August 20, 2023
This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, How to Be A Good Friend.
Perhaps one of the best‑loved parables Jesus ever told was the story of the good Samaritan.
Once, a lawyer came to Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25b). This was a self‑righteous man wanting to justify himself. He was asking a dishonest question because the Bible says he was testing Jesus.
If you come to Jesus with an honest question, you will always get an honest answer. But if you come to Jesus with a dishonest question, Jesus will not answer the question; He will ask you a question.
Jesus asked the man, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10:26).
“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 neighbor as yourself”’….But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:27,29; emphasis added).
This lawyer knew the Bible. He was able to recite the greatest commandment and the second greatest commandment. He had religion—but he did not have life. He was looking for a loophole in the law. He did not want to love anybody he didn’t have to. He had no trouble loving God abstractly; but people, you see, are all around. This would mean he had to get his so‑called religion out of the ethereal and down into real life. This man wanted a limit, a minimum. So he asked Jesus, “Who exactly is my ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
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.”
Jerusalem sits on Mount Zion, 2,500 feet above sea level. But Jericho is situated near the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on planet Earth—1,400 feet below sea level. This man was going down from Jerusalem, the city of God, to Jericho, a pagan city. This traveler is a picture of humanity going away from God.
The road to Jericho is winding, going down, down, down; there were limestone caves, sharp curves, and boulders. It was—and is today—a prime place for criminals to hide. Going from Jerusalem to Jericho was a very dangerous journey.
This man fell among thieves. They beat him, took his wealth, and left him in a pool of blood. He was half-dead, on his way to complete death. Remember: he is a picture of humanity away from God, battered and robbed by Satan.
What does this have to do with us today? We live in a world of people going from Jerusalem to Jericho, away from God. They are battered domestically, emotionally, physically, economically, and spiritually. They are caught up in cults, humanism, liberal religion. Satan has stripped them and left them half-dead.
Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
The priests performed the religious rituals of the day. Levites were the custodians of the law. These two represent religion, with its rituals and rules.
Remember that Jesus is talking to a self‑righteous lawyer who doesn’t want to love anybody he doesn’t have to love. Religion will make you bigoted, cruel, and self‑righteous if you do not have Christ.
The Apostle Paul, before he met Christ, was a “religious” man. He had the right birth, education, attainment, and the good works to back it up. (Read Philippians 3:4-6.) But Paul went on to say, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7).
If “religion” can save, which one is right? Christianity? Confucianism? Islam? Buddhism? None! Only Jesus can save.
Here is this man, lying in his own blood. The priest—who had perhaps been to the temple that day—wraps his self‑righteous robes around him and leaves that man bleeding and dying. By this picture, Jesus is teaching that religion with its rituals cannot save you.
This Levite is the man who walks by and says, “What a mess you are. What were you doing down here anyway? You have gotten exactly what you deserve, and furthermore, you are going to die! So long.” That is all the law can do. The law can describe us, and condemn us, but it cannot save us. (Read Romans 7:7-13.)
Your neighbor needs more than rituals and rules. Your city needs more. People need compassion. They need a friend—they need Jesus! There are people out there who are battered, robbed, weakened and dying! Yet we come to church on Sunday morning and think we have done God a wild favor by doing so.
What was wrong with this priest and this Levite? They were not the ones who beat and robbed the man. The problem is that they did nothing. The sin of omission is greater than the sin of commission. What do you have to do to kill a church? Fight against it? Not necessarily; that might just make it stronger. All you have to do is simply…nothing. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Luke 11:23).
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, 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 is a picture of Jesus Christ.
The Samaritans were a despised race. They were the ones who were left behind after Israel was carried away into captivity. They intermarried with the heathen people around them. They had some of their own religion, and some foolish ideas, and many of them lived in poverty. So the Jews of this day had “no dealings with Samaritans”—whatsoever. (See John 4:9.)
This good Samaritan’s compassion was not mere sentimentality. The word “compassion” is from two words: “com,” meaning with, and “passion,” which means to feel deeply. A person who has genuine compassion sees people with the compassionate eyes of Christ.
He had compassion, and went to the hurt man. The good Samaritan ministered to the man as he was. We don’t have to wait until those who are hurting come to us. Go to them.
“He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine” (see Luke 10:34). The oil to soothe, the wine to cleanse. In the Bible, oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Wine is a symbol of the blood of Christ.
“He set him on his own animal” (v. 34). This pictures the substitutionary ministry of Jesus. He allows us to take His place, and He takes our place.
Jesus concluded by asking the lawyer a question.
“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37; Luke 11:23; Philippians 3:4-7; Romans 7:7-13; John 4:9
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.”
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”