Summary: The parable of the Good Samaritan is probably the best-known story. I have read where some consider it the greatest story ever told.
Lesson: Lawyer Hears the Story of the Good Samaritan
The lesson today is one of the parables that characterize the gospel of Luke. His gospel is full of the wonderful parables that Jesus used to make a point. Dr. Luke majors in parables just like Mark majors in miracles. Dr Luke records some parables that are among some of the most familiar parts of the Bible. The parable of the Good Samaritan is probably the best-known story. I have read where some consider it the greatest story ever told.
I have divided the lesson into four parts, and when we are done, I believe we will understand the point that Jesus is making by this parable.
Part 1: How Can I be Saved
The story begins with verse 25.
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
The parable of the Good Samaritan came about as the answer to a question about eternal life. It was not an honest question, but it was a good question and a typical question. A “certain lawyer” asked the question—but he was not a lawyer in the sense that we usually think of lawyers. I read a little story about two lawyers who were in court. It was a difficult case, and there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the case.
The court opened and lawyer number one jumped up and called the other lawyer a liar. The second lawyer jumped up to retaliate and called the first lawyer a thief. The judge rapped his gavel for silence, and said, “Now that the lawyers have identified themselves, we will begin the case.” However the lawyer in the parable was not part of a judicial system; but rather, he was an interpreter of the Mosaic Law, and in that sense, he was a lawyer. Now our Lord had a very wonderful way of dealing with questions. He answered a question by asking a question. It is known, by the way, as the Socratic Method because Socrates used it: answer a question with a question. It lets a man answer his own question. So the lawyer tries to put Jesus on the witness stand, but Jesus turns around and puts him on the witness stand.
26 He (Jesus) said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
Jesus knew that he was an expert in the Mosaic Law. His answer would bear that out, and Jesus said it was the correct answer.
Listen for the barb that’s in Jesus’ reply.
27 So he (the lawyer) 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.’”
28 And He (Jesus) said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
Notice that the Lord got in a little dig in by insinuating that he wasn’t living by what he knew was right.
Part 2: Who is My Neighbor?
Notice next that the lawyer has another question for the Lord. Verse 29 says…
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Notice that our Lord answered his first question with, “You have answered right.” Remember that this took place before Christ died on the cross. But is Jesus saying that a man can be saved by keeping the Law? Yes, but let’s follow through on this.
It is not the hearers of the Law, but the doers of the Law that are justified. If you say you can keep it, I’ll have to remind you that God disagrees with you. He says it is impossible to be justified by the Law, because no one can keep the Law.
It says in Galatians 2:16, “…by the works of the flesh shall no flesh be justified.”
And in Romans, you’ll find this statement: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v. 3-4).
Now, if the lawyer had been honest, which he was not, he would have said, “Master, I have sincerely tried to love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and my neighbor as myself. But I can’t do it. I’ve failed miserably. So, how can I inherit eternal life?” But instead of being honest, he adopted this evasive method and said, “And who is my neighbor? Now Christ gave him an answer to this question, and it’s the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a simple story, but a marvelous one.