Jesus said that the whole point of the law and the prophets was this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, He illustrates the need to demonstrate His love for others by caring for their physical needs. This parable also provides symbolism that helps us to understand the deepest spiritual needs of a human being.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho”: Jerusalem means “the teaching of peace,” or “the city of peace,” and it represents the Kingdom of Heaven. The name Jericho means “fragrant.” This once fragrant city really stunk. It had become corrupted and it represents this fallen world. Each of us enters this world as a marvelous creation of God, fearfully and wonderfully made with a special destiny and a purpose. This man represents all who have been mistreated, harmed and abused. He can represent anyone who has been cast down in the ditches of life or he can even represent a believer who has come into the Presence of God and gone out into this fallen world to carry the good news and then been despised, rejected and beaten down.
“and fell into the hands of thieves. They stripped him, beat him up and fled, leaving him half dead.” The church father Origen associated the thieves with hostile powers. I agree. Scripture refers to Satan as a thief, saying that “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I am come that they may life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). We are told “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” –Ephesians 6:12 The thieves represent evil and the good Samaritan represents Jesus, restoring life and health to the one who was hurt. The fact that they stripped and beat him, shows that they did not honor or recognize his basic human dignity as someone created in God’s image. Robes represent authority and this shows how spiritual forces of evil try to steal authority that does not belong to them. Robes represent being clothed in righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and this shows how the enemy will try to steal away our dignity and our birthright. This text not only reveals the compassion God has on those who have suffered physical pain and trauma in this world, but it also represents the type of mental and spiritual abuse that is inflicted on our hearts and minds and shows us that we are all in need of healing.
“A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” The Priest represents legalism. He represents the Pharisees and the idea of being so wrapped up in our own selves that we cannot minister to others. Those of us who are believers have been made free so that we can focus on others, knowing that we are justified before God. The priest is an excellent representation of the Law. Since the man was left for dead, it is likely that he passed by on the other side of the road to avoid touching an unclean dead body, as he was probably going to Jerusalem to serve in the temple and did not wish to become ritually unclean. He is a perfect picture of the paradox of the Pharisees interpretation of the Law. A priest who was meant to minister to God and the people, failing to see the real reason behind the Law, neglecting the weightier matters such as helping someone in distress (Luke 11:42).
“In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” The Levite represents someone who has abdicated his authority. The Levites were priests by right, but he did not take this opportunity to minister to the man in need. Now, all believers are priests and the responsibility of caring for others has been given to us all. (1 Peter 2:9) We are all, as priests, meant to be representatives of Jesus. We are all meant to be good Samaritans. We are all, as believers, meant to protect people from thieves. The truth is, that Jesus, has called upon us to do good works and to meet people’s needs to show our love for them and to show His love for them and to draw them to repentance. His kindness is meant to lead to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Jesus cares about physical needs:
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ’Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical NEEDS, what good is it?” -James 2:15-16
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is No More NEED” -Malachi 3:10
“But a Samaritan on His journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.” One of the most fundamental aspects of God’s character is His compassion. Over and over again the Bible says “Adonai is gracious and compassionate/merciful, slow to anger, and overflowing with faithful lovingkindness.” Psalm 103:8
“He went over to him and bandaged his wounds.” This passage shows how Jesus comes to find us where we are. While He will always be there when we cry out to Him for help, many times we need help and are so messed up by the world we don’t know it, or don’t seek Him. In these times, He comes to us.
“We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.…” (1 John 4:19-20)
God has shown us love and compassion and so we should show it to others. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. The literal meaning of this passage should be obvious, that we are to care about the physical needs of others, but the spiritual meaning is equally important. Psalm 147:2-3 tells us:
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:2-3)
Jerusalem represents the Kingdom of Heaven, this passage is about building the kingdom by gathering those who have been cast aside or separated from God’s people, who have been hurt or ignored by God’s people and by caring for their spiritual needs and spiritual wounds as well as physical ones.
“…pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out 2 coins, gave them to the innkeeper and said “Take care of him” For anyone who has ever been mistreated, abused, or cast down into the ditches of life, this passage brings hope. The oil and the wine represent the Holy Spirit and communion with Christ. The oil represents God's power to strengthen our bodies to heal our broken hearts and to renew and restore our troubled minds. The wine represents the sweet communion of a restored relationship with Jesus, the ability to pray and talk with God, to worship and be in a right standing before Him. It represents the friendship He earnestly desires to have with us. These elements represent ministering to those who are lost, those who are still in the ditches, this is about meeting physical needs in love, but this must be done in the context of meeting their deeper spiritual needs. We need to wash them with the water of the word and bring them to Jesus who can heal their souls. The coins represent tithing to continue providing for people’s physical needs so that we can meet their spiritual needs. The inn represents bringing people into a spiritual house such as a church to be cared for and healed. It is sad that the priest and the Levite did not take the man to the temple to be cared for. This inn represents the true church and how it should be a place of healing and restoration.
“When I come back, I’ll repay you for whatever extra you spend.” The Samaritans promise to return represents the way that we should follow up, both with those who are physically ill AND with those who are newly saved. We need to have continuing fellowship and discipleship and contact with those who have just come out of the ditches of life. We need to faithfully teach them the word, continue to work for their physical and spiritual healing and then equip them to go out and help others. This also represents the way that Jesus rewards us for our good works
Ultimately, this whole parable is about being Jesus’ representative and showing others what He is really like by caring for them and meeting physical needs. That is the Literal meaning of this passage. The Spiritual or symbolic meaning in this passage is that caring for physical needs is used as a metaphor to present a picture of how we are meant to care for spiritual needs.
The passage ends with a commission. Jesus asked the question: “Which of these men proved to be a neighbor?” Who loved his neighbor as himself? The answer was “The one who showed mercy to him.” Jesus sends us out with these words:
“Go and do the same.”
So, What’s the Take-Away? The parable ends with a commission. We have been sent out to be good Samaritans in this world. It is my hope that each reader will be able to minister to both the practical and spiritual needs of others by applying three principles taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
1. God cares for physical and practical needs (and so should we)
If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:16
2. Meeting physical needs paints a picture of meeting spiritual needs
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
Bandaging the man’s wounds represents bringing a person to Jesus and pouring on oil and wine represent the Holy Spirit’s healing work in our lives.
3. Everyone needs spiritual covering and protection
Bringing the man into the inn to be cared for by the innkeeper represents bringing a person with spiritual needs into the church to be cared for and covered by the spiritual protection of that house.
For Believers: List 3 practical ways that you can show Jesus’ love in your community by meeting practical and physical needs of others. How do these activities mirror the way we meet the spiritual needs people experience? How do these practical steps help build bridges to unbelievers?
For Seekers: Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is desperately sick, or foot-tracked. It paints a picture of Satan crossing every boundary, breaking every rule to viciously attack us at the core of who we are, our mind, our will and our emotions. It’s as if he has grabbed our heal, relentlessly pulled us down and then stomped all over our souls. Will you allow God to help you up? If you’ve never asked Jesus to come into your life, that is the first step. Allow Him to bring healing, restoration, renewal and peace. Seek a church where you can learn and grow in a safe atmosphere.