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Beautiful Stranger

Have you ever read Revelation 19 and wondered what it sounds like to hear "the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah!""?

Last night I found out at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Swansea.  At their prayer meeting their singing raised the roof. I've never heard anything like it. It gave a new meaning to the phrase "prayer warriors." So encouraging.

Steve Levy hosted, Paul Blackham was answering questions from the church and I was tagging along for the ride. One issue that really seemed to connect with the folks was that of Jesus, the Good Samaritan. So I thought I'd repost this one from 2008...

Jesus is Good Samaritan

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?'  That's what prompts the story.  At the end of the story Jesus asks 'Who was neighbour to the guy left for dead?' (v36).

This is such an important point to grasp.  The lawyer asks "Who is my neighbour?"  Jesus responds: "Who was a neighbour to the fallen man?" Get it?

Who does Jesus ask us, first of all, to identify with?  Not  the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan. First of all we are asked to see ourselves as 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).  From there he heads 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.  The religious and the law are no help. 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 would have equally been shunned by the priest and the Levite!

Yet this Samaritan 'had compassion' (v33).  In the New Testament this verb, which could be translated '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: Who's the Daddy?

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 (hint: The Spirit) and wine (His blood).  You all know that a denarius is a day's wage (Matthew 20:2) and therefore the Samaritan will be returning on the third day.

And remember you're meant to be putting yourself in the position of this fallen man, left for dead, unaided by religion, healed by a beautiful 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 his compassion and healing.  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?


And check out this preacher as he nails Jesus: the Good Samaritan


I was like a wounded man

Jesus came all the way down.

On a Friday evening, He died on a Roman cross

Early one Sunday morning He got up

How many of you believe – He got up?

Thank You, for being a Good Samaritan

Thank You, You didn’t have to do it

Thank You, for taking my feet out of the miry clay,

Thank You, for setting them on the rock

Thank you, for saving me,

Thank You, for binding up my wounds

Thank You, for healing my wounds

Thank You, for fighting my battles

Did He pick you up?


4 thoughts on “Beautiful Stranger

  1. James Krieg

    Thanks Glen. It's amazing how many of the 'popular' parables are transformed in our thinking from moralising fables to Gospel stories the moment we see Jesus and his Father as the main actors, not us.

  2. Jonathan

    Nice work Glen. Adds value. Given that this is a Lukan story, I've tend to see the wounded guy as in the first instance representing Israel. Israel is the one who has 'fallen into the hands of robbers' and is lying naked and abandoned and half-dead. This is the way the prophets often described Israel, esp. Isaiah. This guy is after all identified as a Jew.

    And the priests' great crime in Luke is failing to take care of the needy ones in Israel. To quote Ezekiel 'You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.' Or as Jesus says 'and you yourselves do not lift a finger to help them.’

    Of course what is true about Israel is generally true about us all. So the man is still us - just not as the direct reference, i'd suggest.

    Is Jesus the Good Samaritan? I'd like him to be. Sounds right. I'll need to think more about that, and also about your oil and wine suggestions.

    Thanks mate.

  3. Brian Midmore

    Luther identified the GS with Jesus because he needed to defend sola fide. The question came 'What should i do to inherit eternal life?' the lord answers 'Go and do similar things to the GS'. For Luther this this was an argument for works justification and had to be countered. The danger comes when we think' I dont have to go and do likewise because Jesus has done it for me'. This was Bonnhoffers critique of Lutherism. He felt that too much sola fide had led the Lutheran church to acquiesce to the Nazis.

  4. Glen

    Thanks James.

    Brian, It's not just a Lutheran thing, Jesus as the Good Samaritan was the stock-in-trade of early church interpretations and, as the icon shows above, a common understanding in the orthodox church. I'd like to think obedience comes on the far side of a radical 'faith alone'. If not, it's not 'faith alone' anymore.

    Yes Jonathan, that anti-religious-authorities theme in Luke is in almost every scene

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