Have you ever observed someone going down the wrong path in life? Perhaps you could discern someone’s decisions would result only in disaster. Red flags go up when we see certain events begin to unfold: a teenager becoming involved with the “wrong crowd;” a married co-worker flirting with an attractive employee; or even someone withdrawing from their family and friends. Sometimes these events culminate with disasters that wreck relationships or ruin lives.
Every issue in life has a spiritual root (Proverbs 4:23). The decisions we make in our heart will determine the course of our life. If we sow the seeds of rebellion, we will lose the blessings of God and venture down a dark and dreary path of sin.
Such a dismal story is shared with us in the Bible. It is referred to as the story of the Good Samaritan and yet so much more is involved before that Samaritan arrives on the scene. In this scene we can see the progression of sin, the emptiness of religion, the picture of Christ, and the recovery from disaster. As this “drama” unfolds, examine the roles and actions of each character to see if you share any similarities with them:
A Certain Man…
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. – Luke 10:30
The story begins with a certain man who began traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Any time the direction down is mentioned in the Bible, it implies the descent from a place of blessing to a place of sin. For example, when Jonah disobeyed the Lord’s call to Nineveh, the Bible says he went down on three occasions with each instance getting worse (Jonah 1:3, 5). In this case, the man went from Jerusalem, the “holy city” and place of God’s blessing, to Jericho, the curse-stricken city historically associated with ruin (Joshua 6:26). The descent indicates the man’s departure from the presence of God and the choice to forsake fellowship with God in exchange for the perceived pleasure of sin.
Though the path seemed safe, the man fell among thieves. The thieves, who picture the destructive nature of sin, stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and left him half dead. In Scripture, one’s clothing is symbolic of our standing before God. When someone is in fellowship with God, his garments are clean and white (Ecclesiastes 9:8, I Peter 5:5, Job 29:14). Sin stripped him of his good standing before God, revealed his shame, and removed his humility. He suffered wounds at the hands of the thieves; they afflicted and tormented him just as do the vices of sin. The goal of sin is to bring forth death (James 1:15). Sin decides when it is finished, not the sinner. The man was overcome by sin, though his willingness to embark on the path indicated that he assured himself of its safety or his ability to keep himself from harm. Both sentiments proved untrue, as do our false inclinations that we can overcome sin when we are away from the presence and power of God. The thieves departed and left him for dead, satisfied that they had taken all his goods and his good standing. Sin behaves similarly; it robs you of your good name, it absorbs your time, energy, and money, and it leaves you for dead when it’s taken everything in your possession. You are left to cling to what little life remains as you wait helplessly for someone to come to your aid.
A Certain Priest…
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. – Luke 10:31
As the story continues, someone does pass by! A certain priest comes by chance. The priest was someone who was responsible to know and conduct the ceremonial laws of the temple. He is a reminder of the rigorous demands of religion. Because he comes by chance, it shows us that religion has no intention to willfully seek the lost and hurting of this world. Notice that the priest also came down from the place of blessing as well. In the First Century, the priests of Jerusalem no longer lived in the holy city, but made their homes in Jericho. It is sad to think that this wayward man and the priest were walking on the same path to disaster. Religion is an agent which causes mankind to continue on a downward path. Even though the priest saw him, he had no solutions and offered no help. Religion likes to provide rules by which man should live, but those rules do not provide any means of grace and forgiveness. If you determine to live by the rules of religion, you must continue in them perfectly for the entirety of your life or become cursed:
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. – Galatians 3:10
No man can be justified by religion; he must be redeemed through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:11-13; Ephesians 2:8-9). If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that none of us can fulfill the demands of the Law and of religion for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Ultimately, religion has nothing to offer the sin-stricken world. It sees the problems, but passes by on the other side. The priest didn’t want to be entangled with the problems of that man, although his alleged role in life is to help others. He would rather just avoid the situation completely. No doubt this priest went on to tout his ideals, creeds, and catechisms, but such vain repetitions are nothing but hypocrisy. I can image that the wounded and dying man must have gained some sense of hope as he saw a priest approaching, but how sad he must have been as he watched the priest continue on his own downward path as he left him behind in his misery.
Likewise a Levite…
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. – Luke 10:32
Perhaps the wounded man’s hopes were raised again as he saw a Levite approaching him. A Levite was an assistant to the priests, and it was his duty to keep the sacred utensils and the temple clean, to provide the sacred loaves, to open and shut the gates of the temple, to sing the sacred hymns in the temple, and to do many other things. The Levites remind us of modern-day religious adherents. These people are not ministers in an official capacity, but are devotees of religion and followers of the priests.
This devotee followed the teaching of his leader, the priest. He was on the same downward path of sin and took the same action of passing on the other side of the wounded man. He, too, could offer no help, felt no compassion, and went on his way offering no hope to this wounded and dying man. Just like religious leaders, religious adherents mimic the attitudes and actions of their religious system (Matthew 23:15). They are ardent supporters of false doctrines and false hope. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Yet, the Bible shows us that there will be those who depart from “the faith” declared in the Bible and adhere instead to the false and unbiblical teachings:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. – I Timothy 4:1-3
They do not know the way of truth and cannot help people as a result. They establish rules that are unscriptural and teach as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9). Many religions do the same today as they forbid certain practitioners from marriage and order fasts and abstinence from certain foods. Because there is no Scriptural basis for these actions, they have departed from the faith and only cause confusion. God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). Therefore, religion is an attempt by Satan to “blind the minds of them that believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ…should shine unto them.” (II Corinthians 4:4). Satan understands that if he can control the religions of the world and influence religious adherents, then there will be no one to administer a remedy for the wounds he inflicts upon the people of the world. Religion falters when faced with real need of forgiveness; it cannot offer the salvation that the dying world desperately needs.
Can a remedy be administered? Can this beaten and broken man find recovery from disaster? Where does that remedy come from? Who can administer it?
A Certain Samaritan…
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 bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. – Luke 10:33-35
Another man appears on the scene, the Samaritan. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews for racist reasons: they were not “purely” Jewish as they had one parent who was of Gentile origins. In a similar way, the Lord Jesus Christ is a mix of two origins: God and human (I Timothy 3:16; John 1:1, 14). The Lord’s “purity” as the Son of God was often questioned and doubted, resulting in vehement hatred for Him (John 8:41; Matthew 26:62-68, 27:40, 43). In light of this, the Samaritan represents the Lord Jesus Christ in this narrative.
While the priest and the Levite came down, notice that the Samaritan is on a journey, just like the Lord Jesus Christ. He was sent to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and the Samaritan was clearly driven by this Christ-like goal. When we leave behind the cursed customs of sin, we head toward holiness – the exact opposite of the wounded man’s departure from the holy city.
The Samaritan came where the wounded man was and had compassion on him. Could it be possible that as the Samaritan approached, the wounded man wondered if this Samaritan would forsake him just as did the other two men? Could the wounded man dare to let his heart yearn in hope that help could be available in this man? Many today have been so wounded by religion and religious people that when the only true hope of Jesus Christ is offered, they doubt that any “religious” sentiment could be of any benefit at all. However, the Samaritan’s approach was different. Instead of religious ridicule and catechistic chastisement that he likely received while dying on the road, this scorned Samaritan offered compassion. He was gentle, kind, and he alone had the ability and willingness to save the man’s life. The Samaritan went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. While the oil and wine (non-alcoholic) were used to treat wounds, they also picture something far greater throughout Scripture. The oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 27:20) who points out the error of false hope in oneself and the need for acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Savior. This is necessary for salvation to occur (John 16:7-11). Secondly, the wine pictures the pure and precious blood of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:27-28) which is the only means for the forgiveness of our sins (I Peter 1:19, Romans 5:8-9, I John 1:7). In essence, the Samaritan presents the Gospel to this dying man. The combination of the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the application of the blood of Christ equals the spiritual healing that only salvation by grace through faith can offer. Because the wound is bound, the man is healed, sealed, and “kept by the power of God” (Ephesians 1:13 I Peter 1:5).
As though this man’s deliverance from sin wasn’t enough, the Samaritan went further in his gracious service to the wounded man. In further aid to his recovery from the dramatic and devastating effects of sin, the Samaritan desired to further facilitate the continued health of this man. The healing man now needed to get off the downward path of sin. In order to avoid the power of sin, he must avoid the path of sin. What good would it be to heal but never escape the perils of such a path? The Samaritan puts the man upon his own beast, most likely a donkey. The donkey is an animal of humility and is therefore connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. The donkey was a servant’s beast, not an animal of luxury like a horse. As the man was set upon the donkey, his burden was eased. He no longer had to live his life by his own power, but he could now rely instead upon the power of another, picturing the power that the Lord Jesus Christ dispenses (I Corinthians 12:9).
As the pair departed the path of despair, the Samaritan set a new destination. They would journey to the inn where the Samaritan would continue to provide care of the man. This must have been a place where the man’s needs could be met whether those needs were physical, mental, social, or spiritual. Imagine the pain that could linger after such a bought with sin: the mental anguish that comes from trying to move on from the pain of bad decisions and awful consequences; the physical pain that is present after undergoing the beatings of such an attack; the anxiety of interacting with people as you must break negative relationships and learn to trust others again; the spiritual revival that takes place as you realize that the Word of God must be implemented as you waver between faith and doubt. Yet, “the inn” is clearly the place where God intends for men and women to recover. What is God’s ordained institution in this present day? “The inn” can only represent the local New Testament church. The local church is the one for whom Christ died, and it is His desire that the church grow through the Word and grow in holiness before its presentation to Himself (Ephesians 5:25-27). There is no other place on earth where the recovery from sin will be more fully realized than in a local church where God’s Word is preached in power, taught in truth, and ministered with grace. This is the best way for any “good Samaritan” to take care of the wounded of this world.
When the time came for the Samaritan to depart (for even the Lord Jesus Christ departed from this earth), he ensured that the provision of care would be afforded to the healing man. The Samaritan gave two pence to the innkeeper, who represents the pastor of the local church. These two pence would be sufficient to continue the care of the healing man. In application to the Christian today, what could these two pence symbolize? Here’s the better question: What two things has God given to Christians today in order to ensure that they are fully equipped for life? Those two things are the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) and the Word of God (II Timothy 3:16-17). When we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, we “shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16) and not venture downward on the path to peril once again. The Scriptures are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” We can know which way to walk and be fully prepared for the issues of life. These two items, the Spirit and the Scriptures, will fully complete the recovery of any sinner for any peril they might have faced. If for some reason something more is needed, the Samaritan was willing to pay it back upon his return. Just like the Samaritan, the Lord Jesus has promised to return again (John 14:1-3). He will repay us for the work we have done as we stand before Him in love (I Corinthians 3:12-14; Ephesians 1:4). No matter what we experience on this earth, it is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
The bottom line is that no matter what happens to us in our lives, God is the source of our solution and has dispensed grace through His Word to ensure our recovery from the ravages of sin.
Go, and do thou likewise…
Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. – Luke 10:37b
Just like this story, the recovery from the devastation of sin begins with salvation. We must cease from our religious works and self-trust as an attempt to earn heaven or to merit some eternal benefit. We must hear the Gospel as the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts of sin and as the Lord Jesus Christ reveals His desire to cleanse us of our sin. Forgiveness is available, but you must make application by confessing your sin and trusting Christ as your Saviour (I John 1:9; Acts 20:21).
Perhaps you are like the man who is half dead and waiting for someone to come to your aid. The Lord Jesus Christ is calling to you. He loves you, has compassion for you, and wants you to receive the Gospel and make Him your Saviour.
While having the assurance of heaven is a wonderful blessing, salvation is only the beginning of a blessed life! A total recovery from the devastating effects of sin in this life is possible for those who continue in this plan of God. The local New Testament church is the place of ultimate recovery for the sin-stricken person.
In the practice of medicine today, there are some patients who leave “against medical advice.” They depart the hospital without fully recovering. This mentality affects Christians as well. Recovery and victory over sin is a battle that can be won, though many Christians leave the church “against the Master’s advice.” If you are a Christian who has wandered down the path to peril, you must return to God’s program for your recovery from sin. Get back to “the inn” of your local church and begin reading your Bible again. Allow the Spirit of God to minister to your needs and allow the healing to take place in your life.
Christians must be diligent to be like this good Samaritan and like the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Christian journeys through this life, he will encounter many people along the way. Those people have needs. They’ve been beaten down by Satan and by the world. They’re heading toward a place of disaster. Religion and its practitioners are unable to assist. Only those like the Samaritan have the ability and willingness to bind up the wounds of the hurting. Christians must present to them the Gospel, accompany the wounded to the local church, and minister to their needs using the Scripture as they are empowered by the Spirit.
We must heed Christ’s admonition to “Go, and do thou likewise” if we are to aid people in their recovery from sin.
Christian, will you go and do thou likewise?