He saved my life and I don't even know his name

Anyone else sick of the whole ‘Christ in the OT’ debate?  Man… some people just go on and on.

I’m announcing a new hobby horse – Christ in the NT.  In fact I think this is where you really see a preacher’s Christ-centredness.  We’ve had the rule drummed into us by now – Thou shalt ‘bridge to Christ’ at the end of an Old Testament sermon.  But does this ‘bridge’ come from convictions regarding Jesus the Word or is it simply a preaching convention that we slavishly follow? 

Well you can probably guess at the answer by listening to a preacher’s New Testament sermons.  Now I fail at this all the time but I think the challenge for all of us is this: Is Jesus the Hero of the sermon on the mount or Mark 13 or the gifts passages or James?  And the issue for this mini-series – what about the parables? 

Last time I looked at Matthew 13:44-46.  Who the man?  Jesus the Man.  He seeks and finds us and in His joy He purchases us.  All praise to Him.  As Piper likes to say ‘the Giver gets the glory’ and in this parable (contra Piper’s own interpretation of it) Jesus’ glory is on show as He gives up all for His treasured possession – the church.

In this post we’ll look briefly at the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37 

First notice this: the teacher of the law asks ‘Who is my neighbour?’  This prompts the story.  At the end of the story Jesus asks Who was neighbour to the guy left for dead? (v36).  So now, think about this:  With whom is Jesus asking us to identify?  The priest? Levite? Samaritan?  No.  Not first of all.  First of all we are asked to see ourselves as the man left for dead.  And from his perspective we are to assess who is a good neighbour.  Here’s the first clue – we’re meant to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man.

Why do I say ‘fallen’?  Well the man’s fallenness is triply-underlined in v30.  He “goes down from Jerusalem (this earthly counterpart of the heavenly Zion).  He’s heading towards the outskirts of the land (Jericho) which is due east of this mountain sanctuary (echoes of Eden).  This would involve a physical descent of about a thousand metres in the space of just 23 miles.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the man “falls” among robbers.  He’s stripped, plagued (literally that’s the greek word), abandoned and half-dead.  That’s the man’s precidament and Jesus wants us to see it as our predicament.  So what hope do we have?

The priest?  Nope.  The Levite?  No chance.  What about a ‘certain Samaritan’ (mirroring the ‘certain man’ of v30)?  He’s not at all like the religious.  In fact the one who ‘comes to where the man is’ happens to be someone who’d equally have been shunned by the priest and Levite! 

Yet this Samaritan ‘had compassion’ (v33).  In the New Testament this verb, which could be translated ‘he was moved in his bowels with pity’, is used only of Jesus. (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Lk. 7:13; 10:33; 15:20) In every narrative passage Jesus is the subject of the verb and the three parables in which it’s used are the merciful King of Matthew 18 (v27), here and the father in the Two Sons (Lk 15:20).  More about that in the next post.

Well this Good Samaritan comes across the man left for dead and for emphasis we are twice told about him ‘coming’ to the man (v33 and 34).  The Outsider identifies with the spurned and wretched.

Now remember whose shoes we are in as Jesus tells this story.  We are meant to imagine ourselves as this brutalized man.  Now read v34:

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 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.’

Now I don’t have to tell you what these things mean.  You’ve got blueletterbible – you can do your own biblical theology of oil, wine, etc.  But remember you’re meant to be putting yourself in the position of this fallen man, left for dead, unaided by religion, healed by an extraordinary stranger and awaiting his return.  Are you there?  Have you felt those depths and appreciated those heights?  Well then, now:

You go and do likewise. (v37)

Don’t first conjure up the character of the good samaritan.  First be the fallen man.  First experience the healing of this Beautiful Stranger.  Then go and do likewise.

Or… leave Jesus out of it.  Spin it as a morality tale and end with “Who was that masked man? No matter – just go and do likewise.”  

See how important ‘Jesus in the NT’ is?

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Posted on by Glen in ethics, gospel, hermeneutics, parables

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

27 Responses to He saved my life and I don't even know his name

  1. Missy

    After continually being taught that even “a nasty Samaritan” is one’s neighbor, I’ve asked the question many times, if anyone notices that Jesus asks which of the passersby is a neighbor to the Samaritan. Of course, then I’ve asked, so do we only consider those neighbors who show us mercy?

    I think one of my commentors tried to explain it like this, but I didn’t get it.

    “First of all we are asked to see ourselves as the man left for dead. And from his perspective we are to assess who is a good neighbour. Here’s the first clue – we’re meant to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man.”

    Now I think I’ve got it! I love a change in perspective. And, yes, I see how important Jesus in the NT is. :)

  2. Dev

    wow great stuff glen
    do all the parables =)

  3. timothycairns

    I think to understand this parable we need to see Luke’s frame. He introduces us to a question “what must I do to inherit eternal life”

    The final words of Jesus are go and do likewise – Jesus answers the question – to inherit eternal life we must do the likewise of this parable. So we need to start to see who is our God and who is our neighbour and act toward our neighbour in the way our God did – thats the likewise

  4. glenscriv

    Tim, I could go along with that I think. But a question: How does Jesus fit in for you?

  5. timothycairns

    Jesus made it possible for us to act in the way described in the parable – who is the one who offered mercy (despite the fact we deserved judgement) well that was the Triune God. Who is our neighbour is a redundant question without out acknowledgeing who our God is – the one who showed mercy and attoned for our sin.

    That is why I think Jesus is answering the eternal life question – We would be left broken on the road unless God stooped down and redeemed us.

    So the likewise is that Jesus is God and if we are to have devotion to him and to love him then we need to do what he did – thats have an expansive view of neighbour – this parable is really an exemplar of Matthew 25.

    So we cant be the Samaritan apart from God – that is why we cannot see the neighbour question apart from the frame – the frame being the first question on eternal life – without Jesus, without God the neighbour question is meaningless.

    So how does Jesus fit in? – Luke is telling us – he is God – this is further proof that Jesus is son of the Adam, son of God in Chapter 3. Its him who succeds were we fall down and fail , he succeeds in a way we would not expect – God crucified so take up your cross and follow him – this parable tells us how.

  6. Tom Lake

    Glen, my first venture into blog comment leaving! I dig your interpretation. But now you’ve opened the can you have to tell me what the two coins represent. Also who is the innkeeper? Is he the Holy Spirit? The last time we chatted about this, I said the coins might be baptism and the Lord’s Supper which I think I remember you didn’t like? What do you think now?

  7. glenscriv

    Tim,
    Yes and so the astonishing fact is that God has become our neighbour. Jesus told us that the greatest command is both a unity (*the* greatest) and two-fold (love God and love neighbour). In Jesus they are one. He is God and neighbour. And He Himself loves God and neighbour in the very same way – the same act even (the cross).

    So then God has become our neighbour and (in true Lukan style) He’s become the Downtrodden for the downtrodden. And the order is all important: He is the fulfilment of the law first. We are the recipient of His neighbour love. *Then* we are called to do likewise. Having been claimed by *His* neighbour love, now we find ourselves captive to that same life.

    So yes – the frame about eternal life is very important. But that question is answered in Jesus, the fulfilment of the law, who *first* loved us in this way. *Then* we go and do likewise as the recipients of that love. Those are the ones who inherit eternal life.

    That’s the reason I think it’s important to be clear on who the certain man is, whose position we are first asked to imagine ourselves in and who the Samaritan is.

  8. glenscriv

    Tom! Welcome to the comments. Be warned though – this thing can take over your life. Are you prepared for just how deep this rabbit hole goes?

    My gut reaction, which I haven’t yet recanted of, is that the deposit is the Spirit in His sustaining and preserving work, and the inn-keeper is the church. This has the disadvantage of:

    a) not explaining the *two* coins
    b) having the Spirit represented twice – (once as oil in His healing/saving work)

    But on the other hand – Spirit as deposit is pretty well attested in Scripture.

    Go on, convince me of the sacraments interpretation.

    PS – are you going to graduation in a couple of weeks? I am.

  9. timothycairns

    Glen – you have a very Augustinian view of parabolic interpretation. How about the coins just being coins and the inn just being an inn!

  10. glenscriv

    Oh Tim – you’re no fun at all. Emma agrees!

  11. timothycairns

    Its fatherhood Glen – saps all that fun out of ya!

  12. Pete Myers

    Quote – “in this post he’s absolutely right to identify that our preaching should be soaked in Christ”

    – hope that’s encouraging to hear me say.

    Pete

  13. glenscriv

    “soaked in Christ” – I like it!
    Very encouraging, thanks Pete

  14. pletAltew

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  15. Hiram

    Amen! I’ve always understood the parable in this way. I mean, is there really any other way to read it?

  16. Glen

    You’re a better interpreter than me Hiram – I had to come around to this one. But now that I see it, I’m with you – how could you read it otherwise?

  17. Hiram

    haha

    Well, I was definitely in the minority. I had people warning me that I was “reading into the text” or “complicating” an otherwise simple moralistic parable.

    But, I just stuck to this Biblical truth:

    The entire Word of God is about the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Everything else usually falls in line after accepting this as my foundational hermenutical principle.

    :)

  18. Josh

    Sorry for posting on an old thread – but I’ve just returned to this parable (teaching it tomorrow) and excited by some thoughts:

    Firstly as a literary piece, Jesus is the master story teller, teacher and pastor. A proud man comes to the story, imagines he’s the hero – i.e. the good Samaritan, and leaves humbled that he can’t reach such love. Such a person is like the lawyer who rejects (Luke 10:16) Jesus, or the wise who have the kingdom hidden from them (10:21).

    But a humble man who loves Jesus will see Jesus as the hero, and be bathed in pure gospel glory: little children will be given understanding, for that is the father’s gracious will.

    As for the two denarii, this represents two days wages for the innkeeper. It would appear that the Samaritan is the sort of person who goes off for journeys that take him a couple full days, but which will allow him to return on the third day. Not sure what that’s all about… ;)

  19. Glen

    Ah very good Josh! And Hosea 6 is very apt:

    1 “Come, let us return to the LORD.
    He has torn us to pieces
    but he will heal us;
    he has injured us
    but he will bind up our wounds.

    2 After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.

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  21. fws

    not sure here actually.

    the context is the young lawyer seeking to justify himself asking who is his neighbor.

    so we should read the text through the eyes of this young man and be thinking “who is my neighbor”? but even more importantly, we should see that we are not justified in the way the young lawyer felt that he was by the law after reading this story. So where would that leave us? I am really not sure.

  22. Glen

    Hi fws – welcome to the blog. Jesus tells us explicitly whose eyes to view the story through in v36: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

    “Who is *my* neighbour?” asks the lawyer. Jesus responds: “Who is the neighbour to the helpless man?” Do you see what Jesus has done?

    It would be so natural for the self-justifying lawyer to think of himself as one of the healthy and upright. But Jesus distinctly asks him to put himself in the shoes of the fallen man.

    From all this we see that we are not saved by the law. But that we are saved by the Beautiful Stranger. Once we get *that* we can ‘go and do likewise’ v37

  23. fws

    glen:

    Fraternal greetings in our lord Jesus to you as well. My own nascent blog is http://www.thirduse.com.

    cool. I missed the point you make now completely! the man is looking to do something to be justified. jesus even turns this on its head.

    He has the lawyer be the one who is being neighbored and who is helpless to do anything to keep the second table of the law.

    wow.

    The truth is: our Old Adam is very religious. Religion demands sacrifice. We imagine that to be right with God we must sacrifice and he will be our judge.

    Our Old Adam hates the idea that God tells us that the judge of our love will be our neighbor. Our Old Adams ego feels diminished by this and killed. Mortification. We hate that. Old Adam wants to find life in being good and not death. His own ego centric life that is justified by sacrifice and not the life of others.

    We want those abstract rules and principles that are about vertical sacrifice and not horizontal mercy.

  24. Michael

    Interesting post!
    I was convinced but not sure if you know Krish Kandiah? He’s with Evangelical Alliance, but anyway on his blog he wrote this about Jesus being the Good Samaritan which I thought was worth a read!
    Would appreciate it if you told me what you thought about it, as I’m currently trying to think this issue through.
    http://krishk.com/2009/04/is-jesus-the-good-samaritan/

  25. Glen

    Hey Michael,

    The Good Samaritan is definitely Jesus. For all the reasons I put in the post. I’ve never met Krish but I like what I’ve read from him. That said, it’s not a great reason to resist the Christ-interpretation by saying “I fear allegorizing”!

  26. Ben Walker

    Hey Glen – thanks for this – about to send you an e-mail which will explain who I am (on another score…), but while hunting round on your site found this and rejoiced. Never been satisfied with explanations of the Good Samaritan, largely for the same reason as you – Jesus final question doesn’t make sense unless the hearer understands *neighbour* as being the one who shows mercy over and above the one to whom mercy is shown. I tried to preach on this ages ago on the notion that the heart of the parable is about “not doing, but being done for” – in that the man on the road is “done for” by the robbers and can do nothing for himself and needs to be “done for” by the Good samaritan (Jesus).

    I’m struck in context about how the sending out of the seventy two previously in the chapter carries this notion (Lk 10:20 – rejoicing as disciples not in what they are doing and can do, but in what has been done for them) and also inherent in the story of Martha and Mary that follows.

    I’m also taken by the fact that the question which frames the whole conversation in v25 is a very important one, but a very odd one. For what does anyone *do* to inherit anything? Inheritance is surely through birth, through gift rather than through active achievement. The question carries self-justifying overtones and I think Jesus’ drive in answering it (quite possibly with ironic use of the word *do* at times (?) is “not doing, but being done for” – recognising we are “done for” and need to be “done for”. Of course – when that message of amazing grace and mercy captivates us, it shapes us to be merciful to others – to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us. There is clearly an ethical demand here for the Christian, but one which only follows a spiritual encounter and transformation.

    That’s way more than I intended to comment here – but have realy enjoyed and benefitted from the things I’ve read around this site.

    Cheers
    Ben

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