Our gracious God as we turn to your word for these minutes, we ask that what we know not you would teach us. What we have not you would give to us. What we are not you would make us. We ask it in Jesus name, amen.
Well friends, we are beginning a new little series of sermons. On this Sunday mornings we’re looking at seven of the parables from Luke. And that series is called, Stories on the Road. And today is probably the best known of all the parables, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The phrase, Good Samaritan is known universally. I want to suggest to you that this is possibly the least understood parable of all the parables.
And if you will concentrate for a few minutes, I want to try and show you what I think is the real meaning of the parable. Because you will expect me this morning, since we are looking at the Good Samaritan to give you a little bit of a talk on loving your neighbour. But you’ll see that this is not exactly the main plain meaning of this parable. We assume the parable is saying, would you please all go out from church today and be a good neighbour? And of course that is an excellent thing to do. But Jesus is dealing with a man who is hostile, unbelieving, difficult, arrogant, self justifying. And Jesus tells this parable in order to see this man become a new person. So Jesus you see never looks at a person who’s an unbeliever and says, “Well, now I want you to go and perform great things”.
The first thing he does is to help that person to become a believer. And that’s what this parable is for. You will notice that the man arrogantly says to Jesus, “Well, who is my neighbour?” As if to say, please point them out so that I can deal with that particular person. And Jesus finishes the parable by saying, “Who is a neighbour?”
In other words, who becomes a neighbour and begins to see everybody differently? Well, the one thing we can be absolutely sure of is this man comes with a good question, which is about eternal life. There is nothing more important in the world than to settle the question of how to have eternal life. I personally have never watched the television program, ER, I have to confess. But I wonder whether on one occasion, a Christian got into the script writing. Because I read the script in one of the books which tells us that there was an occasion, an episode, where a policeman was dying and he called the chaplain to him. And the chaplain obviously was just speaking gobbledygook. In this particular episode, the policeman has serious guilt on his conscience and he wants the chaplain to tell him how he can be ready for the next world.
And this is the script. Policeman, “How can I be forgiven?” Chaplain, “Well, maybe you feel more guilty than forgiven.” Policeman, “Which means what? I’m dying and I’m afraid.” Chaplain, “Well, what do you think comes next?” Policemen, “You tell me, is atonement possible?” Chaplain, “We must decide for ourselves what God wants.” Policeman, “You mean people can do anything? Rape, steal, and it’s all right?” Chaplain, “That’s not what I am saying.” Policeman, “Well, what are you saying? Because it sounds like some new age garbage.” Chaplain, “You don’t understand.” Policemen, “No, you don’t understand. I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real heaven and a real hell.”
Chaplain, “I hear you’re frustrated.” Policeman, “Yes, because you’re making things worse. I need someone who’ll look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness because I am running out of time.”
That’s a great episode, isn’t it? And a very clear description of what’s important. And you can never accuse Jesus of confusing the issues because he’s always clear on what’s important. And so in Luke chapter 10, he doesn’t tell an unbeliever, I want you to go and be a good boy scouts, and help out ladies across the road. He teaches this man how to have eternal life. So I want to look at it under two quick headings. The first is what I’ve called, A Confusing Question, and the second is, A Convicting Answer.
First of all, A Confusing Question. The reason that Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan is to deflate an arrogant man. It isn’t that he is dealing with a good man. He’s dealing with an arrogant man and the parable is designed to deflate him. So this man comes to Jesus and he’s an expert in the Old Testament law. It doesn’t mean he is a lawyer as we would think of a lawyer. He is an expert in the Old Testament law. This man knows his Bible, but you’ll notice that we’re told that his question was to test Jesus. The word is actually tempt Jesus. So he’s not come to learn. He’s come to play some kind of game. And his question is very strange, very confused. He says this, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Now, as far as I know, that’s not the way inheritance works. Just imagine I came up to you over the morning tea and I said to you, “It was so lovely to visit you in your house this week and what a lovely house you have.”
And my question is, how do I get to inherit your house? That’s a very odd question. Isn’t it? You would say, listen, you don’t get to do anything to inherit my house. You have to be someone in order to inherit my house. Inheritance is not by doing, it’s by being. And so this man has an excellent goal, which is eternal life, but he has a hopeless path. He thinks the path to eternal life is doing stuff. I of course wish that more people would be interested in the subject of eternal life. I was talking to my neighbour this week, who’s a very quiet Asian lady, quite a sweet lady. And in the course of the conversation, I discovered that her mother and her brother have both died in the last few months. And the immediate reaction was, this is what she said to me. So the lesson is, how would you finish that sentence? Look after yourself.
I would have said the lesson is, how do you prepare to leave this world? I wish more people were interested in the whole subject of how we can have eternal life. And this man actually raises a very good question, which is how can I have eternal life? But he unfortunately he thinks it’s going to be by doing. Well, you can notice that Jesus is prepared to pursue the idea of doing well, just to show the man that it’s not going to work. And so he says to him in verse 26. Okay, well, let’s think about doing well. What does the law in the Old Testament tell you to do? Give me a summary. And this man comes up with an excellent summary. He obviously knows his Old Testament, a quote from Deuteronomy six, “Love God with your heart, mind, soul and strength.” Great. Part two, quite familiar, Leviticus 19, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Great.
And the man is absolutely right. This is a good summary of the Old Testament. He has hit the nail on the head. And if the Bible was teaching salvation by works my friends, this man has summarised the works perfectly. But I hope you know this, that the commandments were not given to us as a checklist to make us proud. We’re not meant to go down the 10 commandments and go, tick, tick, tick, tick. Especially when we know what our thoughts are like and our hearts are like. We’re meant to go down the commandments and honestly say, fail, fail, fail, who will save me? That’s what commandments are for. The commandments are like an X-ray machine. They’re designed to show us our need of a saviour. And you see what the two commandments are saying to us. If you want to have eternal life, well, the reward for keeping the two commandments, just make sure that you’ve loved God perfectly. Make sure you’ve loved him with everything you have. Make sure you’ve done it all the time with no failure, no inconsistency.
Make sure you’ve treated all people perfectly and always top priority. Now, I don’t know about you, but you have to say at that point, don’t you? Why always me? Who will be the saviour? And when Jesus says to the man do this and you’ll live, he might as well have said to the man fly to the moon. He might as well have said, look, I want you to have the character of God or I want you to live a sinless life.
I want you to be perfection, personified. I want you to be love personified. All of this is designed so that the man will say, “I need help. I need a saviour.” Jesus wants this man to feel his need, his sin, his spiritual disease. So that he might turn to Jesus and say something like this, “Am helpless. Am guilty. Am doomed.” And that’s exactly the man Jesus listens to. Well, now says Jesus, “If the man was talking like that, I have forgiveness for you. And I have a new life for you.” CS Lewis said on one occasion, that morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts. And if we could, we would only perish in the ice and the unbreathable air of the summit. So you see who Jesus is dealing with here. A man who comes to tempt him, to trick him. A man who’s about to go on to justify himself.
And Jesus is trying to deflate him and show him that the law is not the ladder to be climbed. We’ll never climb that ladder. Now, the law is designed to show us that we need a saviour. That’s where hope begins. So that’s the Confusing Question. Now, secondly, A Convicting Answer, and this is where the parable comes in. Jesus tells this famous and amazing story. Incidentally, does it not seem to you astonishing that when somebody just ambushes Jesus with this very tricky comment that Jesus can effortlessly come out with this beautiful story, just off the cuff to illustrate the standard of what God’s love is like. Well, we know the parable well, don’t we? The man is attacked on a journey and he’s left by the wayside. And we know the two religious men walk past him and ignore him. And then suddenly a Samaritan sees him and provides for him.
Remember that the word Samaritan in Jesus’ day was an offensive word. It was the word for a betrayer or a disloyal person. The people who lived in the North around Samaria had interbred with the Gentiles. And therefore they’re a compromised mongrel type of people. They were looked on as disloyal to Israel. So we might say if we were updating the parable, a prisoner walked past and took care of him. A parking policeman walked past. Somebody who we’re not so fond of walked over and looked after this man. And the Samaritan did 10 things. I sometimes wonder whether Jesus chose 10 things to show these 10 fruits, rather than the 10 laws. These are the things that the Samaritan did. He saw the man. He felt something. He approached the man. He bound up his wounds. He poured medicine. He placed him on his donkey. He brought him to an inn. He cared for him. He gave the innkeeper money, and he promised to return and fix everything up. 10 incredible exhibits of love.
And I say again, the aim of the parable is so that the lawyer will say, well, I’m doomed, I can’t do that. I don’t have that kind of love in my heart. And that is what Jesus he’s hoping he will say.
I’ve read this to you before. These are some words of John Stott in one of his books. And I think they’re so helpful. He says, “Nothing keeps people away from Christ more than their inability to see their need of him or their unwillingness to admit it. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners. He didn’t mean by his epigram about the doctor that some people are righteous, so they don’t need salvation, but that some people think they are. In that condition of self-righteousness they’ll never come to Christ. For just as we go to the doctor only when we admit that we’re ill and cannot cure ourselves, so we’ll go to Christ only when we admit we’re sinners and cannot save ourselves. The same principle applies to all our difficulties. If we deny the problem, nothing can be done. Admit the problem and there is a possibility of solution. It’s significant that the first of the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous is we admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Well, you may be interested to know in the gospel of Luke, the twice a person comes up to Jesus and says, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” One of the other examples is The Rich Young Ruler. And to The Rich Young Ruler, Jesus, again, shows him the law in order to deflate him. And when that doesn’t work, he says, “Well, can you give your money away? It looks like you can’t.”
And here is the lawyer in Luke chapter 10. And again, Jesus shows him the law to deflate him. And when that doesn’t work, he says, “Well, can you love like this?” And he sets a bar that’s so high, it’s designed to make him fall to his knees. When a person does come to Jesus and says to Jesus, how can I have eternal life? I know it’s not something I can do. The reply of Jesus Christ is your rights, but it is something that I can do for you. And he may, of course, go on to say that the death which I died on the cross for you is designed to give you a brand new life. Forgiveness and a brand new life. That’s the secret.
If we tick a box that we once helped a neighbour, or we once helped two neighbours, or we once helped 20 neighbours, that’s not going to bring eternal life. But to pray to him, to pray to Jesus Christ and to ask forgiveness and to ask for a new life will turn us into a brand new person. We’ll suddenly find that we have a whole new heart, a new spirit, we’ll become a neighbour. We won’t be perfect, but we’ll be new. We’ll be ready to serve. And perhaps we’ll be ready to cross the road, not to win eternal life, but to show that we now have eternal life.
Many of you will know the name, Bertrand Russell, one of the most forceful, feisty, atheists of the 20th century. He was so passionately against Christianity. He set up his own school for his children so that his children would not be doctrinated with the dreadful doctrines of Christianity. His daughter, Kate, who wrote an autobiography says, what rescued her was the knowledge of original sin. She said it was such a relief to stop being told that I must be perfect, perfect, perfect. And to come face-to-face with my sinfulness and the saviour Christ. She said, “This was intoxicating for me, and I found forgiveness in a heavenly father.” Well, my friends, how’s this going to help us? How’s this going to help us this morning? Because the sequence is absolutely vital. Once we have faced moral bankruptcy and turned to Christ for rescue, he gives to us a brand new life. Then we’re able to do some moral duty.
And instead of working out how few neighbours we need to be kind to, we will find ourselves having become a neighbour who God gives us to help other people, especially by helping them, of course, to face their own need for forgiveness. And the great gift that Christ comes to bring. So you see this passage this morning is really divided into two parts. The Confusing Question, which Jesus carefully deals with, and then A Very Convicting Answer. And the sequence is grasp moral bankruptcy for yourself and then turn to Christ. And he will give you a brand new life which will then lead into moral duty, the blessing of many people and glory to God. That’s the sequence of this section. I hope some of that made sense.
Let’s bow our heads and pray
Father we thank you first of all for the wonderful way the Lord Jesus was concerned that people would live. We thank you for his death in order that people would live. We thank you for the wonderful way he dealt with this man, helping him to see his need, that he might come to find the news. We pray that you’d give to us, not only a grasp of our own need, but also the joy of the great news of Christ. We pray that being humbled before your law, we might then stand and rejoice before the cross. And we ask that you would work in us so that having come to a position of humility, we might come to a position of great use usefulness in your service. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.