The Lord and the disciples were journeying southward through the country beyond Jordan. By and by they would cross the river, pass through the gardens of Jericho and come up the steep road to Bethany and Jerusalem. In the country beyond Jordan many people welcomed the Lord and were glad to listen to His teaching. The seventy disciples had passed that way, telling the people that the Lord was coming. Now a question asked by a teacher of the Jewish law, led to a beautiful lesson. "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" the man asked, and the Lord helped him to remember the two Great Commandments. Can we say them? (We have learned them from Mark 12:29-31.)
Then the man asked another question, "Who is my neighbor?" The Lord answered this question by a story of a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. This was the road which the Lord and the disciples would soon pass over on their way up from Jericho to Jerusalem. It led through desert country. It was lonely and travelers were sometimes attacked by thieves. So it was with the man in the story. Let us tell the story mostly in the Lord's very words; how the thieves stripped the poor man of his clothes, and wounded him, and left him half dead by the roadside. Now another traveler is coming down the road, a priest from the temple. Will he help the poor man in trouble? No, he saw him but went by on the other side. Now another man is coming, a Levite, one of the men who served with the priests in the temple. Will he help the poor man? No, he looked on him and passed by on the other side. But now came another traveler, a Samaritan, whom all the Jews despised. He stopped and helped, binding up the poor man's, wounds with oil and wine, setting him on his horse or donkey, and taking him to the inn, a shelter for travelers by the wayside; and there is one there today. There the Samaritan took care of the poor man and left money with the keeper of the inn to take care of him when he must leave. "Which now of these three thinkest thou," the Lord asked, "was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?" What should we say? The priest, the Levite, or the good Samaritan? And the Lord said, "Go and do thou likewise." There are people that we can help, old people on the street, children in school, the folks at home. "Go and do thou likewise."
Soon the Lord and the disciples were walking up this same road from Jericho, and they came to Bethany, the village on the Mount of Olives where Mary and Martha lived.
Show me on the map the country in which the Lord sent out the seventy disciples to towns that He soon would visit. They found simple kindly people, glad to receive the Lord. At this the Lord rejoiced. Read His words in verse 21. Read on to verses 23 and 24. How long the prophets had been promising the Lord's coming, and people had been expecting Him. Now He was here. The disciples were hearing His words and seeing His power.
Now the Lord's beautiful lesson in answer to the lawyer's question. Who is meant in the Gospels by a "lawyer"? What law did he study and teach? You can find the first Great Commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, and the second Great Commandment in Leviticus 19:18. The answer was right; but did the man stop to think what these laws mean and was he keeping them? Who is my neighbor? Someone tell the story of the Good Samaritan which the Lord told in answer to this question. Show on the map the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Tell about the priest; the Levite; the Samaritan. Remember how the Samaritans were despised by the Jews. (John 4:9) Someone sketch for us the inn: a yard with a wall about it, and at one end covered chambers. The penny (about fifteen cents) was a day's wages at that time. (Matthew 20:1-16) There could be only one answer to the question of which of the three was neighbor. (We keep the thought of kindness in our word "neighborly.") "Go and do thou likewise.". These few words make the whole lesson practical for the lawyer and for us. How can we do likewise, for we may never go over the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? But there are other roads and other places where people may be in trouble: in school, on the playground, even at home. Shall we hurry by or shall we help?
Traveling up the steep road from Jericho, before you come in sight of Jerusalem, you reach a little village on the slope of the Mount of Olives, where there are orchards of olive trees and figs. It was a quiet place, and the Lord often stayed there when He was in Jerusalem. There was a home in Bethany where they were glad to receive Him, the home of Martha and her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus. The Lord loved them all. He stopped at this home on the journey from Galilee. As I read the verses I seem to be standing at the open door and looking in. I see Martha making ready the supper and Mary sitting at the Lord's feet listening to His words. Both were showing their love for the Lord, but He told Martha that it is better to take a little time to listen quietly to Him; then when we do our work we shall not be anxious and troubled about it.
1. Who are the babes to whom things of heavenly wisdom are revealed?
2. Who is meant by the "lawyer" in verse 25; and what is meant by the "law" in verse 26?
3. What does the first Great Commandment tell us to do? What is the second Great Commandment?
4. What did the good Samaritan do? How can we do likewise? - We may never meet a poor man wounded by the wayside.
5. Who were the two sisters with whom the Lord stayed in Bethany? Who was their brother? What did the Lord do for him? What did Mary once do for the Lord?
Compare verse 21 with 1 Kings 3:7-12. (A. 3428, 8783)
You have the natural scene and story of the parable of the good Samaritan clearly in mind. We must think what it means in our lives. It tells of a journey, and a spiritual journey is a change, a progress from one state to another. What kind of state is meant by Jerusalem, and what by Jericho? Both were cities of the Holy Land, which represents in a general way heaven and a heavenly life. Jerusalem was the great city of the land; it stood high on the hills, the Lord's temple was there, and the people went up to Jerusalem from all parts of the land to worship. It represents a state of special nearness to the Lord, such as we may come into at holy times. Jericho was low down in the Jordan valley; it was also near the border of the land, the first town which the people took when they came from Egypt. It does not necessarily represent an evil state because it is low, but one that is natural and external, having to do with outward life in the world. Do you see now what the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho means? We take the journey when we turn from worship to practical life, from a Sunday to a weekday state. It is a road beset with many dangers. (E. 444, 458)
Who are the thieves who are likely to attack us on this journey? The poor traveler was stripped of his raiment and wounded. Clothing represents the thoughts and words and acts which give expression to the affections which are our real life. We are stripped of our clothing if we lose the true and innocent thoughts with which we started out. We are wounded when our affections are injured, when our good purposes and resolutions are forgotten. Then our spiritual life is half dead. (E. 240, 295; A. 5433)
Many people fall discouraged by the wayside. The parable shows how we ought not to feel and how we ought to feel toward them. The priest was intended to lead the people in loving service of the Lord and He stood as a type of love for the Lord in our hearts. A Levite represented love for the neighbor, which is a companion of love to the Lord and like unto it. But with the Jews the priests had become proud and selfish and represented rather self-love which too often takes the place of love for the Lord in us; and the Levite represented the love for the world, which takes the place of love of the neighbor. The priest and Levite saw the poor man, but passed by on the other side. Selfishness does not reach out kindly to help others, but shrinks into itself, and grows harder and meaner every day. (Isaiah 65:5) But the spirit of charity is self-forgetful and reaches out to others with real sympathy. This is represented by the Samaritan's going to the poor man to help him. What are the oil and the wine which must enter into every kind service? (R. 316; E. 962)
Beasts of burden which work faithfully for men represent our own powers of mental work, of thought and understanding. These faculties bring this and that knowledge and experience together as the beasts of burden carry natural things to the place where they will be useful. The Samaritan's setting the poor man on his own beast means helping according to our understanding. Taking him to an inn, Swedenborg tells us, means taking one to those who are able to help him more than we. Most of all in trying to help anyone, we must remember the Lord's great power and entrust him to His care. (E. 375)
The host in the highest sense is the Lord. It must always be our effort to bring one who is in trouble to the Lord and help him to trust His loving care. It is beautiful to think of a church as a spiritual hospice, an inn by the Jericho road, and its members busy helping travelers fallen and in trouble by the way. The two pence like the widow's two mites represent our own little ability of thought and affection which we ask the Lord to make useful.
It is good for little children to have kind impulses and to want to help everyone in trouble. (T. 426) As we grow older we must feel no less kind toward everyone, but we must grow wise in our ways of helping. The command is to love our neighbor, and the parable shows that it is the goodness, the kindness, the usefulness in each one which makes him a neighbor. This is what we must love in him and try to help, and we must help him to try to get rid of his idleness and other things that are bad. (T. 407, 428; N. 84-90; A. 6704-6712)
We recognize the two sisters Mary and Martha as types of love for the Lord - Martha more natural love and Mary more spiritual. Martha was full of service, but she was careful and troubled in her self-confident effort. The greater trustfulness and peace of Mary's love is represented by her sitting at the Lord's feet. If Martha could gain this trust it would take the care and trouble out of her service.