Last night our small group from church was gathered in a member’s home. We were on our final session of the study, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything. We had watched a brief talk by Tim Keller and then were discussing some questions that accompanied the talk. The subject of the session was justice and the scripture it was based on was Luke 10:25-37, which is also known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
We were discussing the implications of this parable and the ways in which Jesus calls his disciples to live in the world, being guided by several questions from a discussion guide. They included, “On the basis of Jesus teaching, who is our neighbor?” “Shouldn’t we help members of our own family and of our own Christian community first?” and “How does Jesus illustrate what the true motive should be for showing mercy for our neighbor?”
As our group discussed the questions, sharing examples of times in which we both followed Jesus’ teaching and times in which we were not shining examples of his disciples, I kept reading the text, thinking that maybe there was more in it than usually meets the eye or ear. And then, in what I can only describe as the action of the Holy Spirit in giving me an insight that was new to me, I lingered on verses 33-35, which read:
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’”
In giving an example of unselfish love of neighbor for us to follow Jesus is also providing an allusion, albeit not quite a complete one but with enough of the central elements, that shows the love that he has already lavished on those whom he has redeemed and made his own.
Like the Samaritan, whose entire ethnic group was considered to be outcast in relation to Jewish society, Jesus was treated as an outcast by many in his day. Today, for many people in our society, and throughout the world, he remains someone to be disregarded, at best, and hated, at worst.
And like the Samaritan in the parable, as Jesus journeys he helps those in need, people who are completely without the ability to help themselves. While the Samaritan helped someone who was physically injured, the help, the healing, that Jesus provides is more profound, touching our souls.
Without God’s action in our lives we are blind to our true condition, how badly we are beaten down by the sin in our lives. Paul writes in Romans 8:7-8,
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The Samaritan takes care of the injured person, making sure that every need is provided for. And, in our spiritual brokenness, Jesus does the same for us, and he does so completely and eternally. Paul proclaims his confidence in the redemptive work of Jesus in the closing verses of Romans 8, and it is a confidence that we can claim as our own as well. He writes,
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
My “Aha!” moment came as I pondered a familiar part of the Bible and noticed not just the familiar moral implications of Jesus’ teaching but also a powerful allusion to the love he lavishes on his disciples. As you read, pray and ponder God’s Word may he also grant you a deeper glimpse of the love he has for you.