The Practice of Mercy
Good evening. This evening I would like to go back to one of the parables of Jesus we have already looked at. In Luke Chapter 10 is the parable we most often call the parable of the Good Samaritan. Although we talked a little about this parable last April when we started the parable series I thought that in view of this morning’s lesson on The Mercy of God, that this would be a good time to take another look at the Good Samaritan.
The lessons we see in this parable of the Good Samaritan come as a direct answer to the question of the lawyer and I think they provide for us a clear calling for mercifulness. The story in this parable teaches us about mercy and that we should be merciful to people. It might be better if we were to call this the parable of the Merciful Samaritan rather than the Good Samaritan.
The story ends in Luke 10:36-37 when Jesus says; which of these do you think was neighbor to him? The lawyer said; he who showed mercy on him.
I think that's interesting because the Samaritan was good in the way we understand things. Why would he do what he did? Well he was good as people would say. He did for someone something that was not bidden by any obligation. He was good because he showed mercy, because he was a merciful person, because there was a feeling in his heart that was born out of the activity that he engaged in.
That is the standpoint I would like us to take, as we look at this particular parable. There are a lot of lessons to be taught from this story. Often the parable is viewed in an allegorical framework. But there is a consideration in which the lessons of the parables are simple, sometimes single faceted in the sense that there's one literal, primary lesson of the story that Jesus wants us to see.
I think the parable of the Good Samaritan may fall into that category. There are a number of things to see about ourselves, about God, about circumstance, and about obligation from this particular story but there is one primary thought.
I. Let’s start with the question; “What is the comparison between the lawyer and the Samaritan?” That's not an obvious contrast in the parable because these are two individuals, one's real and one's imaginary or simply a character in the story, the Samaritan.
A. The lawyer who asks the question is a real person that talks to Jesus and Jesus interacts with. Jesus draws in the lesson a contrast between the one who's asking the question and the one who's the main character of the parable.
B. The lawyer was a man who would have much to recommend him as he comes to Jesus, his credentials.
1. He was a man by occupation who knew the law.
2. He wasn't a lawyer in the sense that we would think of a secular lawyer but the lawyers in the scripture were those who had studied the Law of Moses.
3. They are individuals who were well versed in the particular applications of law and even the traditions that surrounded the law, the traditional interpretations and applications of the law.
C. This man comes with a good and relevant question. He says; “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
1. That is a valid and important question for someone to bring to Jesus.
2. Jesus does not dismiss this question. He doesn't in any way approach it from a standpoint that it is not relevant or important.
3. In fact Jesus recognizes the legitimacy of the question and answers it in a context that this man should understand.
D. The lawyer himself is no doubt an intelligent person even an individual who could be respected because he has studied and he's come to knowledge. He knows the law and he can quote it accurately.
1. We see in verse 27 and 28 that's precisely what he does. He quotes the law. In fact, he quotes the law in a very similar fashion to which Jesus quoted the law in His own summery.
2. If you recall when asked the question of what was the greatest commandment Jesus summarized all of the commandments in His answer. “Thou shall love the Lord thy God all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thyself.” He says; “on this hangs all the law and the prophets.” Jesus had made a similar statement or summary to the law that this man makes in verse 27.
3. It was the right way to look at the law, not that there were only two commandments, but if you were to ask the question of what it meant to keep the law, it is a very good way to answer that question. Everything depends on the relationship you have with God and the relationship you have with your fellow man. Your relationship to God and to your fellow man summarizes the obligations of love.
4. This lawyer was intelligent and had studied so he knew the answer and Jesus says you've answered rightly.
E. But there is a deficiency in that His understanding of the law. His understanding of the law was what we would call orthodox. His orthodoxy is not accompanied by practical righteousness. By this I mean that he had the right information but not the right application. A person may know and approve the law and yet not keep it. He answered right but was not righteous. We find that in religion today.
1. That's seen by how he reacts to the answer that he’s just given. He next attempts to justify himself by immediately bypassing the implications of the commandment of Love and asking Jesus another question. “Who is my neighbor?”
2. He goes right over the obligation to put the question back on Jesus to come to some further understanding or for some further interpretation of the law. There are some folks like that.
F. Obviously we do not know enough about this man to come to a full conclusion yet the pattern I see here is familiar. I have met people I think fits this pattern. They want to know it all, they want to know what God said, they have an interest in knowing the truth but that's all they want, the knowledge.
1. Even when you bring them to the point of clearly making application of the law to their lives, bring them to the point that you think is the point of conviction, they immediately turn sideways and ask another question. Rather than confront what is before them they simply want more explanation.
2. I do not know if this man was like that but I know some people are. They simply want to speak and talk about the law. They don't want to apply it.
3. That's why I suspect that may be a deficiency in this lawyer. He simply wants to know and approve of the law but he's not interested in really keeping the law. He answered right but he wasn't righteous and that's the point that Jesus confronts in the story.
II. Now let’s compare him with the Samaritan who is a character in the parable. Jesus tells us enough about this man that we can come to some conclusions. We know for the fact that Jesus names him as a Samaritan.
A. Just taking that at face value, the Samaritan was religiously wrong as opposed to the lawyer. There were things about the law that the Samaritan probably did not know or understand correctly. He probably couldn't give you God's word, God's revelation on it in an accurate way because the Samaritans, as Jesus even points out in John Chapter 4, had some things they missed.
1. Salvation was of the Jews. There were questions that could be answered about worship only in the context of the revelation that God had given the Jews.
2. These were interpreted rightly by the Jews and the Samaritans would have given the wrong interpretations.
B. Jesus names him as a Samaritan interestingly enough not to commend his Samaritanism but rather to commend his character.
1. What does Jesus recommend about this man?
2. What is it that's good about the Samaritan?
3. He's a person of true human compassion.
4. He is an individual that is not met on every street corner, you don't find them everywhere. He comes across a circumstance and reacts in a very extreme way to that circumstance.
5. He acts mercifully in response to a person who's in deep distress. In the context of the parable he acts as a neighbor ought to act to this injured man and that becomes the single point of the parable we want to look at.
C. Jesus answers the question of who is my neighbor not by pointing to who the neighbor is but rather points to the man who acts in a neighborly way.
1. The question what must I do to inherit eternal life is an important part of the story. The lawyer's answer to it was right and summarized the whole law, love God and love your neighbor.
2. Jesus told him “do this and he would live eternally”. Jesus does not discount that the aspect of obedience to the law is the way to life.
3. Contrary to the Calvinist ideas Jesus does not dismiss this man's answer and say well no you're being legalistic about this. You really don't need to keep all the commandments.
4. Jesus doesn't put in opposition faith and obedience. Jesus recognizes that this man's understanding of law and the necessity to keep law - was right.
D. Rather then confess that he would not and had not done this, which is possibly what Jesus wanted to man to do, the lawyer simply excuses himself and asks; “Who is my neighbor?”
1. He assumes something about law. He assumed that there was a limitation to the law of love whether it is to God or to his neighbor.
2. He assumed that there were some parameters that he needed to be aware of, that there was something about the law that maybe Jesus could explain to him or there was some interpretation that would in essence get him off the hook in some instances. I believe he sought a loophole or as the Bible says he sought justification.
3. He also attempts to qualify and we'll look at this as we go along. But any time we look at a law God that places obligations upon us and then immediately attempt to qualify, we show an attitude about ourselves that God does not approve of.
E. I suspect that Jesus tells this parable to turn his perception around. The law of love to God and to man that this man summarizes in his own words, was not conditional on the proximity or the status of the recipient.
1. He could not judge whether or not a person is his neighbor by how close he was, or by whether he was the same social class, or by whether he was a Jew, or by whether you agreed with him on certain opinions or by whether he was of a certain economic status. There were no parameters, in terms of who was his neighbor that Jesus would give to this man.
2. Jesus taught him what it meant to be a neighbor and what it meant to act in love towards a neighbor by showing him what a neighbor would do under the circumstances. This is the lesson, and it is a lesson on love and mercy.
3. John MacArthur wrote about this; Jesus instead of talking about who qualifies to be your neighbor talks about the quality with which you love. If you're even asking the question who is qualified for you to love, you can't fulfill the commandments to love. It's not about who qualifies. It's about your character, the character of your love.
III. Jesus is talking about the love of the individual to someone in need, not about where the person in need qualifies to be loved. Notice that it is an integral part of the parable that this mans needs cannot be dismissed. It's certainly assumed in the story that he does not qualify in any way to be helped by those who are given the responsibility to help him. Think about the story for a moment as we read it.
A. Luke 10:30 – “Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, "and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?''” [NKJV] I find a good way to start is to look at the context.
B. Starting with verse 30, Jerusalem sits on hills and the man was going down from the hills to Jericho which is a bit below sea level, a drop of 3000 feet in about 17 miles. It was a place with hills and cliffs and deep crevices, a place where there were a lot of caves and steep drops and a place where traveling was going to be difficult. It provided a geographical opportunity for robbers and thieves to hide and ambush people as they came along the road.
1. It was known for that in Jesus’ time. So the familiar thing happened to this man. He traveled the dangerous road and what usually happens on dangerous roads is people get taken advantage of. He was robbed, beaten and left for dead.
2. His condition, apart from any outside aid, appeared rather hopeless. This man was left for dead. Jesus uses this language to indicate that if nobody comes to his aid, he's going to die.
C. Verse 31 by chance a certain priest comes by. By the opportunity that's given to this priest there is a hope that this man will be rescued. Certainly on the surface it seems that way doesn't it?
1. If you're left for dead on the side of the road and you don't have anybody to help you, who would you want to come by? A religious man or an irreligious man? A man who believes in God or a man who didn't believe in God?
2. Here is a religious man. He is the best of the pious among them. He would have been familiar with the law. Leviticus 19:34 – “But the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself” It is told in the law you have to love him as yourself. Exodus 23:5 – “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.” The law says even if you do not want to, you must.
3. This is a general requirement of benevolence among the Jews and was a part of the law, if anybody knows that the priest knows it. If anybody is going to help it's going to be somebody who knows the law, right? No. He passes by on the other side.
D. Verse 32 Likewise a Levite... The Levite was the other end of the scale of the religious ladder. The priests were at the top the Levites were at the bottom. They did certainly do service within the temple but they were not as high class as the priest.
1. Again we see represented in the parable those who knew, those who understood the law. Those who by spiritual obligation would be given an opportunity to help. Yet, they pass by on the other side.
2. Did you ever wonder why? Why does the priest go by? Why does the Levite not stop? We are not told. There are many comments on the priest and the Levite but they are conjecture trying to imagine what these two were thinking. We know this is a parable and Jesus doesn't fill in all the blanks for us in terms of what's happening in the mind of the priest as to why he passed by.
3. Jesus doesn't really tell us what's missing in the life of the priest or the Levite. What Jesus does do is simply tell us what was in the heart of the Samaritan and that's the lesson.
E. Verse 33 - But a certain Samaritan..., came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him Why did the Levite and priest go on the other side? I would suggest because they had no compassion. We don't know what their duties were or what would have happened or what might have happened, or if they were afraid of the robbers. The Bible doesn't tell us any of that. What we do know is that the Samaritan stopped because he was a compassionate man.
1. Think about the expectations. This injured man by implication is a Jew. We might assume that since he's coming down from Jerusalem. If we do assume that then everything points to the fact that this man could not have expected this Samaritan to help him.
2. The Samaritans hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Samaritans. The racial differences and the cultural differences were enormous. What we recognize is that he had met an enemy on the way, and an opportunity.
3. Usually when enemies meet each other they can't expect to be treated in any way other than with animosity. He would know nothing about this man's circumstance. He would know nothing about why he was where he was. There seemed to be no motivation for him to stop, yet stop he did.
4. It was this element of human compassion that made him stop. When he saw him he had compassion.
F. What we also see is that there's no evidence of any qualification. Jesus is saying to the lawyer there is no process of qualification in the act of being a neighbor.
1. The Samaritan that stopped would not have thought that the Jew qualified as one he should help.
2. The priest and the Levite could never have looked at this aspect from a standpoint of qualification. Surely in the context of law.
3. The Samaritans inclination, we can phrase it that way, his inclination when he saw the victim was injured, was to help.
4. What's our inclination when we find somebody in trouble? Do we use it to assess the circumstance from a standpoint of whether or not they are a good person or a bad person, to qualify them as the neighbor? Or is the first inclination to be merciful?
IV. Verse 34-35. “and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'”
A. The Samaritan himself is not the center of the parable though he becomes the main character. What becomes the story here is what he does. That's really the focus of what we're talking about tonight, the activity of mercy. We need to not miss this because what we see is not just one act but several. Not just a little help but a deep involvement in the distress of the victim.
1. Verse 34 says he went to him. It simply means that he went to where the injured person was. This is the first thing that he does; he goes up to the man. He does not try to evaluate from afar off. He does not dismiss him by looking at him from far away like maybe the priest and the Levite did. He goes up close and he evaluates the man's circumstances.
2. He sees what his needs are and assesses his condition. After investigating he does not turn away. You see if we don't go look then we are less compelled to be involved. If we go look we might through some form of compassion be drawn to be involved. However if we look real close and we see how bad it is we might be compelled to turn and go the other way. It can work both ways.
3. By not looking we might step away from it. By looking we might step away from it. But not this Samaritan. He sees what's there. He sees the stressful and difficult situation this man is in and that he's ready to die – but he doesn't turn around. It says and went to him and bandaged his wounds. The Greek word for wounds there is the word trauma (Strong’s G5134). It indicates wounds that needed immediate attention. That's the aspect here.
B. What did he bandage his wounds with? We are not told but we are told he fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing
1. The victim was lacking in material for bandages so if there's anything to use for a bandage it probably came from the Samaritan, perhaps his own clothes ripped to make bandages and stop the bleeding.
2. In says he poured in oil and wine into the wounds [para]. Wine was an antiseptic and the oil was used to lubricate the wound and keep the tissue soft so it would heal and not be as painful.
3. This is all part of the process of making the man more comfortable and seeing to his ultimate healing. These things that he gave were probably his own. There's no indication in this that the victim had anything with him he could use and since he had been robbed of even his clothes it would be unlikely.
4. Why would the Samaritan use his own supplies? Because of his compassion.
C. The text says; pouring on oil and wine. The word pouring here in the original language is actually a phrase which indicates the Samaritan generously poured it on the victim’s wounds. He didn’t just dab a little bit. He was pouring it on to make sure that he was applying enough.
1. What I see in that is the Samaritan was a man who was compassionate but not just that, he was generously compassionate. He was lavish in his compassionate activity.
2. Next it says he set him on his own animal. We don’t have enough information to really know if that would mean the Samaritan had to walk. Was the animal loaded with goods or not? Being used for riding or not? But we can recognize that there would likely be some inconvenience in doing this.
3. Whatever the case he puts him on his animal and he takes him. That's not minimum care that's maximal care. He doesn't leave him on the side of the road to fend for himself. He doesn't leave him with a first aid kit. He's got to follow through with it.
4. A question at this point occurs to me, How far is the Samaritan going to go? He has already acted as EMT now he is an ambiance service. How far is he going to follow through with his activity? He's getting in deeper with every line of the text; in everything that he does he becomes more involved.
5. On occasion we may start out with somebody that just needs a little bit of help and so you give a little bit but they’re still in trouble. So we'll do a little bit more and... Sometimes that turns us away. Sometimes that extinguishes the compassion and compassion turns into annoyance. Not the case here with the Samaritan.
D. The text says; he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. He transports the victim to a place where he can be protected and cared for and he personally takes care of him!
1. Do we see the contrast? The lawyer wanted at the very beginning, before he even understood the application of the law, he wanted to hedge the law and limit it.
2. The Samaritan in Jesus parable never gets to that point where he says Okay I've done enough. He bandages his wounds, he brings him to the inn, and he cares for him there. He negotiated the place to stay and he cared for him.
3. Well for how long? All night. Text says; On the next day, when he departed... He stayed with him through the night and cared for a stranger he knew nothing about. He was compassionate to the victim and stayed with him until the next day even though he was socially his worst enemy.
E. The text continues when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him... His mercy compelled him not only to do everything that he could, but to engage somebody else to take care of the man.
1. He was willing, not only to extend himself, but he was willing to go far enough to say I'm will ask somebody else to help me here. We sometimes balk at that point don’t we?
2. We feel an obligation to do this ourselves but true compassion doesn’t stop there. It recognizes that other individuals can help this person as well or perhaps even better because of skill or position or resources. If we really care about someone we'll assist, and we'll get those in a better position to help to assist as well.
3. Here is another place where there is much speculation about how long the two denarii paid for. Some suggest that it could have been as much as several weeks but we are not told and so we really don’t know.
4. We also don't know how long the Samaritan’s journey was or when he’s going to be back. Again that's all speculation. But this is pretty amazing, pretty generous, for a total stranger. He doesn't qualify him, he simply... did.
F. Verse 35 and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. Wait a minute. The Samaritan gave the innkeeper money upfront to take care of the victim for the 24 days, 12 days, or however long it was, two days...we don’t know.
1. Then he says OK, keep a tab. If he runs up the tab, if you spend any more when I come back let me know. I'll take care of that too. The man has really exposed himself to serious extortion here.
2. He's exposed himself to being taken advantage of on a large scale. Its one thing to be taken advantage of standing right there and watching people do it.
3. But if you go away and you're not around to take care of what the money’s spent on and see how is done, you really open yourself up. The picture here is rather impressive to me. It's shocking but it's impressive.
V. Now verses 36 and 37 – “36. "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?'' 37. And he said, "He who showed mercy on him.'' Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise.''” Jesus brings the question back on the lawyer. But wait, it is not exactly the same question is it? It wasn't who is my neighbor but Who was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?
A. The question is not who qualified to be a neighbor but who acted like a neighbor. Which of these three individuals would you suppose did what was neighborly? What would fulfill all the requirements of the law?
1. How could anyone in the frame mind of the lawyer, remember he wanted to limit the application of law for himself, how could he comeback in any way and say that the Samaritan, this man who was despised culturally, had not kept all that God required in the law to love his neighbor as himself?
2. He couldn't bring himself to make that conclusion. He couldn't bring himself to say the Samaritan either, notice that. He is asked which one of these and he doesn't say that it’s the Samaritan. Maybe he can't bring himself to say the word. What he says here is the one who showed mercy.
B. This is a picture of mercy in action in a very powerful way. Mercy is a powerful force. Compassion is a powerful force.
1. It gives an individual the ability to transcend racial and social barriers. It provides an opportunity to do what is in the heart of an individual, to overlook differences that become roadblocks and barriers to other people.
2. I believe what Jesus teaches us here is that just the knowledge of what is required, even in law, does not provide that opportunity. It doesn't provide the motivation for an individual to go beyond and transcend these barriers and to be generous.
3. The only thing that does that is the feeling of compassion, of human compassion that exists in the heart of an individual for someone else.
Tonight we looked at this parable with a single focus on the aspect of not attempting to justify, not attempting to apply limitations of the application of law or to qualify the recipients who would receive our mercy. Rather that we are to be truly people of compassion. We extend that mercy and compassion in a generous and extensive way.
We need to be careful however to recognize it's not legitimate to use the story of the Good Samaritan to authorize unlimited benevolent activity for the church corporately, to activate the church in some way to feed all the poor of the community.
Jesus isn’t talking about what the church should do corporately. He's not talking about what we should do institutionally. He's talking about what you and I are to do in our own lives when we see someone who's in need. He's talking about our personal responsibility to be merciful to another individual. To have the type of heart that would motivate us to be compassionate and in no way attempt to justify or set aside what the implications of God's law is to us as individuals.
The Christian must be merciful. This story gives us a pretty clear picture of what that involves. It also makes me recognize that in terms of what was said earlier, that prompted this particular story, it leaves me rather short. What must I do to inherit eternal life? Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. How well have we done that?
Jesus is able to put parables in such stark contrast to where we are really, that it compels us to see, not only what God requires more clearly, but how far away we are from that. The challenge that's before us is to truly be merciful people like God is merciful. The parable helps me to better understand what Jesus means when He says I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Sometimes we feel satisfied with just giving the sacrifice.
In conclusion, I believe that it's this type of merciful activity that we see in the life of the Samaritan that we see in the heart of our own salvation. It illustrates to us in the person of the Samaritan, who God is.
Are there any limitations that God has placed on Himself and what He will do in order to save us? Is there anything that He will hold back? We did not look at this as an allegory of the Gospel story but when we look at what the Samaritan did, how the only thing that provoked his action, the only thing that made it happen, was the love and the compassion he had for another human being, we recognize that's precisely the Gospel story.
Why did Jesus die for me? Were there any qualifications? Was there anything that obligated Him? Or was it just as we sing so often... because He loved me so? That was it. God is a compassionate and merciful God and that's the reason we are saved. Jesus came without any limitations on what He would do but He went all the way to the death of the cross. He gave everything that we might be saved. That's the aspect of mercy.
Think about the lesson Jesus taught in John Chapter 13 when He went got down on his knees and He washed the disciples’ feet, an act of absolute servitude. It was the act of servitude of the cross that was coming that was to motivate them to be servants of one another. It was not just an explanation of the Gospel story. It was the application of the Gospel story to their life. This is as well.
James 2:13 – “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” To those who have shown no mercy or judge others with partiality and have not learned to live by the law of love, there is only judgment without mercy. Those who triumph are those who learn to be merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. It is a very comforting thing to know that mercy triumphs over judgment. Why? Because God is merciful, and God is a God of justice.
I also would suggest that there is application in this life. As long as we're people that want to extend mercy and do good for the other person, as long as we're generous and we want to even go to the farthest degree we possibly can to help other people, there is a triumph in our lives. There’s a triumph over the judgment and the condemnation that exists among classes of people and individuals in society today.
Mercy triumphs and it opens up doors for evangelism to teach people who might be far away from the Gospel. If they see mercy, if they see people that are willing to help, they may be more malleable to what God said. They open their hearts. If God's people are not people of love they have no right to even claim to be children of God.
We're going to sing a song of invitation.
If you're not a Christian and you're here tonight we want to encourage you to do what you need to do and respond to the mercy of God.
He's willing to forgive you of your sins and the mercy of God will triumph over the condemnation of your own sin and you can be free. If you need to respond in any way we invite you to make it known while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon: Dave SchmidtPrint
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