IS IT NOTHING TO YOU WHO PASS BY?
(Excerpt from Luke 10:30-37)
Vs 30 – In Jesus’ answer we find one of the most beloved stories, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Interpretation of this parable, as with the Prodigal Son and other more notable parables, could fill books by themselves (and have done so). We can only touch on just a few surface points. J. Vernon McGee notes – “Dr. Luke majors in parables just as Mark majors in miracles” (Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson). This parable is a university course on human psychology and a seminary course on God’s great mercy.
The “certain man” that “fell among thieves” could well point to the fall of Adam, though all have in one way or another experienced “the fall”. This man “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho”, representing the downhill path of sin or backsliding. Jerusalem bespeaks holiness, the worship of God, the Temple and all it stands for. Jericho was a seaside city of sin and pleasure, Israel’s lakeside party town. Joshua destroyed it centuries before so it was rebuilt in rebellion to God’s wish. Jerusalem to Jericho is the backslider’s path, a windy, rugged, dangerous road, laced with robbers and thugs, lurking behind its cliffs and boulders. “Jerusalem is 2,300 feet above sea-level; the Dead Sea, near which Jericho stood, is 1,300 feet below sea-level. So then, in somewhat less than 20 miles, this road dropped 3,600 feet” (The Gospel of Luke, Westminster Press). The trek would be as exhausting as it was imperiled with bandits. Jerome called it the Bloody Way. Wandering this winding path the traveler “fell among thieves”. Jesus labeled Satan “the thief” (John 10:10) and his demon cohorts rob and steal and pilfer after the spirit and nature of their master. NIV says he was “attacked by robbers”. Gambling robs financial health. Drugs rob brains, morals and dreams. Divorce steals fathers and mothers away from their children. Alcoholism is the thief of health, wealth and happiness.
The thieves tripped, flipped and “stripped him of his raiment”. The raiment symbolizes a clothed soul, the robe of righteousness rent by submitting to the flesh or falling into sin. The Greek simply says they “stripped him”, of clothing yes, but of everything else the thieves could make off with, money, jewelry, knapsack, etc., “plundered” (Aramaic). Next, he was “wounded”, “beat him up” (NLT). Sin victimizes and leaves deep wounds (Isa 1:6). Solomon says of the adulterer, “a wound and dishonor shall he get” (Prov 6:33). Sin’s wounds etch lifelong scars. Notice also that the thieves “departed” after the mugging. The picture is reminiscent of the spirit that convulsed and bruised the lad before departing from him (Luke 9:39). Satan uses and abuses his prey then spits them out leaving them in the ditch of despair, naked, shivering, bleeding and half-dead.
Is there such a state as “half dead”? Either you’re breathing or not. The condition represents one who was once spiritually fully alive to God reverting back to his old life, the spiritual part of him falling into a state of numbness, deadness or lifelessness, while the other “half”, the flesh life lives and reigns. The spirit was metaphorically “dead” while the beaten body continued to breathe. Many go through life in a half-dead stupor. They are half-dead because they are only half a person without Christ. Half-dead is one quarter of the way to “twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 12).
Three attitudes toward others are seen in this parable. First, the attitude of the robbers was beat ‘em up
. Many take their wrath out on the unsuspecting or innocent. This attitude is seen on the streets as young gang members who want to pay the world back for their fatherless, hopeless childhoods, rape and mug and shoot and loot. But it is also seen in the pulpit or headquarters office where bitter preachers lash out at those who get in their way. Second, the attitude of the priest and Levite was pass ‘em up.
Religion has no time for the needs of others; keeping the schedule is more important than helping the fallen get up from the ditch. Saving dollars becomes more of a priority than saving souls; just pass ‘em up. Third, the attitude of the Samaritan was pick ‘em up
. He fulfilled the golden law of verse 27 and put the man back on his feet.
Vs 31 – “and by chance” – true witnesses are always looking for an opportunity to share Christ, but this priest only stumbled on this scene of human wreckage by accident. He obviously was not expecting God to bring someone that he could minister to across his path. Notice that this certain priest “came down” that way. He too was traveling the downward road. The historical fact was that many priests owned vacation homes on Jericho’s hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee. To them Jericho was a getaway from Temple ministry so this priest certainly wasn’t hoping to run into more “ministry” on the way to his Monday morning retreat.
The priest “saw him” in the ditch. There are all kinds of ditches: drug addiction, alcoholism, homosexual bondage, pornography, etc. Any form of immorality is a “deep ditch”(Prov 23:27). The priest couldn’t excuse himself from action because he “saw him”. When Jesus “saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion…” (Mat 9:36) Stark visions of pain and suffering flash across the screen of our minds; we can try to shut them out, pretend we didn’t see or rationalize that there should be some government agency to take on the responsibility.
After taking a good look he “passed by on the other side”, making a volitional decision to change course and walk clear to the other shoulder of the road, “the safe side”, hoping that no one saw him leave the scene of the accident. This priest preferred people in the pews over people in the ditches, not aware of the class to which he had really been sent. Religion places men in theological quan-daries – the beaten man may have been dead, if so then he would violate the law by touching a corpse (Num 19:11). Who would want to deal with that inconvenience on the way to a lakeside retreat?
You can imagine his excuses. He was in a hurry, he had already done enough for the Lord that day, or he knew his assistant the Levite was trailing behind and ditch-work was “his department”, not the preacher’s job. Or perhaps he rushed down the road in fear that he might be the next victim, because the bandits were not above planting a fake sufferer to entice a traveler to stop. There are lots of excuses for our inaction but few legitimate reasons.
Vs 32 – “And likewise a Levite” – “likewise” means that just as the priest’s arrival at the scene was totally coincidental so was the Levite’s. Levites were assistants to the higher order of ministry, the priests. Is it not interesting that the volunteer clergy was following the same steps as the paid clergy! If the pastor is not a soul-winner and minister to those dying in the ditches, he cannot expect his staff to be any better. A leader’s negligence is normally compounded in his followers, for the Levite’s unconcern was even worse – “when he was at the place, came and looked on him…” The priest pretended that he did not see the bloody sight but the Levite had even less excuse, walking right up “at the place”, able to apply CPR or whatever the situation demanded. Notice that he “looked upon him” which means he assessed the damage, noticing the cuts, bruises, ripped shirt, empty money bag and etc. He may have even felt for a pulse. But for whatever reason he too “passed by on the other side”. Jeremiah’s lamentation comes to mind – “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” (Lam 1:12) The other side is as far away from the scene as one can get. He made a ninety degree turn from where he was to move to the opposite side of the road.
J. Vernon McGee mused – “It is possible that this lawyer was a Levite and that he squirmed at this point because it touched him in a personal way” (Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson).
Picture the two sharing prayer requests at synagogue the following Sabbath (If you are Episcopalian, Lutheran or Pentecostal insert “church” for synagogue and “Sunday” for Sabbath). They may have lamented, “Ladies and gentlemen, we need to pray for this man we saw in the ditch on the way to Jericho on our day off. He had been mercilessly beaten, it was brutal, our hearts sunk, the poor fellow was left unconscious, half-dead. The State Patrol was nowhere to be found. The Red Cross didn’t show up. We both breathed a prayer for him on site. Could we bow our heads and ask God to…” Our indifference is criminal. This man’s need was not the business of the Red Cross but of the Old Rugged Cross. We have the medicine, administer it.
Vs 33 – The Samaritan traveler lived on a whole different wavelength. His attitude was not “beat ‘em up” or “pass ‘em up”, but was “pick ‘em up”.
“But a certain Samaritan…” – Remember that Samaritans were looked down on by Jewish orthodoxy as spiritual half-breeds, filthy swine farmers, contaminated sell-outs. Because of James and John’s Judean pride they were quick to want to rain down fire on the Samaritan village that did not welcome Jesus. But here, once again, Dr. Luke takes the side of the underdog and records the story of how Grace operates in all classes of men. For the very one the Jews detested is used to save one of the Jews’ fellowmen. “The priest had his heart hardened to one of his own people, but the Samaritan had his opened towards one of another people” (Matthew Henry). Plus, the man in the ditch, a Jew, had been passed over by his own people. The obvious comparison had to bite the conscience of the scribe asking the question.
“…as he journeyed…” – the fact that the Samaritan was on a journey tells us that his schedule had no room for interruptions, yet he voluntarily laid his schedule aside when need cried out. See that he “came where he was”. The priest and Levite left “where he was” for the other side of the road, whereas the Samaritan crossed from the other side of the road to near the crime scene. We have to meet men where they are. Ezekiel “sat where they sat”. Further, “when he saw him, he had compassion on him”. Jeremiah’s heart was softened by the things he saw which is precisely what happened in the heart of the Samaritan. His sight provoked his sympathy. Religion (Priest and Levite) became hardened at the sight of the beaten man while Redemption (Samaritan, a type of the great “man of sorrows”) melted in compassion. He “saw” him, his current naked and bruised condition for sure but also his need, his heart, his pain. The Greek word splagchnizomai as mentioned previously (7:13) has to do with being moved deep within one’s gut. We derive the term “spleen” from the Greek root word.
Vs 34 – Now we see actions that lead the reader to see Jesus’ own biography in this story. The Samaritan “went to him”. Faith without works is dead. Is this Jesus leaving the hails of Heaven for the nails of Earth? He “bound up his wounds”; the same work as seen in His quotation from the Isaiah messianic prophecy (Luke 4:18). Next, he was “pouring in oil and wine”, oil symbolic of the anointing of the Spirit and wine symbolizing the crimson blood of Christ. These are soothing and sedating mixtures, both representing the meekness and mercy that defines believers in Christ. Since no EMTs were at the crime scene, he took upon himself to be the rescue crew, using his own linen to bind the wounds and sacrificing his travel pro-visions to nurse the man to health.
He then “set him on his own beast”, which means the Samaritan walked while the injured party rode. Genuine love willingly trades “sunshine for rain, comfort for pain”. He had to “lift” the man to mount the burro. Love always lifts. Would the lawyer noted above have given a Samaritan his donkey were the roles switched? Obviously not, but love does not check ethnicity records before offering medicine and an ambulance ride. He was a man in misery. What difference made his ethnic background? All we are told of the victim is that he was “a certain man” (vs 30), likely a Jew but no reference was given, the moral of the story being that any human being deserves a helping hand.
Next he “brought him to an inn”. How far off schedule is the journeyer now? The “inn”, of course, represents the house of God. But that was not all for next he “took care of him” which means, at the very least, that he spent the rest of the night at the man’s side in the inn, doctoring his wounds and monitoring his condition. We know he spent the night because “on the morrow…he departed”.
Vs 35 – By way of outline, the Samaritan was…
1) OPEN-EYED (for he saw him in the distance)
2) OPEN-HEARTED (for he had compassion on him)
3) OPEN-HANDED (for he paid for his stay at the inn)
As he checked out of the inn he handed “two pence” to the “host”, saying, “Take care of him”. If the Inn is the Church, then the “beast” is the ambulance of the Gospel and the “host” is the local church Pastor. Jesus who is both Good Shepherd and Good Samaritan has enough confidence in YOU, dear Pastor, to entrust the care of the injured to your safekeeping. Don’t let Him down!
The “two pence” spoken of are two denarii, what the margin and the Amplified Bible indicates is the equivalent of “two days’ wages”. In God’s economy one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day (2 Pet 3:8) so the suggestion may be that Christ has only furnished pastor-hosts with enough spiritual currency to last two days, or two thousand years, a picture of the Church Age. We must be wise stewards of His gifts and provision because our allotted time is about over.
He added, “…whatsoever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you”. Now the prophetic view is in broad daylight. Christ will return. We know not the day or hour. Until then we must occupy, faithfully nursing His wounded ones back to health. If He delays His coming and additional spending cash is needed, He promises to pay in full at His returning, whatever additional expenditure in time and tears we have to make. The two pence pictures the “earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14), the down payment securing what will be Christ’s at His coming.
Vs 36, 37 – the conclusion of the parable. Jesus left the interpret-ation up to the self-justifying lawyer. “Which now of these three, do you think, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?” Jesus has gone full-circle now to the lawyer’s original gotcha question. Obviously, he could answer no other way than to say, “He that showed mercy”, mercy being better than sacrifice, to which Jesus gave the imperative, “Go, and do thou likewise”. The Levite followed the priest “likewise” (vs 32). We are to follow Jesus, likewise.
Had the lawyer never read that God requires His people to “do justly, and to love mercy” (Mic 6:8)? The Samaritan “showed mercy”, the others kept it to themselves. Show mercy – show me, don’t snow me.
Who then is my neighbor? A dictionary is not needed to answer the question. A neighbor is someone who lives “neigh” or nigh us. That would include the immediate neighborhood, neighboring countries, the next person over on the subway or what Jesus was getting at, any and all of humanity. Neighborliness is not geographic but attitudinal. And it is a decision. When the Samaritan “saw”, he “came”. He didn’t have to; he had full choice in the matter. The moral? Let Matthew Henry speak again, “If a Samaritan does well that helps a distressed Jew, certainly a Jew does not well if he refuses in like manner to help a distressed Samaritan”.
Of course, we are not castigating Jews per se, for it was one self-righteous scribe whom Jesus addressed, not Judaism as a whole – the message clearly applies to every man. The closest neighbor anyone has is his or her spouse. So the story needs applied to marriage and family before any other relationship. It is pathetic that the priest of a household, the dad or husband, would walk right past their hurting mate or child to help someone else mugged on the road to Jericho. Charity begins at home! If you really want to love your neighbor start with the person you sleep with at night.
Finally, notice the use of the word “do” through this section. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” “This do, and you shall live”, “Go, and do thou likewise”. We are not saved by doing but we are saved that we might do. The Law says, “DO!” Grace says, “DONE!” The Law says, “Do this and live”. Grace says, “Live and do this”. We are not exempted from doing; rather we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be able to do.