The Good Samaritan Parable
After concluding the account of the seventy, Luke turns the page and focuses upon the reception of the word. First, he relates the story of the Good Samaritan in order to expose the wrong attitude that the Jews had toward them. The principle of being a good neighbor extends to the question of whether or not Samaritans (and others) were worthy of love and being given the gospel of the Kingdom. After this, Luke relates the story of Mary and Martha in order to comment on our priorities in hearing the word.
Perhaps also it is significant that nowhere in Jesus’ instructions to the seventy did He say that they were to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We know from Matt. 10:6 that this was part of Jesus’ earlier instructions to the twelve. But with the seventy, no such restrictions are given (Luke 10:2-16). Matthew’s gospel, written for a Jewish audience, shows that the Jews were given priority in preaching the gospel. Luke’s gospel, written to a broader audience, shows that the gospel was for all mankind. These accounts are not contradictory, but supplement each other, for even Luke himself recognized the divine priority in Acts 1:8.
The Lawyer’s Test
In Luke 10:25-28 we see a lawyer raising a question about how to “inherit eternal life.” This is followed by a secondary round defining neighbors that we are supposed to love. Here is where Jesus relates the parable of the Good Samaritan, followed by the moral at the end. First, however, the lawyer raises an important question:
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered and said, “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.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
This first scene is written in typical Hebrew Parallelism:
A1. Lawyer’s question (Luke 10:25)
B1. Jesus’ question (Luke 10:26)
B2. Lawyer’s answer (Luke 10:27)
A2. Jesus’ answer (Luke 10:28)
The Greek word for “lawyer” is nomikos, from nomos, “law.” A nomikos was one skilled in the law. This lawyer apparently had absorbed enough of Jesus’ teachings to know the importance of the two great commandments. Hence, he quotes directly from the law in Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18. His question, however, was not so much about how to live one’s life on a daily basis, but how to “inherit eternal life.” Eternal life, therefore, was the goal and the inheritance of this present life, provided a person lived it properly.
The phrase, “eternal life,” is zoen aioian, or “life in the age” that was to come. It was a reference to inheriting immortality in “The Age,” a common reference to the Sabbath Millennium that was believed to be the climax of Kingdom history. Hence, Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible renders it, “Teacher, what having done, life age-during shall I inherit?” Rotherham’s The Emphasized Bible renders it in a less stilted manner, “Teacher! By doing what shall I inherit life age-abiding?”
The way to inherit life in The Age is set forth in terms of the greatest commandments. Jesus did not attempt to engage the lawyer in a discussion of law and grace, nor does He even raise the issue of faith as such. For this reason, some have tried to limit Jesus’ response to “the age of law,” as if to concede that from Moses to Christ salvation came by law, but that after the cross, salvation was by faith alone.
This is a wrong way of viewing it, since it was an Old Testament prophet who said, “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). Likewise, Abraham walked by faith. Faith has always been the requirement, and no man has ever been able to achieve age-abiding life by his works. Yet theoretically, if a man could love God and his neighbor perfectly with all of his heart, then he could receive such an inheritance in The Age on account of his works.
Paul points out, however, that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), thereby disqualifying all men and requiring a new manner of salvation that is based on the works of Christ imputed to us by faith.
When Jesus said in Luke 10:28, “Do this, and you will live,” He gave the lawyer the lawful answer. If a person could really love God with all of his heart and his neighbor as himself, then indeed he could inherit eternal life. However, the more complete answer about faith was reserved for a later time.
Luke 10:29 says,
29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Since Luke had been Paul’s traveling companion for many years already, it is certain that Luke’s idea of justification matched Paul’s understanding. In fact, Luke probably was Paul’s scribe, not only putting his epistles to paper, but also checking his Greek grammar and helping Paul to express his Hebrew understanding into the Greek language. Hence, Luke well understood the principle of justification by faith. Yet he had to present the actual discussion between Jesus and the lawyer as it happened.
Later, in Luke 16:15, Luke gives us Jesus’ words about self-justification,
15 And He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
Here we see the importance of the heart and one’s relationship with God. Those Pharisees were more concerned about outward appearances of righteousness than with faith, although no doubt they objected to Jesus’ analysis.
Who is My Neighbor?
The lawyer wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer shows that they seem to have discussed more than what Luke records. Perhaps he tried to justify ill treatment of Samaritans—or any other man who did not “deserve” love. This was, after all, the common view of that time. Whatever the case, Jesus answered his question from the law itself.
It appears that the lawyer had focused upon Lev. 19:18, which says,
18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
Perhaps the lawyer argued that the law said that he was to love ONLY “the sons of your people.” All others were excluded. God did not require Jews to love foreigners. But Jesus’ answer brought in another law from a few verses later. Lev. 19:33, 34 says,
33 When a stranger [ger] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger [ger] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens [ger] in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.
Hence, the law commands Israel to love “your people” and also “the stranger [or alien] who resides with you.” The Israelites were to love the non-Israelite aliens among them, even as they had been non-Egyptian aliens for many years in Egypt. This appears to be the law on which the parable of the Good Samaritan is based. In fact, the command to love non-Israelite people as yourself is followed by the law of equal weights and measures (Lev. 19:35, 36) underpinning this spiritual principle.
The Good Samaritan parable also appears to answer the earlier question that was raised in Luke 9:52-56, when Jesus and His disciples were not given hospitality by a Samaritan village. The angry disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven upon them, but Jesus rebuked them. That lesson formed the backdrop for sending out the seventy, and afterward we are given the parable of the Good Samaritan to show that all men are our neighbors. The law demands that we treat all men with love by the law of equal weights and measures.
The Structure of the Parable
In response to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus did not answer directly but told a parable. It is written in Greek yet in the style of Hebrew parallelism.
A1. Self-justification (Luke 10:29)
B1. Lawyer’s question (Luke 10:29)
C1. Traveler left for dead (Luke 10:30)
D1. The priest’s actions (Luke 10:31)
D2. The Levite’s actions (Luke 10:32)
D3. The Samaritan’s actions (Luke 10:33, 34)
C2. The traveler left with restoration (Luke 10:35)
B2. Jesus’ question (Luke 10:36)
A2. Self-correction (Luke 10:37)
The central portion (D) is emphasized to compare and contrast the behavior of three men and to define the “neighbor” as God intended.
The Jericho Road
After setting up the problem in verse 29, Luke 10:30 says,
30 Jesus replied and said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead.
Jericho was the home of many priests and Levites. It was located on the plain near the Jordan River and was 800 feet below sea level. Jerusalem, on the other hand, was situated 2500 feet above sea level. Hence, the man in the parable was going “down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” The seventeen-mile stretch of road dropped 3300 feet down the base of the mountain where Jericho was situated. The Greek word for “priests” (??????) has numeric values of 330, which is a tenth of 3300.
The priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable were returning home from their work in the temple. They had performed their respective duties—so they thought—but had done so without fulfilling the intent of Leviticus 19:18, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Hebrew phrase in 2 Sam. 12:11 that is translated “to your companion” is l’ray-ah (?????) also has a numeric value of 330. The same word is translated “neighbor” in Lev. 19:18. Its root word, raw-aw, means “to tend,” that is, to take care of (a flock). In other words, it implies being neighborly. Luke had no knowledge of the 3300-foot change in elevation from Jerusalem to Jericho, so there was no way he could have related it to the numeric values of the priests and neighbors which form the key elements in the story. Yet God knew.
It is apparent that the robbers in Jesus’ parable were not being neighborly. In Mideast culture, robbers do not normally beat men unless they resist. Apparently, the man had tried to resist the robbers. The man that they robbed and beat was “a certain man,” but his nationality was not stated. Presumably, he was a Judean or Galilean, but his identity is left out of the story. Furthermore, since one’s clothing almost always served as a mark of identity, and he was stripped of it, we can say that he was stripped even of his identity.
The Priest and the Levite
Luke 10:31 continues,
31 And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Jesus’ audience would have understood that this was one of the priests living in Jericho and that he was returning home after ministering in the temple. Because the priests had become quite wealthy by that time, the people would have pictured a priest riding a horse or donkey, rather than walking.
He had been tending the flock of Judah and Benjamin by offering up sacrifices on their behalf. He did this out of duty, but when presented with an opportunity to be neighborly in real life, “he passed by on the other side.” The man’s identity was unknown, because he had been stripped of his clothing. And because he was unconscious, he could not be identified by language or by accent. Further, the priest did not want to defile himself by touching a possible foreigner—and possibly a dead one at that—for then he would have to return to Jerusalem a week later to undergo purification rites.
Luke 10:32 continues,
32 And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
The Levites were the civil magistrates and keepers of the public records in the local communities. They also assisted the priests in the outer court of the temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps Jesus intended his readers to understand that this Levite was the assistant of the priest who was walking ahead of him. Perhaps the Levite saw the priest walk by on the other side and followed his example.
Since both the priest and the Levite lived in the same town, he might have to face the priest later. After the priest passed the Samaritan, it would not look good for a mere Levite to upstage the priest by helping the wounded man. That would be taken as a personal insult.
Luke 10:33, 34 continues,
33 But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
This part of the story was the surprise. The natural order of a story such as this would be to feature a priest, then a Levite, and finally a “good Jew,” with whom His audience could identify. Instead, Jesus sets forth a hated and despised Samaritan as the hero of the story. The Samaritan uses his resources to cleanse the wound with oil, to disinfect it with wine (alcohol), and then brought him to a Jericho inn.
Since the story was set in Judean territory, it is clear that the inn was in a Jewish town. For a Samaritan to find lodging there was as unusual (and even dangerous) as it was for a Jew to find hospitality in a Samaritan town. Jesus’ audience would have expected the Samaritan to unload the wounded man at the edge of town, and to disappear, and to let others take responsibility for the man.
But instead, the Samaritan takes him to the inn and takes care of him that night, paying for his room and any other expenses incurred. Luke 10:35 continues,
35 And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.”
The Samaritan stayed the night at the inn in Jericho, exposing him to possible danger the next morning from a hostile Jewish crowd. He gave the innkeeper two denarii, equal to a half shekel of silver.
Two denarii (half shekel) was the equivalent of redemption money in Exodus 30:12-15,
12 When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord…. 13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: a half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary…. 15 … to make atonement (l’kaphar, ????) for yourselves.
The phrase “to make atonement,” as used in this verse, has a numeric value of 330, which, again, is a tenth of the elevation between Jericho and Jerusalem. The half shekel given in a census denotes Israelite citizenship as much as it provides for his atonement. It is paid by the Samaritan to heal the man stripped of his identity.
Adam, He Who Bleeds
The underlying implication of the half-shekel payment is that the man half dead is Adam, representing all of humanity, not just Jews or even Israelites. By the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself, all are brought into citizenship by the half-shekel that represents atonement and healing through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Adam’s name is like so many other names in that it describes his dominant characteristic or calling. The main portion of his name is from dam, “blood.” His name means “to show blood.” When blood is revealed, it means that a man is bleeding. Hence, his name means “he who bleeds.” Ector Ward tells us,
In Hebrew, things which are referred to as red are compared with the color of blood, as if blood is the original red. Some words derived from the root verb adam are adamah (the red earth), admoniy (red hair or a reddish complexion), adom (rosy or red), edom (red), and odem (redness, a ruby or garnet). Notice dam, the Hebrew noun for blood, is incorporated in each example.
We can compare with similar words. The name Laban comes from the verb that means to be white or to make white, to whiten. Some nouns derived from the same root verb are moon, a whitish shrub, Lebanon (the white mountain), and bricks made from white clay. I have found that in an Arabic/American cookbook yogurt is called laban. So, we see that things that are white are named from the root word laban meaning to be white.
In Hebrew, each noun is formed out of a root verb. For example, the name Caleb means a dog, but the root of caleb is the verb to attack. So when Adam named the animals, he named each after its main characteristic, i.e., what it does. The dog attacks, therefore he is called He Who attacks, or simply The Attacker. Another example is the serpent who is Nachash, The Whisperer, after the root verb to hiss or to whisper.
The name Adam is the noun form of the primitive Hebrew root verb adam which means to show blood. In order to give a name to the substance of blood, something or someone must first have had to bleed. Therefore, in the same way as the dog was named Caleb, He Who Attacks, so the man was named Adam, He Who Bleeds.
(Ector Ward, He Who Bleeds, The Dawning of the Day of Atonement, pp. 51, 52. See: http://ectorward.wordpress.com/)
The victim in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan was wounded, bleeding, and left for dead. This identifies him with Adam in the broad prophetic picture. The awdawm (or “man”) mentioned in Gen. 1:27 is essentially anyone who bleeds, and it is a non-racial term. It also refers to man’s calling. Not only does it foreshadow death by bleeding, but also implies atonement by the covering of blood.
Ector Ward explains this, saying, “We, as sons of Adam, are called to lay down our lives for one another.” Again, she says, “Every Adam is called to die, that is, to lay down his life. The cross is the entrance to resurrection.” Therefore, the fact that we are called awdawm shows not only that we may bleed to death, but also that through the bleeding of the last Adam on the cross, we may inherit life.
In God’s Likeness
When Jesus finished His parable, he asked in Luke 10:36,
36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?
Hence, the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” is understood by the deeper question, “To whom must I become a neighbor?” Is it pleasing to God to limit one’s neighborly actions to those of one’s own ethnicity or to the “chosen” ones? No, the parable makes it clear that Lev. 19:34 must be included in the law of love, where we are to love the alien as ourselves. Luke 10:37 concludes,
37 And he said, “the one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
The Hebrew word dam, which forms the main part of the name Adam, also has another meaning. It is seen in its root word damah, which means “to compare, resemble, or liken.” This meaning is conveyed in Gen. 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness.” The Hebrew word for “likeness” is demuwth, whose root is damah.
Alan Newton says that this phrase literally means “let us make man imaging us.” It is an activity—a spiritual activity expressed physically in a body. When we relate this to the man on the Jericho road, who represents Adam, we can see that the great lesson in Jesus’ parable is that we ought to love all who bear this likeness of the Creator.
The priest and the Levite ignored the unconscious man because they did not recognize the likeness of the Creator that was in him. Because he had been stripped of his identifiable clothing, they were unsure of his genealogy and religion. Their religious orientation was to see that likeness only in their fellow Jews. All others were deemed as mere cattle, and they could not be sure of this man’s identity.
Hence, Adam was not only the one who was bleeding on the Jericho road, but he was also created in the likeness of God. With his identity left unknown, we are left with the fact that the Good Samaritan had the eyes to see the likeness of the Creator in the wounded man. The priest and the Levite were blind in this way, and their blindness caused them to act in a way that did not reflect the likeness of their Creator.
God is merciful, and when we show mercy, we reflect the likeness of the Creator Himself.
The lesson was not lost on the lawyer. Let us hope it is not lost on us as well.