Summary: Compassion is the defining attitude in kingdom living propelling us forward in ministry.
Everybody fancies himself a Good Samaritan. And everybody has good reasons why they cannot be a Good Samaritan in a particular situation. The idea is that we can pick and choose when we are going to be a Good Samaritan.
That would be okay if people could pick and choose when and what problems they would have.
Think of the last time you had an emergency. Was it planned by you? Was it convenient for you at the time?
At the very heart of the Good Samaritan is compassion. Without compassion, nothing really would get done in this world.
There are two motivating factors in a person’s life.
1. Passion… External influences… Can be worked up.
2. Compassion… Internal influence… Can’t be worked up.
It is easy to confuse these two.
Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about a Good Samaritan in response to a lawyer’s question.
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
On the surface, this looks like a perfectly legitimate question. However, looking at the first part of the verse gives us a hint about it.
“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test…”
The lawyer was not asking the question in order to get an answer, but rather to put Jesus on the spot.
To be clear here, the lawyer is not some Perry Mason kind of a lawyer. What is referred to here is someone who is an expert in religious law. By the time Jesus comes on the scene, the Jewish people had developed such an intricate religious system that they needed experts to help them understand their own religion.
It seems a little pathetic to rely upon some expert to understand what your religion is all about.
It is interesting to me to see how Jesus takes this question, turns it around and addresses an issue that is really on this religious lawyer’s mind. They always have an agenda.
This parable of the Good Samaritan reveals to us several things about religion and how it counters true spirituality. The key here is compassion.
Compassion is the defining attitude in kingdom living propelling us forward in ministry.
The parables especially in the gospel of Luke, outline for us kingdom living. Each parable reveals something to us about what God expects out of us who live in his kingdom.
When this religious lawyer asked his question, Jesus responds with a question of his own.
“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
In other words, you are the expert, what does the law say?
The answer that the religious lawyer gives is interesting.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
This just about covers the whole spectrum of life.
Jesus complements this religious lawyer by saying,
“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
The religious lawyer is not done. He now comes to the question he had in mind in the beginning. This was something rather important to the Jewish religious people. I am sure Jesus understood the religious lawyer’s definition of “neighbor.”
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we have three primary characters. Since, the question comes from this religious lawyer; Jesus is going to put it in terms that he will understand. These characters reveal quite a bit.
The Priest… Was responsible for leading the worship celebration in the temple.
“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side” (10:31).
The Levite… Was responsible for helping Jewish people in their celebration of Jewish festivals and especially in the legal aspects of their religion.
“So likewise the Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (10:32).
Both were to be ministering to the people. It was their job.
The Samaritan… Was an outcast as far as the religious people were concerned. They were not considered neighbors.
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (10:33).
The emphasis is in that one word “compassion.”
An interesting light on this is seen in John’s Gospel.
“And he must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4).
The proper procedure would be to go around Samaria. No upstanding Jewish person would ever deliberately walk through Samaria.
Perhaps this religious lawyer heard of Jesus going through Samaria and talking to the Samaritan woman. It probably was a jab at the integrity of Jesus who would lower himself to talking to a Samaritan.
Now, at the end of this parable Jesus asks this religious lawyer a question.
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (10:36).