In light of all that is taking place in our nation and across the world, the Parable of the Good Samaritan holds a timely message. This parable is so well-known, hospitals have been named after the person in this story, and “Good Samaritan” laws have been passed to encourage a passerby to help those in need.
As we read through the account in Luke 10:25-37, we quickly realize that the Samaritan is a different kind of person than the Priest and Levite. The Samaritan had eyes to see the one in need and responded to alleviate his distress. His life challenges the hard areas of our hearts. This simple story invites us to pray for the new “inside-out” covenant we have inherited to soften our hearts to the hurting around us.
The parable comes in response to a religious leader’s attempt to trap and embarrass Jesus. In his attempt to justify himself, the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus tells this Jewish expert in the religious law that a Jewish Priest and Levite deliberately relocated themselves when they saw a man who was stripped, beaten, and left for dead. “But a Samaritan, came to where he was, and when he SAW HIM, he had compassion” (Luke 10:33).
It is important to note that Samaritans were despised by the Jews. The Samaritan’s were the descendants of those imported at the time of the Assyrian captivity (2 Kin 17:24-41). They intermarried with pagan people, did not fear the Lord, and created their own mongrel religion. During the time of Ezra, Jews from the Southern Kingdom began to return from the Babylonian captivity. As they began to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered to help. The Jews refused their help. So, the Samaritans tried to sabotage the project and we see that Sanballet tried to halt the rebuilding of the wall in Nehemiah’s day a few years later.
Samaritans hated Jews. About 130 years before the time of Christ, John Hercanus, a Jewish king in the Maccabean dynasty, defeated the Samaritan nation. In Jesus’ time, animosity between Jews and Samaritans was especially fierce. Jewish people considered the Samaritans ethnically and religiously unclean. Samaritans likewise resented their Jewish cousins. Similar to the angel of the Lord in Joshua 5, Jesus stood in the middle of the racial hatred and oppression of His day declaring to be the answer to it all. “Are you for us, or for our adversaries? And the angel of the Lord said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15). Jesus alone carries the love, power, and perfection to melt the most broken hate-filled societies. One drop of His precious blood can bring it all to an end. The cross of Jesus has the final word!
The Samaritan who would have been despised by the Jews is the one that shows compassion. He bandages the wounds, applying oil and wine (first aid in those days). He puts the wounded man on his own animal and takes him to an inn. He gives the innkeeper two denarii (two days’ wages) to provide care. He tells the innkeeper to spend whatever it takes, and he will repay him when he comes again. In view of the context and the manner in which Jesus applied it, it is clear that Jesus teaches who our neighbors really are, and what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
What separates the Samaritan’s response from the other two is that he had eyes to see and a heart of compassion. The New Testament Word for compassion is splanchna which means bowels or intestines. Paul uses this word to not merely express natural emotion but as a very forceful term to signify an expression of a total personality at the deepest level. It speaks to a love or feeling which grips and moves the entire personality of an individual. According to this definition, it is not compassion unless there is the desire and effort put forth to alleviate the distress of another.
Six Thoughts on Compassion
- Compassion is the heart of God, and was a moving and driving force in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
-Matthew 9:35-38 (NASB)
“Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”
-Matthew 14:13-14 (NASB)
- True God-given compassion moves the entire person, not merely the mind or emotion. Compassion’s true definition ends in strategic action. It is an investing of one’s entire person. Compassion is love and mercy with feet and arms.
- Jesus’ earthly life and death was the ultimate expression of compassion. “God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16). It was more than God feeling sorry for the plight of sinful man, but it was taking action, being willing to pay the price and absorb the cost of sinful mankind’s plight to liberate mankind from their certain plight. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
- Giving out of convenience and comfort is still not compassion. God’s compassion in us connects people to the heart of God. Yet so many believers are indifferent and calloused. We are not moved by the brokenness and eternal destiny of so many in the world. Compassion is willing to cross social barriers and take risks. The Samaritan took a great risk by stopping to help. What if the robbers were still nearby? What if other thieves came by on this road known as “The Way Of Blood”?
- Compassion will set aside busy schedules. The Samaritan was on a journey, but took the time to stop and care for the man. Jesus taught us to take the time to show compassion even when forced (Matthew 5:41).
- Compassion is willing to make sacrifices. The Samaritan sacrificed more than just time and energy. He used some of his own provisions and even offered an open-ended agreement to provide for his help. Jesus taught His disciples to be willing to make sacrifices (Luke 6:29-30) and in so doing, we are truly followers of God walking in love (Ephesians 5:1-2).
The Lord is looking to release great measures of His power, authority, and anointing to His people of compassion. Sadhu Sundar Singh, a great Christian missionary to the people of Tibet, wrote:
“Once when traveling in Tibet, I was crossing a high mountain pass with my Tibetan guide. The weather had suddenly turned bitterly cold, and my companion and I feared that we might not make it to the next village — still several miles away — before succumbing to the frost.
“Suddenly, we stumbled upon a man who had slipped from the path and was lying in the snow. Looking more closely, I discovered that the man was still alive, though barely. ‘Come,’ I said to my companion, ‘help me try to bring this unfortunate man to safety.’ But my companion was upset and frightened for his life. He answered: ‘If we try to carry that man, none of us will ever reach the village. We will all freeze. Our only hope is to go on as quickly as possible, and that is what I intend to do. You will come with me if you value your life.’ Without another word and without looking back, he set off down the path.
“I could not bring myself to abandon the helpless traveler while life remained in him, so I lifted him on my back and threw my blanket around us both as best I could. Slowly and painstakingly, I picked my way along the steep, slippery path with my heavy load. Soon it began to snow, and I could make out the way forward only with great difficulty.
“How we made it, I do not know. But just as daylight was beginning to fade, the snow cleared and I could see houses a few hundred yards ahead. Near me, on the ground, I saw the frozen body of my guide. Nearly within shouting distance of the village, he had succumbed to the cold and died, while the unfortunate traveler and I made it to safety. The exertion of carrying him and the contact of our bodies had created enough heat to save us both. This is the way of service. For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:24).” Will we do the same?