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The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “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.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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Lu 10:25-37. Question of a Lawyer and Parable of the Good Samaritan.

25. tempted him—"tested him"; in no hostile spirit, yet with no tender anxiety for light on that question of questions, but just to see what insight this great Galilean teacher had.

26. What is written in the law—apposite question to a doctor of the law, and putting him in turn to the test [Bengel].

27. Thou shalt, &c.—the answer Christ Himself gave to another lawyer. (See on Mr 12:29-33).

28. he said, &c.—"Right; This do, and life is thine"—laying such emphasis on "this" as to indicate, without expressing it, where the real difficulty to a sinner lay, and thus nonplussing the questioner himself.

29. willing—"wishing," to get himself out of the difficulty, by throwing on Jesus the definition of "neighbor," which the Jews interpreted very narrowly and technically, as excluding Samaritans and Gentiles [Alford].

30. A certain man—a Jew.

from Jerusalem to Jericho—a distance of nineteen miles northeast, a deep and very fertile hollow—"the Temple of Judea" [Trench].

thieves—"robbers." The road, being rocky and desolate, was a notorious haunt of robbers, then and for ages after, and even to this day.

31, 32. came down a … priest … and a Levite—Jericho, the second city of Judea, was a city of the priests and Levites, and thousands of them lived there. The two here mentioned are supposed, apparently, to be returning from temple duties, but they had not learnt what that meaneth, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice' [Trench].

saw him—It was not inadvertently that he acted.

came and looked—a further aggravation.

passed by—although the law expressly required the opposite treatment even of the beast not only of their brethren, but of their enemy (De 22:4; Ex 23:4, 5; compare Isa 58:7).

33. Samaritan—one excommunicated by the Jews, a byword among them, synonymous with heretic and devil (Joh 8:48; see on Lu 17:18).

had compassion—His best is mentioned first; for "He who gives outward things gives something external to himself, but he who imparts compassion and tears gives him something from his very self" [Gregory The Great, in Trench]. No doubt the priest and Levite had their excuses—It is not safe to be lingering here; besides, he's past recovery; and then, may not suspicion rest upon ourselves? So might the Samaritan have reasoned, but did not [Trench]. Nor did he say, He's a Jew, who would have had no dealings with me (Joh 4:9), and why should I with him?

34. oil and wine—the remedies used in such cases all over the East (Isa 1:6), and elsewhere; the wine to cleanse the wounds, the oil to assuage their smartings.

on his own beast—himself going on foot.

35. two pence—equal to two day's wages of a laborer, and enough for several days' support.

36. Which … was neighbour?—a most dexterous way of putting the question: (1) Turning the question from, "Whom am I to love as my neighbour?" to "Who is the man that shows that love?" (2) Compelling the lawyer to give a reply very different from what he would like—not only condemning his own nation, but those of them who should be the most exemplary. (3) Making him commend one of a deeply hated race. And he does it, but it is almost extorted. For he does not answer, "The Samaritan"—that would have sounded heterodox, heretical—but "He that showed mercy on him." It comes to the same thing, no doubt, but the circumlocution is significant.

37. Go, &c.—O exquisite, matchless teaching! What new fountains of charity has not this opened up in the human spirit—rivers in the wilderness, streams in the desert! What noble Christian institutions have not such words founded, all undreamed of till that wondrous One came to bless this heartless world of ours with His incomparable love—first in words, and then in deeds which have translated His words into flesh and blood, and poured the life of them through that humanity which He made His own! Was this parable, now, designed to magnify the law of love, and to show who fulfils it and who not? And who did this as never man did it, as our Brother Man, "our Neighbor?" The priests and Levites had not strengthened the diseased, nor bound up the broken (Eze 34:4), while He bound up the brokenhearted (Isa 61:1), and poured into all wounded spirits the balm of sweetest consolation. All the Fathers saw through the thin veil of this noblest of stories, the Story of love, and never wearied of tracing the analogy (though sometimes fancifully enough) [Trench]. Exclaims Gregory Nazianzen (in the fourth century), "He hungered, but He fed thousands; He was weary, but He is the Rest of the weary; He is saluted 'Samaritan' and 'Demoniac,' but He saves him that went down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves," &c.