On one occasion an expert in the Law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law,” Jesus replied, “How do you read it?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind [Deut. 6:5] and love your neighbor as yourself [Lev 19:18].” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself and so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29).
In reply to this question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) the obvious point of which is that our neighbor is anyone in need of our assistance. We all learned this point of the story as children. But parables are heavenly stories put into an earthly context where every character is symbolic of someone or something else, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan is no exception. Therefore we should also expect to find a glimpse of Heaven contained therein. The word parable literally means “to place along side” so the obvious “earthly” story has to be accompanied by a hidden “heavenly” one. Put another way, if the obvious story is the children’s version then the hidden one is the adult version of the story. Let’s find it.
Who Are the Samaritans?
First, a little background. The Samaritans were the offspring of marriages between Jewish farmers the Assyrians left behind when they conquered the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC and the pagans they re-located there. Mixing up the conquered populations was standard procedure for the Assyrians because it reduced the threat of organized rebellion. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because of these mixed marriages and because they had incorporated pagan rituals into their worship of God (both were forbidden by Jewish law.) A generation or so before the time of Jesus, a son of the Jewish High Priest had run off and married the daughter of the King of Samaria, built a replica of the Temple on Mt. Gerizim and instituted a rival worship system which caused a huge scandal. In her encounter with Jesus (John 4:4-42) the Samaritan “woman at the well” makes reference to this (vs. 19).
The region called Samaria was named after the capital city of the former Northern Kingdom and is located in what’s known today as the West Bank. Because their laws prohibit marrying outside their own, the Samaritan population has dwindled to a point where only about 700 exist today. They’re not Palestinians, but they’re not regarded as Jews either and keep pretty much to themselves. Some have equated the Jews’ treatment of Samaritans during the time of Jesus with the southern whites’ treatment of blacks in the 19th century in the US, so to have a Samaritan as the hero of this story must have gotten the attention of the Lord’s audience right away. By the way, the ruins of the Samaritan Temple were discovered about 10 years ago and are being excavated for public display.
The old Jericho Road was a steep narrow passage along one wall of a deep canyon. In the 17 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho, it dropped 3200 vertical feet through a rough wilderness area fraught with danger from attacks by wild animals in the best of times. In the Lord’s day there was also the threat of being attacked by robbers lurking in the rocks. The Temple renovation was nearly complete and many workers had been laid off. Having lost their source of income, some turned to stealing to provide for their families. The people were all too familiar with reports of violence there, and had nicknamed this road Adumim, the Pass of Blood. The area where the canyon opens up at the bottom, near Jericho, is traditionally known as the valley of the Shadow of Death, from Psalm 23.
And Now, Back to Our Story
You know how the story goes. A man traveling along the old Jericho Road is beset by robbers who strip him of his clothes, beat him and leave him half dead. First a priest and then a Levite pass by, but simply cross to the other side and ignore him. Then a Samaritan comes along. He comes to where the man is, binds up his wounds applying oil and wine, and places him upon his own donkey. He takes the man to a nearby inn and cares for him. The next day he pays the man’s present and future bill asking the innkeeper to look after him and promising to pay any balance due when he returns. The two silver coins he gave the innkeeper would have paid a man’s hotel bill for up to 2 months in those days.
So, understanding that there’s supposed to be a glimpse of Heaven here and that everyone in the parable is symbolic of someone else let’s look for the hidden meaning.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.”(Luke 10:30)The man was an ordinary person who represents you and me on the road of life. Who is it that would attack us, strip us of our clothing and leave us for dead? We know that our spiritual covering is often referred to in terms of clothing. “All our righteous works are as filthy rags,” says Isaiah 64:6 whereas the Lord clothes us with “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10). So who would strip us of our covering of righteousness and leave us spiritually dead? Only Satan, the stealer of our soul.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32)The priest and the Levite represent organized religion that in and of itself is powerless to restore spiritual life and leaves us just as dead as when it found us. The Lord had Isaiah say,
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13)Jesus didn’t come to start another religion. He came so that God could be reconciled to His creation, to restore peace between the two. But sadly, in some parts of the Church, the rules of men still carry more weight than the Word of God.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33)And that leaves the Good Samaritan. Though despised and rejected by His countrymen, He comes to where we are after we’ve been attacked and beaten by our enemy, stripped of all our righteousness and left hopelessly dead in our sins, beyond the ability of all our religious works to restore us to God’s favor.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:34)He binds up our wounds (Isaiah 61:1), pours on oil and wine, and carries us to a place of spiritual comfort where He personally cares for us. Oil was used to aid in healing because of its soothing and relaxing properties. Applying it to the skin brings comfort. It represents the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. Wine was an antiseptic, a cleansing agent. It symbolizes His blood, shed for the remission of sin. At the moment of salvation we receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance and are washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb. He has taken up our infirmities and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) and will bring us to a place of comfort. In Matt. 11:28 He said, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:35)Before He left this earth He paid the debt of sin we owe to God (represented by the innkeeper), entrusting us to His care. Silver was the coin of redemption (Exod. 30:12-15) . Please notice that He also accepted responsibility for all of our future sins. We weren’t just redeemed up to the time we became believers, but for all of our lives. (Col. 2:13-14)
So the Good Samaritan could only be the Lord Jesus, our Savior and our Redeemer.
And what did the man do to deserve all of this? Nothing. He neither earned his rescue nor provided any contribution to his restoration. It was a gift, a manifestation of the grace in the Good Samaritan’s heart. And so it is with us.
For when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)And now you know the adult version.
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