Most Christians have either read or heard a discussion on the narrative of the Good Samaritan as depicted in Luke 10.
However, I get the impression that most don’t understand what is being said. Jesus spoke in a figurative language. When He spoke to the crowds, he spoke in parables. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus responded to a lawyer who had asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking him, “What is written in the law?” The lawyer responded with, “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.” Jesus responded and said, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
This presents an interesting dichotomy of Scripture. On one hand, in John 14, Jesus states that He is the true way to eternal life. On the other hand, Jesus is saying that by following the above commandments, you may inherit eternal life. What gives here? How do we resolve this dichotomy? This contrast can be resolved by going beyond the traditional views of the Good Samaritan as being a goodie two-shoes by treating the parable as an impressive allegory of the fall and redemption of mankind.
Jesus knew that the lawyer would be uneasy with His response. The lawyer, seeking assurance that he is justified by his reply to receive eternal life, asked the fateful question, “Who is my neighbor?” The lawyer, being a lawyer, is going to cross-examine himself and make sure that there is no loophole or escape clause that could deny him eternal life.
Jesus begins His parable: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Jerusalem means “Possession of Peace” or is sometimes called the city of peace. Here Jerusalem represents the Garden of Eden. The man represents Adam and Eve, or mankind, who left the Garden of Eden. This is fallen man.
Jericho is the lowest city on the earth (825 feet below sea level) and was a hedonistic resort area where Herod had built a vacation palace. The name Jericho means “fragrance,” and it is the fragrant lure of sin that attracts mankind to the world. Jericho represents hell, or perhaps the world at its worse-chaos rather than peace.
On the way to Jericho, the man fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him near death. The thieves represent the influence of unclean spirits who rob the man of what dignity he has left, and the accuser, Satan, leaves him exposed for the sins that he committed. The pains of life are represented by the wounds. Being close to death, Satan is probably saying to God, “Is he not mine?”
As an example, you pick up the morning paper and on the front page the headlines read, “CEO of Dottcom Inc. arrested for embezzling $10 million.” The next day you read that the CEO was addicted to cocaine and had an affair with his secretary. His wife is divorcing him. The CEO is now sitting at the side of the road stripped of his dignity and his sins are exposed to the world.
Switching back to the parable, just by chance a priest came walking down the road. When he saw the man, he passed by on the other side of the road. The priest symbolizes the Law of Moses. It was not that the priest didn’t want to help the man, but the Law of Moses did not have the power to save him.
Likewise, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw the man, passed by on the other side of the road. Levites, from the tribe of Levi, were charged with the care of the sanctuary. They assisted priests and were judges, scribes, lawyers, gatekeepers, and musicians. One again, the works of the Levite could not save the man. The law and its works offered no life-giving salvation.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27, 28)
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
Remember, Jesus is addressing a lawyer who is trying to justify himself. He in a sense is saying that man is not justified by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.
Then a Samaritan-one rejected by the Jews-came along and helped the man on the side of the road. The Samaritan represents Christ.
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” (John 8:48, 49)
Jesus did not deny that he was a Samaritan, as he was from Nazareth, which is in Samaria. Because of the cultural and religious differences of the era, the Jews had no respect for Samaritans.
The Samaritan displayed the mind of Christ, showing mercy and compassion to the man on the side of the road. He begins his means of salvation by bandaging the man’s wounds. Allowing Jesus to bandage him says that the man is accepting his help, repenting of his sins, and letting Jesus forgive him of his sins.
The Samaritan then anoints him with oil and wine. The wine cleanses the wound. Spiritually, the wine is the atoning blood or the knowledge of sin that stings at first but washes away the sin and purifies the soul, allowing God’s Spirit to reside within us. The oil is soothing and brings comfort. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. Through his actions, the Good Samaritan saves the man from death.
The Samaritan then set the man on his own animal (a beast of burden) and brought him to an inn. This reflects Jesus bearing the burden of our sins. The inn represents the Church. It is here that the man will grow in Christ and become like him. To facilitate this, the Samaritan handed two denarii to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him.” The innkeeper represents the pastor of the church, while the two denarii represent an equal amount knowledge and understanding of the ways of God. The pastor is to instruct his congregation with knowledge and understanding of God’s ways.
The Lord spoke the following to Jeremiah about the importance of pastoral leadership:
And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)
After giving the two denarii to the innkeeper, the Samaritan said, “Whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” This speaks of the Lord’s second coming.
Jesus finishes the narration by saying that the neighbor to him who fell among the thieves is the one who showed mercy, and He commands us to go and do likewise. Being a goodie two-shoes will not save you. Loving your neighbor as yourself cannot be fulfilled by addressing situations with the law and the works of the law. Therefore, the lawyer could not achieve eternal life without faith in Jesus Christ. The spirits of compassion and mercy come from the heart, not from the law. This nature comes from salvation and obtaining the mind of Christ.
The way of peace is to walk back towards Jerusalem-the city of peace. The tree of life grows in Zion, the Garden of Eden. It is sad to see those who walk out of the inn and head back towards Jericho-towards destruction and certain death.
Note: This write-up comes from Chapter 6 of my latest book, Genesis 1 – The Design and Plan for the Kingdom of Heaven.