. He was wounded for our sin and He was bruised for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5-6). Instead of pouring oil and wine for our healing, He has poured out His blood and Spirit on us. Instead of putting us on his animal and carrying us to an inn, He took us up in His everlasting arms and carried us to the house of His Father. Instead of leaving us with an innkeeper, he gave us ministers to care for us. Instead of leaving money with them to watch over us, He gave us eternal riches–an inheritance incorruptable, undefiled and that does not fade away reserved for us in heaven. Finally, instead of just returning to see how we are, He is coming again to give us the full redemption of our bodies so that we might be with Him where He is–glorified in His presence. This is amazing love. This is the love of God in Christ. This is the love that we must pray more and more to have in our hearts for others. But let us remember that it is only the death of Christ that can save us from our sins. We can never love like this until we have been so loved by Christ. We will never “go and do likewise” until we have seen that we are the man left to die spiritually. John Newton summed up the parable so well when he wrote:
How kind the good Samaritan
To him who fell among the thieves!
Thus Jesus pities fallen man,
And heals the wounds the soul receives.
I remember well the day,
When sorely wounded, nearly slain;
Like that poor man I bleeding lay
And groaned for help, but groaned in vain.
Men saw me in this helpless case,
And passed without compassion by;
Each neighbor turned away his face,
Unmoved by my mournful cry.
But he whose name had been my scorn,
(As Jews Samaritans despise)
Came, when he saw me thus forlorn,
With love and pity in his eyes.
Gently he raised me from the ground,
Pressed me to lean upon his arm;
And into every gaping wound
He poured his own all–healing balm.
Unto his church my steps he led,
The house prepared for sinners lost;
Gave charge I should be clothed and fed;
And took upon him all the cost.
Thus saved from death, from want secured,
I wait till he again shall come,
(When I shall be completely cured)
And take me to his heav’nly home.
There through eternal boundless days,
When nature’s wheel no longer rolls,
How shall I love, adore, and praise,
This good Samaritan to souls!