Our Lord was a great practical preacher. He frequently delivered addresses in which He made answer to questioners, or gave direction to seekers, or upbraided offenders, and He gave a prominence to practical truth. Jesus tells us over and over again the manner in which we are to live towards our fellow-men, and He lays great stress upon the love which should shine throughout the Christian character.
The story of the good Samaritan, which is now before us, is a case in point, for our Lord is there explaining a point which arose out of the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The question is legal, and the answer is to the point. But let it never be forgotten that what the law demands of us the gospel really produces in us. The law tells us what we ought to be, and it is one object of the gospel to raise us to that condition.
Hence our Saviour’s teaching, though it be eminently practical, is always evangelical: even in expounding the law He has always a gospel design. Two ends are served by His setting up a high standard of duty: on the one He slays the self-righteousness which claims to have kept the law by making men feel the impossibility of salvation by their own works; and, on the other hand, He calls believers away from all content with the mere decencies of life and the routine of outward religion, and stimulates them to seek after the highest degree of holiness— indeed, after that excellence of character which only His grace can give.
I shall not hold up the love of our neighbour as a condition of salvation, but as a fruit of it. I shall not speak of obedience to the law as the road to heaven, but I shall show you the pathway which is to be followed by the faith which works by love.
THE WORLD IS VERY FULL OF AFFLICTION
The poor Jew on the road to Jericho was the victim of the thieves who wounded him and left him half dead. Man is man’s worst enemy. If man were but tamed to peace, the wildest beast in the world would be subdued; and if evil were purged from men’s hearts, the major part of the ills of life would cease at once.
The way which led from Jerusalem to Jericho was always infested by robbers. So also in the world around us there are paths of life which are highly dangerous and fearfully haunted by disease and accident. The man in the parable was quite helpless, he could do nothing for himself; there he must lie and die, those huge wounds must bleed his very soul away unless a generous hand shall interfere. It is as much as he can do to groan; he cannot even dress his wounds, much less arise and seek a shelter. He is bleeding to death among the pitiless rocks of the descent to Jericho, and he must leave his body to be fed upon by kites and crows unless some friend shall come to his help.
THERE ARE MANY WHO NEVER RELIEVE AFFLICTION
Our Saviour tells us of two at least who “passed by on the other side.” I fear the good Samaritans are very few in proportion to the number who act the part of the priest and the Levite. It was in the order of Divine Providence that a priest should come first to this afflicted person, that so he might go and examine the case as a man of education and skill, and then when the Levite came afterwards he would be able to carry on what the priest began; and if one could not carry the poor man, the two might between them be able to bear him to the inn, or one might remain to guard him while the other ran for help. God brought them to this position, but they wilfully refused the sacred duty which providence and humanity demanded of them.
These two persons, moreover, were bound by their profession to have helped this man. If anywhere there should be compassion towards men, it should be in the heart of the priest who is chosen to speak for God to men and for men to God. The Lord hath made all His people to be priests unto Him— there ought to be in you from your very profession a readiness of heart towards the kindliest actions for those who need them.
Yet the pair had capital excuses: both the priest and the Levite had excellent reasons for neglecting the bleeding man. I never knew a man refuse to help the poor who failed to give at least one admirable excuse. I believe that there is no man on earth who wickedly rejects the plea of need who is not furnished with arguments that he is right: arguments eminently satisfactory to himself. For instance, the priest and Levite were both in a hurry. The priest had been a month away at Jerusalem from his wife and dear children, and he naturally wanted to get home; if he lingered the sun might be down; it was an awkward place to be in after sundown, and you could not expect him to be so imprudent as to stay in a lone place with darkness coming on.
He had spent a very laborious month in the temple, you do not know how exhausting he had found it to act as a priest for a whole month, and if you did you would not blame him for wanting to get home to enjoy a little rest. Besides, he had promised to be home at a certain hour, and he was a man of punctuality, and would by no means cause anxiety to his wife and children, who would be looking from the housetop for him. A very excellent excuse was this: but he also felt that he really could not do much good. He did not understand surgery, and could not bind up a wound to save his life; he shrank from it; the very sight of blood turned his stomach, he could not bring himself to go near a person who was so frightfully mangled. If he did try to bind up a wound he felt he should be sure to make a muddle of it. If his wife had been with him, she could have done it; or if he had brought some plaister, liniment, or strapping, he would have tried his best, but as it was he could do nothing. The poor man, moreover, was evidently half dead, and would be quite dead in an hour or two, and therefore it was a pity to waste time on a hopeless case.
Then the priest was only one person, and could not be expected to carry a bleeding man, and yet it would be idle to begin with the case and leave him there all night. True, he could almost hear the sound of the Levite’s feet, indeed he hoped he was coming up behind, for he felt very nervous at being alone with such a case; but then that was all the more reason for leaving the matter, since the Levite would be sure to attend to it. Better still was the following line of excuse— you would not have a person stop in a place where another man had been half killed by thieves. The thieves might be back again, they were scarcely yet out of hearing even then, and a priest after a month’s service ought to have some fees in his purse, and it was important not to run the risk of losing the support of his family by stopping in a place which was evidently swarming with highwaymen.
He might be wounded too, and then there would be two people half dead, and one of them a valuable clergyman. Really, philanthropy would suggest that you take care of yourself, as you could not possibly do any good to the poor man. And then the man might die, and the person found near the body might be charged with the murder. It is always awkward to be found alone in a dark spot with the corpse of one who has evidently suffered from foul play. The priest might be taken up upon suspicion, and did not all the principles of prudence suggest that the very best thing that he could do was to get out of the way as quickly as possible?
Moreover, he could pray for the man, you know, and he was glad to find that he had a tract with him which he would leave near him, and what with the tract and the prayer what more could a good man be expected to do? With this pious reflection he hastened on his way.
It is just possible also that he did not wish to be defiled. A priest was too holy a person to meddle with wounds and bruises. Who would propose such a thing? He had come from Jerusalem in all the odour of sanctity; he felt himself to be as holy as he could conveniently be, and therefore he would not expose such rare excellence to worldly influences by touching a sinner. All these powerful reasons put together made him content to save trouble, and leave the doing of kindness to others.
Now, this morning, I shall leave you to make all the excuses you like about not helping the poor and aiding the hospitals, and when you have made them they will be as good as those which I have set before you. You have smiled over what the priest might have said, but if you make any excuses for yourselves whenever real need comes before you, and you are able to relieve it, you need not smile over your excuses the devil will do that; you had better cry over them, for there is the gravest reason for lamenting that your heart is hard toward your fellow creatures when they are sick, and perhaps sick unto death.
THE SAMARITAN IS A MODEL FOR THOSE WHO DO HELP THE AFFLICTED
This man was not of the household of faith. Ay, but he was a man: whether he was a Jew or not, he was a man, a wounded, bleeding, dying man, and the Samaritan was another man, and so one man felt for another man and came to his aid. Do not ask whether a sick man believes in the thirty-nine articles, or the Westminster Assembly’s catechism. You need not enquire whether he is a sound Calvinist, for an Arminian smarts when he is wounded. We are to relieve real distress irrespective of creed, as the Samaritan did. The Samaritan had not even seen him before. What did that matter? He was a man, and all men are akin. The Samaritan is neither saint nor official, but yet he steps in to do the deed. Oh, Christian brethren, take care that ye are not put to shame by this Samaritan.
He is a model to us next in the spirit in which he did his work. He did it without asking questions. The man was in need, he was sure of that, and he helped him at once; doing so without hesitation, and making no compact nor agreement with him, but at once proceeding to pour in the oil and wine. The Samaritan was personally benevolent, and therein he is a mirror and model to us all.
He did it without any selfish fear: the thieves might have been upon him, but he cared nothing for thieves when a life was in danger. Here is a man in want, and the man must be relieved, thieves or no thieves, and he does it.
This man helped his poor neighbour with great tenderness and care. He did the best he could. Brethren, let what we do for others always be done in the noblest style. Let us not treat the poor like dogs to whom we fling a bone, nor visit the sick like superior beings who feel that they are stooping down to inferiors when they enter their rooms; but in the sweet tenderness of real love, learned at Jesus’s feet, let us imitate this good Samaritan.
He took him to an inn, but he did not leave him at there and say, “Anybody will take care of him now,” but he went to the manager of the establishment and gave him money, and he said, “Take care of him.” I admire that little sentence, because it is first written, “he took care of him,” and next he said, “Take care of him.” What you do yourself you may exhort other people to do. He said, “I leave this poor man with you, pray do not neglect him. There are a great many people in the inn, but take care of him.” “Is he a brother of yours?” “No, I never saw him before.” “Well, are you at all under obligation to him?” “No!— yes, yes, I feel under obligation to everybody that is a man. If he wants help I am obliged to help him.” “Is that all?” “Yes, but do take care of him. I feel a great interest in him.”
WE HAVE A HIGHER MODEL than even the Samaritan — our Lord Jesus Christ. He was answering the question, “Who is my neighbour?” The Samaritan came to the wounded one because in the course of business he was led there, and, being there, he helped the man; but Jesus came to earth on no business but that of saving us, and He was found in our flesh that He might have sympathy with us. In the very existence of the man Christ Jesus you see the noblest form of pity manifested. He was slain for our sakes.
What the Samaritan gave to the poor man was generous, but it is not comparable to what the Lord Jesus has given to us. He gave him wine and oil, but Jesus has given His heart’s blood to heal our wounds: “He loved us and gave Himself for us.” The Samaritan lent himself with all his care and thoughtfulness, but Christ gave Himself even to the death for us. The Samaritan gave two pence, a large amount out of his slender store, and I do not depreciate the gift, but “He that was rich for our sakes became poor.”
The Samaritan did not stop long at the inn, for he had his business to attend to, and he very rightly went about it; but our Lord remained with us for a lifetime, even till He rose to heaven: yea, He is with us even now, always blessing the sons of men.
When the Samaritan went away he said, “Whatsoever thou spendest more I will repay thee.” Jesus has gone up to heaven, and He has left behind Him blessed promises of something to be done when He shall come again. He never forgets us.
Jesus has redeemed you, brought you into His church, put you under the care of His ministers, bidden us take care of you, and promised to reward us if we do so in the day when He comes. Seek, then, to be true followers of your Lord by practical deeds of kindness, and if you have been backward in your gifts to help either the temporal or the spiritual needs of men, begin from this morning with generous hearts, and God will bless you.
O Divine Spirit, help us all to be like Jesus. Amen.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) by CH Spurgeon dated 17 June 1877. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon at https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-good-samaritan/#flipbook/