THE GOOD SAMARITAN
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” [Luke 10:30]
Notice that this man WENT DOWN from Jerusalem to Jericho! In this brief clause there is both a refutation of the flesh-captivating theory (lie) of “evolutionism”and an allusion to the Fall. Man did not begin existence as a beast, to slowly fight his way upwards by his own efforts; instead, he was created in the image and likeness of God, but apostatised, and ever since his direction has been DOWNWARD. Man was placed in a paradise of peace and rest, but he left that blissful state of his own accord and contrary to the expressed command of his Maker.
The word “Jerusalem” signifies “the foundation of peace” and stands for heavenly and spiritual things, being the City of God, but apostate man has turned his back upon it, and now, “the way of peace” he knows not (Rom. 3:17). But more—he has gone down “to Jericho,” which is the place of destruction and of the curse (Josh. 6:26). Such is the estate into which man, by his revolt against God, has fallen: he has destroyed himself and lies under the curse of the thrice Holy One.
“AND FELL AMONG THIEVES.” Travelers tell us that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a steep descent, the latter part of it going through a desert and it is still infested with brigands or highwaymen. In his original state of peace and rest, man was safe and happy, but by deliberately forsaking the same he encountered those who were the remorseless enemies of his soul. The Devil, the world and the flesh are the thieves which rob man of his heritage: they sap his energies, deprive him of the time which should be redeemed for eternity and take away all serious thoughts God-ward. They take from us, but never give; that was how they treated the “prodigal son” in the far country till he was reduced to penury and starvation. Egypt is the outstanding symbol of the world in the Scriptures, and what did it give to Israel? Nothing but the taskmaster and the whip. O my reader, Satan and the world may promise you “a good time,” but they are liars and thieves, waiting to rob you of your soul and your bodily health! Pay no heed to their siren voices, but hearken unto what God says to you.
“WHICH STRIPPED HIM OF HIS RAIMENT.” How solemnly true to life is this! What did Satan do to our first parents? What did sin do unto Adam and Eve? It stripped them of that brilliant raiment of light with which God had originally covered them (Psa. 104:2 and cf. Gen. 1:27). As the result of their disobedience they stood naked before God with nothing to hide their shame. But man lost something more than his outward adornment by the Fall; through sin he was divested of his internal investiture—he was stripped of the robe of original righteousness in which the soul had hitherto appeared in immaculate purity before God. And thus it is with you, my reader, if you be out of fellowship with Christ—your sins are uncovered to the sight of Heaven—you are naked and exposed to the law, the justice, the wrath of God. Nothing but the atoning blood of Christ can hide your shame from a sin-hating and sin-avenging God. O that you might be brought to realize your wretched plight!
“AND WOUNDED HIM.” Sin and Satan have wounded man’s body, which bring it down with disease and pain to the dust from whence it was taken. They have wounded his soul in all its faculties: his understanding with darkness, his will with a vicious choice, his affections with worldly-mindedness, so that he places his love upon the creature instead of the Creator. They have wounded his conscience with guilt, with fear of death and dread of Hell. They have stopped his ears to the voice of the Spirit and closed his eyes to the glory of God. How completely and severely man is wounded appears from that solemn description supplied by the inspired Prophet: “The WHOLE head is sick, and the WHOLE heart faint. From the SOLE OF THE FOOT EVEN UNTO THE HEAD there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores” (Isa. 1:5, 6). Worst of all sin has inflicted a mortal wound which has deprived man of his spiritual consciousness, for he is insensible, UNAWARE of his desperate state.
“AND DEPARTED.” When those thieves had taken everything they sought from the traveller and left him sorely wounded, they callously went their way, caring nothing what became of their miserable victim. How heartless and cruel! Yes, though he appears as an angel of light, desiring to make us happy, Satan is a heartless fiend, anxious only that others should share his awful doom. Though sin clothes itself in many specious forms which attract the unwary, yet it is remorselessly cruel, having no concern for the grief it produces. Satan and sin rob us of health and strength, destroy manhood and womanhood, bring them to the place of acutest distress, and then leave them to their fate. Worldlings will pose as happy and friendly companions while a man’s money lasts, but when adversity and retribution overtake him, they depart and desert him. Though history faithfully records these facts, each new generation refuses to profit from the warning and rushes headlong to its doom.
“LEAVING HIM HALF DEAD.” Some have stumbled over these words, supposing that if the previous clauses depict the state of the SINNER then the description falls short at this point. Not so, the terms are minutely accurate: half dead is precisely the condition of man since the Fall. Alive naturally, dead spiritually; alive earthward, dead heavenward; alive unto sin, dead toward God: no desire to please Him, no fear of Him, no love for Him—“She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). Moreover, men are only “half dead” with regard to the wages of sin: even now they are “alienated from the life of God,” but in the Day of judgment they shall be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9)—when they are cast into the Lake of Fire “which is the SECOND death” (Rev. 20:14). In these six lines then,we have a true picture in every part of its tale of misery, the faithful and unerring representation of fallen man, such as none but a Divine Artist could have drawn.
What was denoted here by the “priest” and the “Levite”? Viewing the whole parable dispensationally the one fallen by the way-side would be Adam: the “priest” the patriarchal era, from Adam to Moses, when the firstborn was the priest, having the right to offer up the appointed sacrifices. Then followed the Levitical age, from Moses to Christ.
But considered DOCTRINALLY and practically, the priest and Levite would stand for the moral and ceremonial law of Sinai. Was it then the purpose of Christ to throw contempt upon Law and Religion? Certainly not: His purpose was to teach us what, after nineteen centuries, vast multitudes in Christendom are still ignorant of, namely, that neither the deeds of the law nor religious performances can avail anything for a desperately wounded sinner who is dead toward God. Baptism, confirmation, church-membership, fasting, attendance at the Lord’s Table can neither impart life nor remove the guilt of sin. The most scrupulous observance of ordinances amounts to nothing for one who is under the wrath of God.
“He passed by on the other side.” The real force of this is nearly always missed. It was NOT that Christ here portrayed the priests of Israel as a callous and cruel class. No, according to his own inspired textbook the priest and the Levite COULD DO NOTHING else. The “priest” was appointed for the specific purpose of offering sacrifices. But the wounded traveler had none, nor had he any money to purchase one, for he had been robbed! What, then, could the priest do for him? Nothing whatever. Nor was the “Levite” any better equipped: for him to have so much as TOUCHED a bleeding man would have ceremonially defiled him (Lam. 4:14)! Neither the one nor the other was competent to or qualified for delivering the ruined sinner, nor had God ever appointed them for any such end.
What is it that the sinner must do in order to obtain everlasting felicity? Consider the actual condition of fallen man and then answer your own question. The sinner has fallen among thieves, who have stripped him, wounded him, abandoned him to his fate, leaving him half dead—alive to the world, yet dead God-ward. What can such an one do? They who teach salvation by works ignore the ruin which sin has wrought in the human constitution; they who inculcate salvation by self-effort repudiate man’s total depravity.
Such we believe was Christ’s purpose in the first part of this passage: to make clear the fact that fallen man is in such a wretched condition he is BEYOND doing anything for his deliverance. But such a truth is far too distasteful to proud human nature. Man will not accept the Divine verdict, he will not believe his case is so desperate as the Scriptures depict it. He persuades himself that it lies in his own power to win the favour of God. He thinks that if he tries his best to render obedience to the Divine commandments and employs himself in religious performances such endeavour will receive an eternal recompense. All the expedients which human wisdom has devised as remedies for the wounds sin has inflicted may be reduced to two—law-keeping and ritualistic performances—and man fondly concludes that he finds Scriptural warrant for such remedies. Did not God Himself give the Law at Sinai, a law both moral and ceremonial? Then surely if we use them diligently they must prove effective!
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him” It was an elect soul which the Saviour here gazed upon, for the sovereign grace of God is exercised unto none save those who were “from the beginning chosen unto salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13). Thus we may regard these words as first looking back to a point before the foundation of the world, when Christ contemplated those given unto Him by the Father in the glass of His decrees. In Proverbs 8, where Christ is before us under His title of “Wisdom,” He is seen with the Father “before the mountains were settled . . . while as yet He had not made the earth” (vv. 25, 26). “Then I was by Him (said the Son) as One brought up with Him,” then it is added, “and My delights were with the sons of men” (vv. 30, 31). God showed Christ those “many brethren” among whom He was to be the Firstborn. But after His incarnation He saw them in their actual fallen state, yet He was not repelled by their putrifying sores, nor did He turn from them in disdain, not even from the leper or the adulteress. What a sight for One accustomed to behold the glories of Heaven!
“He had compassion on him.” How this line in the picture brings out the heart of Christ toward His own! He did not gaze upon this wretched object with stoical composure, but felt deeply his abject misery. This word evidences the reality of the Divine incarnation and manifests the genuineness of Christ’s humanity. It is a word which occurs again and again in the Gospels manifesting the fact that the Lord Jesus was “moved with compassion.” It is recorded for our instruction and consolation, teaching us that our High Priest is not one who “cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15), for “in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:17). Therein He differed from the angels: they may pity us, but they cannot have “compassion” on us. Pity is sympathy FOR one who is in distress, but compassion is to sorrow WITH him: it is the placing of one’s self alongside another in distress and sharing it with him. Thus it was with the Saviour: He assumed our very nature and “took our infirmities” upon Him (Matt. 8:17). It was love moving Him to use His power on our behalf.
“And went to him.” Here again the antithesis is sharply drawn, for this clause is in designed contrast from the “passed by on the other side” of the priest and the Levite. It brings out the radical difference between the Law and the Gospel. The Law can render no assistance to fallen an, but the Gospel presents One who is mighty to save. Here is good news, glad tidings indeed. The Law cannot bring us close to God, but the Gospel brings God close to sinners. “And went to him.” Christ does not merely advance half way toward the desperately wounded one and then bid him to come the other half. There would be no good news in THAT for one who is DEAD toward God. Nor does Christ come nine-tenths of the way and bid us go the last tenth. No, blessed be His name, He comes all the way, going after the lost sheep “until He find it, and when He hath found it, He layeth it on His shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:4, 5).
“And bound up his wounds.” How this reminds us of that Messianic prophecy at the beginning of Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon Me: because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek, He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted.” It was part of His commission to bind up the brokenhearted. Christ alone can speak peace to the burdened conscience, open blind eyes, liberate the sinner’s enslaved will, and loose the tongue so that it gladly praises God. It is love which moves the Redeemer to employ His all-mighty power for the recovery of sinners. It is grace which causes Him to lay His hand upon those who are such revolting objects and tenderly minister unto them. Has He bound up your wounds, my reader? No matter how desperate they may be, they are not beyond the skill of this great Physician. Unless CHRIST does bind them up, you are lost forever.
“Pouring in oil and wine.” Observe the means for effective healing. Oil is the element with which anointing was made (Exo. 30:25; Lev. 8:12) and our Redeemer is anointed with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 61:1). Oil is therefore the symbol of the Spirit. Wine is the emblem of joy (Psa. 104:15), as “the fruit of the wine” (Luke 22:17, 18) is also the memorial of the precious blood of Christ. Nothing but the joyful remembrance of Christ’s finished work, applied in the power of the Spirit, can speak peace to the lacerated conscience. When the Divine oil and wine are poured into the deepest and most dangerous wounds of sin, they infallibly work a perfect cure—for the atoning blood has a Divine virtue to heal—being appointed for that very purpose. It “cleanseth us” says one who had experienced its healing power, “from ALL sin.” And no wonder, for it is the blood of Immanuel. He who shed it was God and man in one Christ, and therefore is it possessed of infinite efficacy and merit. His blood can make the foulest clean, and by cleansing, it heals.
“And set him on His own beast.” This line in our picture presents an aspect of the truth which has no place in the emaciated evangelist of our day. Christ not only comes to the sinner in his dire distress and helplessness—He does more. He not only ministers to him and relieves his want—He goes much further. He does not leave him after He has befriended him. He not only empowers him to walk but instates him into an entirely new position. Christ not only meets the sinner in his place of need, but GIVES HIM HIS OWN PLACE. Here is the climactic blessing of the Gospel: that the one who is saved by Christ is not only pardoned and cleansed, healed and recovered, but brought near to God in Christ’s own acceptableness. Because Christ took our place we enter into His place: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), and therefore God “hath raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies IN CHRIST JESUS” (Eph. 2:6).
“And brought him to an inn.” Still the befriended one does nothing for himself: all is done for him. And how accurate this line in the picture! He was not brought “home” but to an “inn.” When Christ saves a soul He does not take him to Heaven at once, but leaves him in this world for a while longer. But observe well the CHARACTER which is now stamped upon him: the “inn” is for wayfarers and travelers. And such is the character which Christians are to maintain upon earth: “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11). Thus we may note that Christ gives His people the SAME character He sustained—for when here He was the homeless Stranger. The “inn” is where travelers assemble and spend the night. It is the local church that is symbolized, which is an assembly of strangers and pilgrims, the place where they meet together in spiritual fellowship.
“And took care of him” (Luke 10:34). The tender grace of the good Samaritan did not slacken: “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). 12. “When He departed”: contrast from “as He journeyed” (Luke 10:33)—His return on High. 13. “He took out two pence and gave to the host and said unto him, Take care of him.” His loving solicitude ceased not. The “host” is the minister of the local church or “house of God”— not the Spirit personally and distinctly, for Christ will not reward Him, yet as identified with His work and agents. The “two pence” we regard as the Two Testaments (each bearing the same Divine impress), which ministers are to make use of for the good of those entrusted to them. 14. “Whatsoever thou spendest more (the minister’s own labours) WHEN I COME AGAIN, I will repay thee.”
How blessed: the parable ends with the rescued one and his caretaker looking forward with joyous anticipation to the return of his Benefactor! What must I do to enter into this experience? Take the sinner’s place before God, repudiate my own righteousness, and receive Christ as He is offered in the Gospel.