The Good Samaritan
IN the story of the good Samaritan, Christ
illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds,
or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others,
in genuine goodness.
As Christ was teaching the
people, "a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do
to inherit eternal life?" With breathless attention the large congregation awaited
the answer. The priests and rabbis had thought to entangle Christ by having the lawyer ask
this question. But the Saviour entered into no controversy. He required the answer from
the questioner himself. "What is written in the law?" He said; "how readest
thou?" The Jews still accused Jesus of lightly regarding the law given from Sinai;
but He turned the question of salvation upon the keeping of God's commandments.
The lawyer said, "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus said, "Thou
hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."
The lawyer was not satisfied
with the position and works of the Pharisees. He had been studying the Scriptures with a
desire to learn their real meaning. He had a vital interest in the matter, and had asked
in sincerity, "What shall I do?" In his answer as to the requirements
law, he passed by all the mass of ceremonial and ritualistic precepts. For these he
claimed no value, but presented the two great principles on which hang all the law and the
prophets. This answer, being commended by Christ, placed the Saviour on vantage ground
with the rabbis. They could not condemn Him for sanctioning that which had been advanced
by an expositor of the law.
"This do, and thou shalt
live," Jesus said. He presented the law as a divine unity, and in this lesson taught
that it is not possible to keep one precept, and break another; for the same principle
runs through them all. Man's destiny will be determined by his obedience to the whole law.
Supreme love to God and impartial love to man are the principles to be wrought out in the
The lawyer found himself a
lawbreaker. He was convicted under Christ's searching words. The righteousness of the law,
which he claimed to understand, he had not practiced. He had not manifested love toward
his fellow man. Repentance was demanded; but instead of repenting, he tried to justify
himself. Rather than acknowledge the truth, he sought to show how difficult of fulfillment
the commandment is. Thus he hoped both to parry conviction and to vindicate himself in the
eyes of the people. The Saviour's words had shown that his question was needless, since he
had been able to answer it himself. Yet he put another question, saying, "Who is my
Among the Jews this question
caused endless dispute. They had no doubt as to the heathen and the Samaritans; these were
strangers and enemies. But where should the distinction be made among the people of their
own nation, and among the different classes of society? Whom should the priest, the rabbi,
the elder, regard as neighbor? They spent their lives in a round of ceremonies to make
themselves pure. Contact with the ignorant and careless multitude, they taught, would
cause defilement that would require wearisome effort to remove. Were they to regard the
"unclean" as neighbors?
Again Jesus refused to be
drawn into controversy. He did not denounce the bigotry of those who were watching to
condemn Him. But by a simple story He held up before His hearers such a picture of the
outflowing of heaven-born love as touched all hearts, and drew from the lawyer a
confession of the truth.
The way to dispel darkness is
to admit light. The best way to deal with error is to present truth. It is the revelation
of God's love that makes manifest the deformity and sin of the heart centered in self.
"A certain man,"
said Jesus, "was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers,
which both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance a
certain priest was going down that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other
side. And in like manner a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by
on the other side." Luke 10:30-32, R. V. This was no imaginary scene, but an actual
occurrence, which was known to be exactly as represented. The priest and the Levite who
had passed by on the other side were in the company that listened to Christ's words.
In journeying from Jerusalem
to Jericho, the traveler had to pass through a portion of the wilderness of Judea. The
road led down a wild, rocky ravine, which was infested by robbers, and was often the scene
of violence. It was here that the traveler was attacked, stripped of all that was
valuable, wounded and bruised, and left half dead by the wayside. As he lay thus, the
priest came that way; but he merely glanced toward the wounded man. Then the Levite
appeared. Curious to know what had happened, he stopped and looked at the sufferer. He was
convicted of what he ought to do; but it was not an agreeable duty. He wished that he had
not come that way, so that he need not have seen the wounded man. He persuaded himself
that the case was no concern of his.
Both these men were in sacred
office, and professed to expound the Scriptures. They were of the class specially chosen
to be representatives of God to the people. They were to "have compassion on the
ignorant, and on them that are out of the way" (Heb. 5:2), that they might lead
to understand God's great love toward humanity. The work they were called to do was the
same that Jesus had described as His own when He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is
upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to
heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to
the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18.
The angels of heaven look
upon the distress of God's family upon the earth, and they are prepared to co-operate with
men in relieving oppression and suffering. God in His providence had brought the priest
and the Levite along the road where the wounded sufferer lay, that they might see his need
of mercy and help. All heaven watched to see if the hearts of these men would be touched
with pity for human woe. The Saviour was the One who had instructed the Hebrews in the
wilderness; from the pillar of cloud and of fire He had taught a very different lesson
from that which the people were now receiving from their priests and teachers. The
merciful provisions of the law extended even to the lower animals, which cannot express in
words their want and suffering. Directions had been given to Moses for the children of
Israel to this effect: "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou
shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying
under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him."
Ex. 23:4, 5. But in the man wounded by robbers, Jesus presented the case of a brother in
suffering. How much more should their hearts have been moved with pity for him than for a
beast of burden! The message had been given them through Moses that the Lord their God,
"a great God, a mighty, and a terrible," "doth execute the judgment of the
fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger." Wherefore He commanded, "Love ye
therefore the stranger." "Thou shalt love him as thyself." Deut. 10:17-19;
Job had said, "The
stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveler." And
when the two angels in the guise of men came to Sodom, Lot bowed himself with his face
toward the ground, and said, "Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your
servant's house, and tarry all night." Job 31:32; Gen. 19:2. With all these lessons
the priest and the Levite were familiar, but they had not brought them into practical
life. Trained in the school of national bigotry, they had become selfish, narrow, and
exclusive. When they looked upon the wounded man, they could not tell whether he was of
their nation or not. They thought he might be of the Samaritans, and they turned away.
In their action, as Christ
had described it, the lawyer saw nothing contrary to what he had been taught concerning
the requirements of the law. But now another scene was presented:
A certain Samaritan, in his
journey, came where the sufferer was, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. He
did not question whether the stranger was a Jew or a Gentile. If a Jew, the Samaritan well
knew that, were their condition reversed, the man would spit in his face, and pass him by
with contempt. But he did not hesitate on account of this. He did not consider that he
himself might be in danger of violence by tarrying in the place. It was enough that there
was before him a human being in need and suffering. He took off his own garment with which
to cover him. The oil and wine provided for his own journey he used to heal and refresh
the wounded man. He lifted him on his own beast, and moved slowly along with even pace, so
that the stranger might not be jarred, and made to suffer increased pain. He brought him
to an inn, and cared for him through the night, watching him tenderly. In the morning, as
the sick man had improved, the Samaritan ventured to go on his way. But before doing this,
he placed him in the care of the innkeeper, paid the charges, and left a deposit for his
benefit; and not satisfied even with this, he made provision for any further need, saying
to the host, "Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again,
I will repay thee."
The story ended, Jesus fixed
His eyes upon the lawyer, in a glance that seemed to read his soul, and said, "Which
of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the robbers?"
Luke 10:36, R. V.
The lawyer would not, even
now, take the name Samaritan upon his lips, and he made answer, "He that showed mercy
on him." Jesus said, "Go, and do thou likewise."
Thus the question, "Who
is my neighbor?" is forever answered. Christ has shown that our neighbor does not
mean merely one of the church or faith to which we belong. It has no reference to race,
color, or class distinction. Our neighbor is every person who needs our help. Our neighbor
is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the adversary. Our neighbor is everyone who is
the property of God.
In the story of the good
Samaritan, Jesus gave a picture of Himself and His mission. Man had been deceived,
bruised, robbed, and ruined by Satan, and left to perish; but the Saviour had compassion
helpless condition. He left His glory, to come to our rescue. He found us ready to
die, and He undertook our case. He healed our wounds. He covered us with His robe of
righteousness. He opened to us a refuge of safety, and made complete provision for us at
His own charges. He died to redeem us. Pointing to His own example, He says to His
followers, "These things I command you, that ye love one another." "As I
have loved you, that ye also love one another." John 15:17; 13:34.
The lawyer's question to
Jesus had been, "What shall I do?" And Jesus, recognizing love to God and man as
the sum of righteousness, had said, "This do, and thou shalt live." The
Samaritan had obeyed the dictates of a kind and loving heart, and in this had proved
himself a doer of the law. Christ bade the lawyer, "Go, and do thou likewise."
Doing, and not saying merely, is expected of the children of God. "He that saith he
abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." 1 John 2:6.
The lesson is no less needed
in the world today than when it fell from the lips of Jesus. Selfishness and cold
formality have well-nigh extinguished the fire of love, and dispelled the graces that
should make fragrant the character. Many who profess His name have lost sight of the fact
that Christians are to represent Christ. Unless there is practical self-sacrifice for the
good of others, in the family circle, in the neighborhood, in the church, and wherever we
may be, then whatever our profession, we are not Christians.
Christ has linked His
interest with that of humanity, and He asks us to become one with Him for the saving of
humanity. "Freely ye have received," He says, "freely give." Matt.
10:8. Sin is the greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity and help the sinner. There
are many who err, and who feel their shame and their folly. They are hungry for words of
encouragement. They look upon their mistakes and errors, until they are driven almost to
desperation. These souls we are not to neglect. If we are Christians, we shall not pass by
on the other side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who most need our help.
When we see human beings in distress, whether through affliction or through sin, we shall
never say, This does not concern me.
"Ye which are spiritual,
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." Gal. 6:1. By faith and prayer press
back the power of the enemy. Speak words of faith and courage that will be as a healing
balsam to the bruised and wounded one. Many, many, have fainted and become discouraged
the great struggle of life, when one word of kindly cheer would have strengthened them to
overcome. Never should we pass by one suffering soul without seeking to impart to him of
the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God.
All this is but a fulfillment
of the principle of the law,--the principle that is illustrated in the story of the good
Samaritan, and made manifest in the life of Jesus. His character reveals the true
significance of the law, and shows what is meant by loving our neighbor as ourselves. And
when the children of God manifest mercy, kindness, and love toward all men, they also are
witnessing to the character of the statutes of heaven. They are bearing testimony to the
fact that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Ps. 19:7. And
whoever fails to manifest this love is breaking the law which he professes to revere. For
the spirit we manifest toward our brethren declares what is our spirit toward God. The
love of God in the heart is the only spring of love toward our neighbor. "If a man
say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother
whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Beloved, "if we
love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:20,