In view of the fact that both the priest and the Levite passed by the wounded man without helping him, it seems the reason for their lack of compassion was to remain ritually pure (cf. Numbers 19:11). However, ritual purity was unable to alter the course the priest and the Levite had taken. They were on the road to death, and nothing they could do or not do could prevent their attaining that goal. Jesus’ parable places the lawyer’s question into an illogical framework. Once he has left God (viz. living in Jerusalem, the city of blessing), he was unable to do anything, apart from God, to attain or inherit eternal life. He is cursed and will die no matter what he does or doesn’t do. In other words, mankind, no matter who he may be, is helpless.
The fourth traveler, on the other hand, is described as a Samaritan, who came to the man “as he journeyed” or traveled (Luke 10:33). At the Feast of Tabernacles, six months prior to the Passover, or the event Jesus wished to celebrate when he arrived at Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51), the Jewish authorities accused Jesus of being a Samaritan (cf. John 7:2, 10; 8:48). Ordinarily, Samaritans and Jews have no dealings with one another (cf. John 4:9), however, the implication in the Scriptures is that Jesus is the “certain Samaritan” in the parable (Luke 10:30-37).
According to Luke 10:33, the Samaritan was simply on a journey. The text doesn’t say from where he was coming or to where he was going. He simply arrived at the place where the dying traveler lay. Nevertheless, although the Samaritan is describe by Luke as a man on a journey, and it was unknown from where he came or to where he went (cf. John 8:14), Jesus later tells us in the fourth Gospel that he has come from God and goes to God (John 13:3; 16:28).
Unlike the priest and the Levite (Luke 10:31-32), the Samaritan was filled with compassion for the dying man (Luke 10:33; cf. 31-32). First he tended to the man’s wounds, after which the Samaritan placed the wounded man upon his own beast. Then, he took the man to an inn and cared for him there, and, before leaving him on the next day, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper two denarii, the equivalent of two days wages in the first century AD, and told him to care for the man. A denarii would have been sufficient for the expense of the man’s care for 12 to 14 days. So, the Samaritan left sufficient funds for the wounded man’s care for nearly a month. Moreover, if the innkeeper spent any of his own funds upon the man, the Samaritan said he would repay him upon his return.
The man who fell among thieves in the parable (Luke 10:30) represents the lawyer in its near fulfillment, and us in its far fulfillment. The lawyer had admitted that he knew the truth (Luke 10:27), but he seems to have been influenced, probably through rabbinical discussion, to make the word of God of no effect by receiving traditions of men, whom he admired, and he embraced those human traditions as true (cf. Mark 7:13). That is, the lawyer thought he could actually do what God commands without pleading for God’s help. The lawyer’s thoughts and attitude are seen in that he sought to modify Scripture to the point where he believed he could successfully be obedient (cf. Luke 10:25, 29). However, If man is able to attain eternal life through his own works, God is unnecessary. Whenever we believe we are able to be obedient or able to attain righteousness through our own efforts, we make a relationship with God a pointless matter.
This idea or doctrine comes out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4-5). Believing that we can be righteous by simply obeying a law (of any kind), embraces the idea that we have power or authority over the tree of knowledge of good and evil (cf. Genesis 3:22-23). We don’t! We have never had such power or authority, nor shall we ever without a relationship with God. God has placed man in authority over all God has created, but God retains the right to rule man’s heart. Therein lay the value of our relationship with God. We are unable to properly rule or understand the world, which has been placed under our authority, until we acknowledge God in our lives. The Lord is our Guide, who gives us a proper understanding of good and evil.
Jesus asked the lawyer to tell him who in the parable acted as a neighbor to the victim, who lay wounded and dying. The prejudice of the lawyer, however, wouldn’t allow him say the Samaritan acted as neighbor to the man. Rather, he merely said “he who showed mercy” acted as neighbor to the wounded man. Jesus then told the lawyer to do as the Samaritan did, not meaning to say that mere acts of mercy would attain eternal life for us, but, rather, follow the Samaritan / Jesus, which would lead to eternal life.