30 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.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 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.
35 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.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Lk. 10:30-37
Have you ever thought on forgiveness? Have you ever wondered why we need to forgive people, and especially those who have grievously hurt us?
There was a time when I thought that in the above story Jesus was referring to actual robbers. But one day the Lord opened my eyes to see that the story is beyond flesh and blood robbers. Instead, it is about people who have been robbed of something in the spirit realm.
In the spiritual world, the devil is the real robber and he robs men and women of the things of the heart. And when men have been robbed of the things of the heart, their hearts become empty and dark. They therefore become bitter, angry, hurting, and sinful.
But notice also that this scripture is talking about compassion, and mercy. When we are carrying selfish hearts we think about ourselves. As they say, we look out for No. 1 – our own interests, our own lives. When people therefore hurt us, we think of how much we have been hurt. But when we carry the heart of Christ, we think of the suffering and emptiness in those people’s souls. That is why we can forgive them. Compassion is the foundation upon which forgiveness rests.
God’s Kingdom is all about the heart. Therefore, in this parable, Jesus was talking about the heart, a compassionate heart.
Let us take the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. His was a very real and physical experience. After they had finished crucifying Jesus, His many tormentors did many other hurtful things to Him. But I believe it was the words that they spoke to Him that must have caused Him the greatest amount of pain. In the Gospel of Mark we read,
“29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. 31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. 32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.” Mk. 15:29-32
Now, remember that Jesus was as much flesh and blood as you and I. The words came at Him like barbed arrows, and they were intended to hurt Him. Do you know what it means for someone to wag their head at you? It means they utterly despise you. And – unless you are made of stone – it hurts. It hurts real bad.
But, y’know, the way we are, when we read these words, we think, “Oh, that’s easy. I could take that.”
But no; it is not easy, and no, you could not have taken it. The way we are today, few of us could have come to taking the hurt. Why? Because our lordship the flesh has not been crucified and therefore our personalities are bigger than the Lord Jesus Himself. The result? We trip at the tiniest slight upon our perceived rights and dignity!
But what did the Lord do? Did He get bitter? Did He feel degraded and vow they would pay for it? No. On the contrary, he saw the misery in their hearts, and had compassion on them. And in His mercy He prayed for them:
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Lk. 23:34
Jesus did not pray for His tormentors because “it is written”. On the contrary, His prayer was born of compassion, and mercy. By doing this, He revealed true love.
I can vouch for the fact that were it not for the nails holding Him up there, Jesus would have come down and even in His pain He would have held them all in His arms and – if only they would open their hearts – fill them to the brim with His grace. Did He not say so Himself? (see Mat. 23:37; Lk. 13:34)
Let us consider briefly the Apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered why Paul would write:
“1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Rom. 9:1-3?
Paul wrote this out of love. In his love for his fellow Jews, Paul would gladly have given up his place in Christ for them! Such a thought is unfathomable..
Lastly, let us take a look at Stephen. When the Jews stoned Stephen,
“… he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).
Did Stephen “copy” Jesus’s words at the cross? No. Stephen’s words came from the heart. Stephen had the heart of Jesus, a heart which had a limitless amount of love such that he could show mercy on his tormentors.
I once heard a preacher say, “Stephen asked God to forgive the Jews only this particular sin (of stoning him). They will answer for the rest!”
But those are vengeful words, and that is neither the heart of Christ, nor was it the heart that Stephen carried. Both Jesus and Stephen loved their persecutors, and they had mercy on them. If you love someone, you cannot ask God to forgive them only a specific sin and at the same time ask Him to make sure they pay for all their other sins!!
The story of the Good Samaritan is especially relevant in the case where a brother or sister has stumbled, or has wronged us. In both cases that we have reviewed above, God revealed His heart for the fallen Jews through the words that Jesus and Stephen spoke: “Forgive them”. His was a heart full of mercy.
In the same way, we ought to see deep into the heart of a brother who has stumbled and fallen. We ought to have a heart of mercy towards them. It is they who are actually suffering. They have been robbed of something; that is why they are doing what they are doing, even if they are doing it against us. We are called upon to lay down our lives for such brethren, if perchance they might arrive at a place of repentance.
It is in the same vein that we evangelize. We should not evangelize to fill up our churches. We should evangelize because we love people. The Apostle Paul says:
“For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14).
Paul did not say, “The law constrains us”. Unfortunately, for many people it is all about the law. It is about fulfilling a certain program. But law and programs have no power to bring life. They have no heart. That is why the priest and the Levite – who were men of law – could not help the wounded man. They were more dead than he.
Love is sensitive in the Spirit and it keenly feels, not its own pain, but the pain of others. It knows, not what it has been robbed of, but what others have been robbed of. The heart of God is a heart of compassion, compassion beyond belief. He can see deep into the miseries that men suffer.
But the even better news is that God has the perfect remedy for our suffering souls. He has given His life for us. He has paid the sacrifice for our deliverance. If we will only humble ourselves and cry to Him, He will give us the grace we need to be rich again in our spirits.
[Below: “Go… go and do thou likewise”]