This article is based on Todd Wagner’s message on the good Samaritan in the sermon series “Retold: History Everybody Should Know.”
Chances are you’ve heard the story of the good Samaritan. It is one of the most famous parables in the Bible. However, while incredibly famous, it is also often misunderstood. If when you read The Good Samaritan, you think that it teaches you to simply do good works, then you are actually missing the point! The parable of the good Samaritan is ultimately about Jesus. And, when we make famous Bible stories like this out to be about us, we are losing what makes them so great.
So, if that’s the case, what does this parable tell us?
8 Things You Might Not Know about the Good Samaritan
- The Good Samaritan is an answer to a question. First, we need to remember that Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan in response to a lawyer asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” This lawyer already knew he was supposed to love God and love his neighbor but felt the need to test Jesus and justify himself. This story is going to answer this lawyer’s question, but it will also reveal something about our hearts.
- We’re not the good Samaritan. The point of this story is not that we are the merciful one doing good works. In reality, we are sick from sin and need healing from the Divine Physician. We are the man left beaten the side of the road. We need someone to heal us from being left for dead. The good Samaritan shows us there is no way for us to recover on our own. We need Jesus to pick us up, pay our debt, and carry us home.
- Being good is never good enough. The Good Samaritan reminds us there is no sliding into the kingdom of heaven by being good enough. The point of this story is not that good people, priests, Levites, or Samaritans go to heaven. The point is that only Jesus was good enough to go to heaven. It is his mercy that we need. He is the only way to Salvation.
- The Good Samaritan shows us God’s righteous standard. We don’t teach this story to just make sure our kids are nice to their friends. The story of the good Samaritan is Jesus calling us to be neighbors to our enemies. This reminds us we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This is what Jesus’s love is like.
- We are blessed to be a blessing to others. Not the other way around. We do not earn God’s blessing by being a blessing to others. When we extend mercy, it is only out of a response to God’s mercy. Don’t make the mistake of acting like the good Samaritan in an attempt to earn God’s blessing. You already have it in Jesus.
- We are to be poor in spirit. True children of the kingdom are those who are poor in spirit and realize they do not and cannot meet the standard of the law. They cry for mercy and because they have received mercy, they are merciful to others. When we read The Good Samaritan, we should empathize with the man beaten and thrown to the side of the road.
- Do for one what you wish you could do for all. When you are looking to be a good neighbor, resist the urge to fight every single battle and instead fight the ones right around you. Just because you can’t do everything for everyone it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything for anyone.
- Start with what only you can do. This starts with confessing your sin and your need for a holy God. Once you are right with the Lord, then you can stop justifying yourself, and focus on helping others in need.
Are you interested in learning more about the parable of the good Samaritan and Jesus’s teaching? Spend some time reading the following passages of Scripture: Matthew 13:10-17; Luke 10:21-37; Matthew 22:34-40; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43-44; Matthew 5:6-9; John 13:31-38; John 1:12-13. After doing that, here are two other messages you are sure to enjoy: The Good Infection: Christianity and Sermon on the Mount.