SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY
Passage: Luke 10:25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and your neighbour as yourself.’”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 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.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Memory Verse: Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT
“LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.”
The parable Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37, popularly known as the ‘Good Samaritan’ was a response to a question thrown to Jesus by an unnamed Jewish lawyer. It is one of the most popular stories of the New Testament, if not the most popular. As usual it contains a lot of lessons for believers of all ages. It is therefore important for us to spend some few days trying to learn as much as we can from this passage. In this edition of Spiritual Nourishment for Today we shall focus on verses 25 and 26. It is my prayer that the LORD Almighty Himself will teach us as we begin to dig deeper into His word.
It all happened when a Jewish lawyer once went to Jesus to ask him a question. According to Luke’s observation the man went just to test Jesus. He had probably heard a lot about Jesus’ teachings and miracles and had become concerned about the growing popularity of the Jesus Movement which was drawing many people away from the Jewish sects. This made many of the Jews become jealous of Jesus’ ministry and tried to find ways of halting the popularity and growth of Jesus’ ministry. So this man went to Jesus to ask him a question hoping that Jesus would contradict himself and bring public ridicule upon himself. He also wished to commit Jesus into saying something in public against the Jewish religion which would cause the Jews to hate and desert Jesus. It is important to remind ourselves that people like the Jews which this lawyer represented still exist in our society and even churches today. There are many people who are jealous of the blessings of believers and the Jesus’ Movement in general and are therefore doing everything possible to bring believers’ down. They hate us and want to see our downfall of what the Lord is doing in our lives. However I wish to encourage all believers that the fact that people hate us and want to see us fail is an indication that the enemy has seen how much God has blessed us. We should therefore stand firm when the enemies strike else they will deprive us of what the LORD has prepared for us.
Let us now turn our attention to the question asked by the lawyer. The question the Jewish lawyer asked Jesus was about how to inherit eternal life. A first look at the question without, knowing the motive of the question, will make anyone fall in love with the lawyer for desiring to have eternal life. This is a question many asked Jesus and the early apostles. It is still being asked today. However the man’s question was to trick Jesus into making a mistake. However, Jesus, being an Omniscient God and knowing the thoughts of every man knew what the lawyer sought to achieve. He therefore responded to him appropriately.
What matters most about Jesus’ attitude towards the man’s question is that Jesus discerned the thoughts of the man and responded appropriately. Jesus was able to discern his thoughts because apart from being God himself, he was always in touch with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This leads us to the understanding that our continued relationship with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit will help us discern various spirits as well as the plans and thoughts of evil men and develop appropriate physical and spiritual responses to them. Christians become handicapped in our dealings with the enemy when we are unable to discern the intentions and activities of the enemy. It is my prayer that we shall position ourselves in ways that would allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the things which go on around us. I pray that the Holy Spirit will grant us the gift of discernment to enable us make nonsense of the devil’s tricks.
Jesus, being the custodian of all wisdom, was not in a hurry to answer the man. Instead he asked him a question that would make him come out with his own thoughts on the question he had asked. Jesus referred him to the Law of Moses which was the standard teaching material for the Jews. Jesus’ question was in two-fold as follows:
“WHAT DOES THE LAW OF MOSES SAY? HOW DO YOU READ IT?” (NLT)
By these questions Jesus wanted the man to show how well he had read the scriptures and how well he understood them. This shows that it is important for us to read the scriptures well and allow the Holy Spirit to direct our understanding else though we may read, we cannot understand. Jesus knew that the answer to the lawyer’s question was in the Law of Moses but his attitude towards the Law was so biased that it prevented him from getting the right understanding of the Law. It is a fact that those whose minds and hearts are not submitted to the Holy Spirit may read the scriptures from cover to cover but will not be able to understand it, let alone practice its precepts. Jesus’ question also shows clearly that God will judge each generation according to how much He has revealed about Himself to them.
Those who were given the Old Testament scriptures, will be judged according to the Old Testament scriptures; those who have no knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures will be judged according to God’s revelation of Himself through nature and other special forms of revelation. Those of us who have received the Old and New Testament scriptures in addition to special and natural revelation will be judged according to all that we have been given. The lawyer was asked a question based on what he knew about the Law of Moses. How much time do you invest in the study and practice of God’s word?
How will you respond to God when He asks you questions about the Bible? May the LORD help us to fall in love with His word and desire to walk in it at all times!
In the section of Spiritual Nourishment for Today we looked at the encounter between Jesus and the Jewish lawyer whose question led to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We focused on only verses 25 and 26 of Luke 10 and emphasized that believers must be very conversant with their scriptures and obey its precepts because we shall be judged on the account of how much we have been given. In this edition we want to look at the response of the lawyer to Jesus’ twin question which we considered in the previous edition.
The man responded to Jesus’ question with quotations from the Old Testament scripture, namely Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. His answer is what we want to focus on today. But before we delve deeper into that, let us admit that the man was a great scholar of the scriptures that is why he could quote the two most important commandments found in different parts of the scripture as the summary of the entire Law of Moses. It is not surprising he was a religious lawyer. He knew his scriptures and could quote the scriptures off hand. This was possible because he was taught the scriptures in his childhood by his parents as the LORD commanded in Deuteronomy 6:7 as follows:
“IMPRESS THEM ON YOUR CHILDREN. TALK ABOUT THEM WHEN YOU SIT AT HOME AND WHEN YOU WALK ALONG THE ROAD, WHEN YOU LIE DOWN AND WHEN YOU GET UP” (NIV).
The Jewish parents studied the Law and taught their children. They wrote them on their door posts to remind them of the Law of the LORD at all times. The priests always carried symbols of the Law with them. Every Jew was taught never to put aside the Law. Because of this command, the Jews taught their children to read, memorize and be able to recite the scriptures by heart.
Even though Christians and Jews share a common heritage, many Christians of today have put aside God’s command to study, keep and apply the scriptures to our lives. Many Christians of today pay very little or no attention to the study of God’s word. We spend majority of our time working in order to make money or for doing things which bring personal satisfaction to us. Christian parents of today spend very little or no time sharing God’s word with their children. As a result Christianity continues to produce many members who know very little about the Bible. This explains why many people who claim to be Christians fall at the slightest temptation. It is all because we do not love to study God’s word. We are more concerned about physical things than spiritual things.
Many Muslim scholars can recite the Qur’an from the beginning to the end. But not many Christian scholars, including myself, make the effort at learning the Bible the way our Muslim counterparts do. This is a shame on Christians. There are some Christians who cannot recite even ten scripture verses. We should always remember that God’s word is our sword (Hebrews 4:12). Without an in-depth knowledge of the scriptures we cannot win the battle against the enemy. We can have all the power and authority over the devil but without the word of God in our hearts and also on our lips, we shall fail. Jesus overcame Satan when he was tempted because he knew his scriptures.
I wish to challenge Christians of today to begin taking the word of God more seriously than any other activity of our lives. If we take delight in studying God’s word our relationship with the LORD will be deepened even as our knowledge of Him increases. We shall also have weapons to overcome our enemies such as Satan, sin and the self.
Because the lawyer knew his scripture well, he quoted the summary of the entire Law of Moses. According to him, the way to eternal life is the love for the LORD God with one’s whole heart, soul and strength in addition to loving one’s neighbour. This is a summary of the Decalogue (The Ten Commands) half of which emphasizes on our relationship with God and the other on our relationship with one another.
Jesus knew the man was right with his summary and told him to do it rightly. But what is exactly meant by loving God in the manner described in the Law? It simply means being totally committed to the God who formed and gave you life. It means that every human being must allow God to reign in every aspect of his or her life, without withholding anything from Him. It is about loving God wholeheartedly and unconditionally. It is about obeying God without any doubts. It means throwing away our physically desires and allowing the will of the LORD to control us at all times. This also goes with loving our neighbours. It is indeed true that no one can claim to love God without loving the neighbour or friend he sees every day.
In the next edition (Part 3) we shall continue with the discourse between Jesus and the Jewish lawyer.
May we always desire to study God’s word in order to show ourselves approved before God and men!
In the section of Spiritual Nourishment for Today we paid attention to the need for believers to take the study of God’s word more seriously. We made the point that diligent study of God’s word can help deepen our relationship with the LORD and aid us to overcome our enemies. This was based on the lawyer’s ability to quote the scriptures without any mistakes. In this edition we want to pay attention to Jesus’ response to the man after the man had summarized the entire Law of Moses in very few words.
After the Jewish lawyer had quoted the entire summary of the Law of Moses, Jesus responded by saying: “YOU HAVE ANSWERED CORRECTLY”. He further told him: “DO THIS AND LIVE.”
The first part of Jesus’ response confirms what we have already learnt about the lawyer’s extensive knowledge of the scriptures. It confirms that the man knew exactly what Jesus expected him to know and said exactly what Jesus expected him to say. He was accurate in his quotation of the scriptures. He did not say things which are not in the scriptures. He did not add to what is written in it, neither did he take anything out of what is written in the scriptures. Jesus commended him for his answer because he was able to say exactly what is in the scripture. What the man did, is something we can learn from. We can learn that Jesus delights in believers who are diligent when it comes to the study of the Bible. If Jesus were to mark the man’s script for that answer, he would have given him nothing less than 100%.
The question which comes back to us is, ‘how well do we know our Bibles?’ Some believers do not even know how to open their Bibles to look for certain books or verses unless they go back to the contents and check the pages. What would have been your score if Jesus were to ask you a similar question? I would like to admonish all believers who can read and write to be diligent in the study of the Bible before Satan makes mockery of us.
In the second part of Jesus’ answer to the man, he demonstrated the relevance of the Old Testament scriptures. We should remember that the man went to ask Jesus what he could do to receive eternal life. Jesus did not give him any new commandment. All that Jesus wanted him to do was to practice what the LORD had given to Moses.
Jesus told him to obey the LORD with all his strength, soul and mind and also love his neighbour as himself and by so doing he would live, implying he would receive eternal life. Does this sound like Jesus was against the Old Testament? Does it sound like the Old Testament scriptures as given by YHWH to the Israelites could not lead people into eternal life? Does it also sound like Jesus condemned everything in the Old Testament?
It is very sad when some Christians teach that the Old Testament is archaic and should therefore be discarded. Are they trying to tell us they are wiser or know better than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?
The above only suggests to me that the Law of Moses is still relevant to believers of today with the exception of the ceremonial laws which were ended at the cross of Jesus. Even though our salvation does no longer depend on our observance of the Mosaic Law, we are still expected to walk as children of God by obeying everything YHWH has commanded us to do irrespective of the time it was given!
Jesus knew that a time would come when some people, in order to justify their selfish decisions, would go about telling people the Old Testament is no longer relevant to believers. He knew some people would want to quote the Old Testament when it suits them and discard it when it pinches them. So in his teaching he stated categorically clear that he had not come to abolish the Law but rather to fulfil it.
Jesus meant that the Old Testament was written as a prophecy about him. How can we just discard such an invaluable material given to us by YHWH? Those who think the Old Testament should be rejected because it is all about works and not faith should start revising their notes because in Hebrews chapter 11, the list of Old Testament characters given were all saved by faith and not by works.
Again the summary of the entire Law of Moses as quoted by the lawyer and endorsed by Jesus does not in any way suggest it was a law of works. I do not think loving the LORD wholeheartedly is just about works. Even if it is believers are enjoined to love the LORD wholeheartedly after being saved and justified by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
It is my prayer that believers will understand the principles of God’s word and walk in it. I also pray that believers will understand that ALL SCRIPTURES, AND NOT SOME SCRIPTURES, ARE INSPIRED!
We should therefore become diligent students of God’s word.
In the previous section we learnt about the need for believers to study God’s word diligently. We also made the point that we should uphold the entire scriptures and discourage the rejection of the Old Testament by some Christian groups. In this edition we want to emphasize on the fact that knowledge of God’s word does not guarantee its total obedience.
After Jesus had told the religious lawyer to practice the law and live based on the lawyer’s answer, one would have expected the man to leave Jesus’ presence quietly. However Luke reports that the man wanted to justify himself. This leads us to curiously think that even though he knew the Law and could easily recite it, he was not practicing it, as expected. He had been doing something contrary to what the Law demanded but wanted to justify his actions or inactions.
This usually happens when people make mistakes without admitting them. Instead of admitting them, they try to find ways of justifying their wrongdoings or inactions. This man had failed to live according to God’s law, yet wanted to show that he was actually following it.
There are many people who have theoretical knowledge of God’s word without necessarily practicing it. Many Christian theologians and philosophers have studied the Bible and related materials yet are not Christians. Many people have been attending church for years, listened to several sermons and read the Bible several times without walking it. This shows clearly that knowing the word of God does not necessarily translate into its practice. This is the more reason why we should not just regard anyone who shows profound knowledge in God’s word as a Christian. Even Satan knows some scriptures!
What is, however, important, is for believers to always remember that knowing what is right without doing what is right, is sinful. This is one of the descriptions of sin. According to James 4:17:
“ANYONE, THEN WHO KNOWS THE GOOD HE OUGHTS TO DO AND DOESN’T DO IT, SINS” (NIV).
This shows that anyone who comes into contact with God’s word either by hearing or reading is expected to take it seriously by putting it into practice otherwise he or she shall sin. This can also be connected to Jesus’ statement that “to whom much is given much is expected.” This implies that those who have knowledge of God’s word are expected to put it into practice. Apostle James again admonished believers against the mere hearing of God’s word without its corresponding practice. In James 1:22 this is what we find:
“DO NOT MERELY LISTEN TO THE WORD, AND SO DECEIVE YOURSELVES. DO WHAT IT SAYS” (NIV).
Beloved in Christ, let us not be mere listeners or learners of God’s word, but become its doers. We should not be like the religious lawyer who knew everything about the Law, but failed to put it into practice.
The man asked Jesus about who his neighbour was. Does it mean that he knew the Law but did not understand it, or was simply not willing to practice it? I believe strongly, looking at his disposition, together with Luke’s wording, that he knew the Law and understood it, but because he did not practice it or was not willing to fully obey it, wanted a way of justification for his lackadaisical approach towards it.
He knew very well that a neighbour is a fellow Jew or a Gentile who was in need of help, but the Jews in general had been hostile to the Gentiles especially the Samaritans. As a result many of them criticized Jesus’ mingling with the Samaritans and other Gentiles who were despised by the Jews. By his question, the man had sought to get Jesus to say something to incur the wrath of the Jews, and allow him and the other Jews to continue with their gross disrespect for God’s law.
There are many people in this world, who even though know exactly what the word of God says, have always found means of justifying their wrongdoings by turning the word of God upside down. People have found means of using the Bible to justify issues such as abortion, divorce and remarriage, alcoholism, smoking, etc. in ways which contradict orthodox teachings of the Bible.
Some people are even using the Bible to restrict people from eating certain foods. Many try to find scriptures to justify their actions and inactions. This is a dangerous practice. Instead of using scripture to justify our wrongdoings it is better for us to allow the scripture to teach us what to do and abide by it.
The religious leader who went to Jesus knew what to do was not doing it and still wanted to commit a blunder. Would he succeed in his plans? The next section will help us unravel the truth. May the LORD help us to be people who always desire to learn and put God’s word into practice and not people who want to justify our wrongdoings using the word of God!
We have been looking at the preliminary discourse between Jesus and the Jewish religious lawyer and learnt several lessons about there. In this section we want to look at the parable itself, which is one of the sweetest and famous stories in the Bible.
We are already aware that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is a response to the lawyer’s question of who his neighbour was. Let us now take a closer look at the parable itself. But before we do that let us have a short description of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho and some of the things which happened there.
Jericho was situated about 15 miles to the northeast of Jerusalem, and about 8 miles west of the river Jordan. The word “thieves” means those who merely take “property.” These were highwaymen who did not merely take properties, but endangered lives as well. They were “robbers.” The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was rocky and mountainous, and in some parts scarcely inhabited. It afforded, therefore, among the rocks and fastnesses, a convenient place for highwaymen. This was also a much frequented road. Jericho was a large place, and there was much traveling to Jerusalem. At this time, also, Judea abounded with robbers. Josephus says that at one time Herod the Great dismissed 40,000 men who had been employed in building the temple, a large part of whom became highwaymen (Josephus “Antiquities,” xv. 7).
According to the parable, a man was traveling from Jerusalem, a city on the mountain, down to Jericho, a Samaritan city which had been cursed. On his way he was attacked by some unknown robbers. They took away his clothes, leaving him possibly half-naked, and probably other belongings he had with him. They also beat him up and left him half-wounded. The picture given here is that the man was left with wounds and blood all over his body. He could not move or talk even though he was alive. All he needed at that time was a kind, loving and compassionate man who would help him recover, else he would die.
But it was not easy for him to get help at that time. It is obvious the robbers did not care about his life. This man who was attacked by the robbers was a Jew so one would have thought that when a Jew draws nearer he would help him by taking him to the city to receive care until he recovered. But that was not going to be case. According to Jesus, a Jewish priest passed by, saw him, but instead of getting near and helping him, crossed to the other side of the road and went his way. Probably he was late for Temple service and did not see the need to allow himself to be delayed by an ordinary wounded man on the road. The priest acted like many believers who daily meet or see people who are in need of our help but we fail to value them enough to pay attention to.
Sometimes we put our Christian ministries, jobs, family and other personal things ahead of those who may need our help. It is about time we all come to realize that showing love and providing care for the needy and destitute are part of our Christian obligations. After all we cannot claim to love God while ignoring the very people who are closer to us and need our help. It is against the Law of loving God and our neighbours. What the priest did is similar to what the temple assistant (Levite) did.
After the two Jews had passed, a Samaritan, despised by the Jews, also got to the scene. He did not look at the origin of the person lying down or his time and the appointment he needed to meet. He did not look at the blood oozing all over his body. He did not see him a Jew or Samaritan but he saw a human being created in the image of God who needed help. The Samaritan acted more maturely than the Jewish religious leaders who claimed to know the Law of Moses and more righteous than the Samaritans. The Samaritan had compassion on the man, cleaned his wounds and applied oil and wine and bandaged them. He put him on his own donkey and gradually took him to a place where he could be taken care of. He even paid for the expenses and promised to return to pay for the rest should there be any more to add later. This is amazing love. It is an unconditional love. The love and compassion shown by the Samaritan clearly shows that many of the Jews who knew the Law of Moses did not put it into practice. This is so with many Christians of today.
On many occasions we fail to show love and compassion citing various reasons for our inactions. We sometimes decide not to help as a form of revenge or fear for what would happen after we have helped the needy. Even though we know everything about the need to love and care for others we fail to practice it. As a result there are many people in our churches today who are suffering but are not receiving the desired attention. At the same time there are many people who have been blessed by God in diverse ways also in our churches. Sometimes we prefer to donate money to orphanages and other institutions and have our names mentioned in the news while neglecting the very poor in our families and churches etc. I am not condemning our support to the wider society but even as we do that we should not neglect those who are closer to us. May the LORD help us to become people who always desire to demonstrate love and compassion to those who need them!
In a related edition we shall establish that Jesus was talking about himself in the parable. See: “Jesus, the Good Samaritan“! Shalom!
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.