Church of the Good Shepherd

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Princeton Study – Seminary Students Stepping Over Distressed

Darley and Batson gathered a sample of 40 students from the Princeton Theological Seminary. In individual sessions, half the students were given a copy of the parable of the Good Samaritan and told they would be required to deliver a sermon on the subject in a few minutes. The other half were told they would be talking extemporaneously about employment prospects for seminary students. All subjects were told to report to an office in another building to deliver their talks; some were told that they should hurry because people were waiting for them, while others were led to believe that they had slightly more time to report to the test site.

On the way to the test site, each student passed a poorly dressed figure slumped in a doorway, head down, eyes closed, not moving, a man described by the two psychologists as an ambiguous figure, possibly in need of help, possibly drunk, possibly dangerous--a situation not unlike the one that occurred on the road to Jericho, except that in this case the ambiguous figure was clothed. As the subject passed, the man coughed twice and groaned.

Sixty percent of the seminarians walked on without offering help. A seminarian thinking about the parable was no more likely to stop than one given a less lofty topic, and on several occasions a seminarian going to talk on the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the man. Only 10 percent of those who were told to rush to the test site offered help, while 63 percent of those who thought they had a few minutes to spare offered aid. In examining psychological tests given to their subjects, Darley and Batson found no personality characteristics that predicted helping behavior; the only factor that seemed to predict helping behavior was degree of hurry.

The psychologists were drawn to conclude that as the speed of daily life increases, ethics becomes a luxury.

  • This story is not just about helping someone who is poor … although that’s important!
  • The main question is … HOW DO YOU HELP SOMEONE?

-          Or, more pointedly…DOES RELIGION HELP US HELP OTHERS?

1.   Religious Professional Asks Jesus A Question

A.  He Just Saw the Return of 72

Healing of sick, demons cast out, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (10:9)

  • A movement is starting
  • This isn’t the first time

-          Many false Christs

  • Judah the Galilean  - stop paying taxes
  • Theudas – the Jordan River will part for us
  • Many others

B.  The Lawyer’s Job is to Defend & Interpret the Bible

 Godly Job, don’t assume bad intentions

Stakes are too high to deal casually with Jesus

-          No one wants to risk life, soul, and nation on a false hope

-          Therefore he does his job

-          And TESTS JESUS

  • Is this (are you) real?
  • Are you making the true-TRUTH famous?

He is not necessarily hostile

C.  Opening Question (v.26) “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

2.  Jesus’ Goal = Freedom & Life for This Man

A.  I have come …

-          To Seek and Save the Lost

-          That you may have life, abundantly

I’ve come to answer that question … not just for you, but for all of humanity

Jesus isn’t just poking the religious in the eye

-          He did that … to set them free

B.  Jesus Answers his Question with a Question

v.26 – “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”

  • in testing Jesus, the lawyer finds himself tested.

C.  The Man Gives a Pat / Standard Answer

v.27 – “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.”

-          OT Tradition to this answer

-          Dt 6:5

-          Lev 19:18

Jesus gives this answer an “A+”

All this is standard stuff…right out of the lawyer’s playbook

Now Jesus offers a twist.

They are supposed to keep going back and forth with questions

-          Like a tennis match

-          The whole time talking hypothetically about God, love and neighbors

-          Without actually changing their minds or learning to love

-          This is standard stuff in religious debates

Instead of bouncing another question over the net

Jesus gives a command


D.  Application

Jesus is in effect saying, “I don’t want to have a religious debate.  I want you to live!”

Remember the initial question of the Lawyer, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Do you think that Jesus really wanted this for the lawyer?

Do you believe that Jesus really wants this for you?

-          We have our questions

-          We have our own ways of testing God

-          If you really loved me, I’d be married

-          If you really loved me, I’d have a better job

-          If you really loved me, I’d feel more happy

-          Why did you let her die?

-          Why did you let him hurt me?

-          What do you want from me God?

-          What do I have to do to find life … eternally … but here too?

-          Do you believe that Jesus is here to find you and give you life?

-          Or is He just playing a religious game … or maybe it’s us that’s playing?

3.  Religious Game (v.29) - “Who Is My Neighbor?”

A.  The Lawyer Started by Asking For Life… Now He’s Defending His Religion

Finding Life and Practicing Religion Aren’t Necessarily the Same

v.25 – How DO I find Life?

v.29 – Desiring to Justify Himself

Define “JUSTIFY”

Can’t have both

“Self Justification is a verbal device for restoring the appearance of righteousness without doing anything of substance.”

– Eugene Peterson 

B.  It Is A Religious Game To Narrowly Define “Neighbor”

-          This is a brilliant Move, as lawyer tricks go

-          The lawyer is trying to regain control of the conversation

-          This question is intentionally vague

  • No proof texts
  • Lots of debate about how to define “neighbor”

C.  Jesus Is Here To Stop Playing Religious Games And To Help People Find Life and Love

Jesus knows this lawyer .. and loves him. 

Loves him enough to push him out of this religious debate and into real life.

“The Bible Scholar is a veteran in the religious business.  He knows that a person can hide undetected for a long time, maybe even for a life time, behind religious questions.  Has he been doing this all his life – leading Bible studies, asking probing questions, upholding the truth of Scripture, fulfilling religious functions – and never been found out?” – Eugene Peterson

This is where the story comes in

  • A story about religious people, told to a religious professional, to prove that religion doesn’t work.
  • Jerusalem is 2000 feet above sea level
  • Jordan Valley Rift is the lowest spot on earth
  • Road descends 3,300 feet over 17 miles
  • “The Tree on the road”
  • Bad Lands / Ripe for Robbery
  • All identifying marks are taken away
    • Jewish Clothes
  • No ID
  • No language or accent
  • No racial identifiers
  • Just a random “Man”
    • No way to tell whether or not he is “Neighbor”

4.  STORY of the Good Samaritan

A. v.30   “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…”

B. v.30b “…and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.”

C.  v.31 the Priest

“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31, ESV)

-          We like to beat up on the priest, but don’t be too harsh on him

-          He’s not cold hearted … he’s stuck

Religious System of the Day

-          Priests are not allowed to touch a dead body

-          This morning’s ESV READING PLAN in Leviticus 21

And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people, except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean) ” (Leviticus 21:1–3)

-          Expensive, Time Consuming Process to be Clean

-          7 Days Unclean

-          Outside the camp, with the “other sinners”

-          Burn a red heifer to ash

  • Craigslist, 3 year old heifer = $1,300

PLUS – Not sure if he owes this man anything or not

Not sure he is “Neighbor”

Ben Sirach Ecclesiasticus Chapter 12

12:1. If thou do good, know to whom thou dost it, and there shall be much thanks for thy good deeds.

12:2. Do good to the just, and thou shalt find great recompense: and if not of him, assuredly of the Lord.

12:3. For there is no good for him that is always occupied in evil, and that giveth no alms: for the Highest hateth sinners, and hath mercy on the penitent.

12:4. Give to the merciful and uphold not the sinner: God will repay vengeance to the ungodly and to sinners, and keep them against the day of vengeance.

12:5. Give to the good, and receive not a sinner.

12:6. Do good to the humble, and give not to the ungodly: hold back thy bread, and give it not to him, lest thereby he overmaster thee.

12:7. For thou shalt receive twice as much evil for all the good thou shalt have done to him: for the Highest also hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance to the ungodly.

DEBATE – If a Gentile falls out of a boat into a lake or river and is drowning, do you have to help him?

Answer – You may, but it is not required.  You don’t own him anything.

The Priest isn’t Cold … He’s Predictable

A puppet to religious strings / Playing Religious Games

The Original Question – What Shall I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

The Priest didn’t have live or love because of religious games.

D. The Levite (v.32)

“So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

Doesn’t have the same laws as a priest

But the like to live up to the same standards that the priests lived by.

-          More religious games

-          More people trying to juggle the rules and justify themselves

Jesus doesn’t play religious games…He actually wants us to find life.

E.  The Samaritan (v.33-35)

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ ” (Luke 10:33–35, ESV)

This Man Showed Compassion

It’s hard to re-play the shock value of this part of the story.

-          Most of us grew up hearing this and seeing it retold in a million ways

-          There is a happy ending every time

-          Every Samaritan is a “good” one

-          Stuck on the Road from Bagdad to Tehran and Al Qaida shows up

-          Vision a Friend in prison / riot / tatted up, death-row inmate pulls you into a shower stall

People Over-Spiritualize This

Inn = The Church

2 Coins = The Law & the Gospel

Oil & Wine = The Holy Spirit

Not the point.

-          If this was a movie, they wouldn’t cut away from Jesus and the Lawyer and re-enact this story.

-          The whole time you’d just see the lawyers eyes

  • The focus is still on this very religious man who says he wants life
  • Jesus wants to give this lawyer (and you by proxy) LIFE by showing that religious games don’t work
    • Jesus knew what the man thought of Samaritans
    • Years of war and bad-feelings
    • Samaritans worshipped idols
    • Samaritans didn’t tithe
      • Therefore don’t accept help from them
      • Right answer, “Be-gone Cathean, Samaritan, I will have none of your oil or wine.”
      • To accept oil or wine from a Samaritan was a sign that you had no self-control.

-          Jesus is intentionally breaking tradition and stereotypes to help us see the point.

F.  Which … Proved to be a Neighbor?

v. 36 “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

NOT – Who played by the rules?

BUT – Who Proved to Be A Neighbor?

-          Who actually loved?

-          Who showed compassion?

-          Who did the heart of the gospel?

NOTICE – God’s Word was not broken

-          Jesus isn’t telling us to break God’s law so that we can just love.

  • That’s dangerous thinking

-          Not a jot or tittle will be taken away

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ” (Matthew 5:18, ESV)

-          But dozens of “religious rules” were broken.

Jesus was no stranger to this.

Woman at the Well.

Sinner, irreligious

Yet also wanted to play religious games & debate “worship”

Jesus is doing to this lawyer what he did for the woman at the well.

She ended up worshipping Jesus

Not sure how the lawyer ends up.

His answer v.37  … “He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Can’t even say “Samaritan”

But we don’t know … did he say this cold hearted or with tears?

“The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay.”

And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ” (Luke 10:37, ESV)

4.  Learning to Love Today

 Jesus says to us, “Go, and do likewise.”

It’s really easy to make fun of religious folk 2,000 years ago

What religious games get in the way of loving God and loving neighbor today?

Jesus Is Here To Give Life

Not just an interesting story

Not just fun to see him win a debate and poke fun at a few whitewashed tombs


-          First time in church

-          Professionally Religious

Traditions About Who We Include

-          60’s – Jesus Movement

-          80’s – Music

-          Today – Tattoos

Traditions About How We Love God

Sit in straight rows

Music Styles

                Genevan Jiggs to Righteous Rap

Traditions About How We Justify Ourselves

  • Jesus showed that religion doesn’t work
  • But the TRUTH sets us free
  • His life message was love for God & love for neighbor … and religious people hated him because he was taking away the system that they were using to feel good about themselves.
    • He bore the full weight of the law, full scorn of religion
    • Not so that we could conform to a new set of traditions
    • But so that we could be free

Robert Murray M’Cheyne "I fear there are some [professing] Christians among you to whom Christ will not say "Come Thou Blessed…inherit the kingdom". Your haughty dwelling rises in the midst of thousands who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at, and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost; and yet you never darkened their door. You leave a sight, perhaps at a distance, but you do not visit them. Ah! Dear friend! I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day…I fear there are many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends! Enjoy your money, make the most of it; give none away, enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity."


Charles Spurgeon:  “These places of worship are not built that you may sit here comfortably, and hear something that shall make you pass away your Sundays with pleasure.  A church in London which does not exist to do good in the slums, and dens, and kennels of the city, is a church that has no reason to justify its existing any longer.  A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight with evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness, is a church that has not the right to be.  Not for thyself, O church, dost thou exist, any more than Christ existed for himself.  His glory was that he laid aside His glory…To rescue souls from hell and lead to God, to hope, to heaven, this is the church’s heavenly occupation.  O that the church would always feel this.”

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