In Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, he chose two cities: Jerusalem, the city of blessing, and Jericho, the city of the curse. David blessed Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6-9), but Joshua cursed Jericho (Joshua 6:26; cf. 1Kings 16:34). All three men in the parable, the victim, the priest and the Levite were leaving the city of blessing and journeying toward the city of the curse. This means that none of us is able to change his direction apart from Jesus. In Adam, we have been blessed with life by God, but, because of Adam’s rebellion (Genesis 3) we journey toward the curse of death due to our inherited sin nature.
The parable says that by chance both the priest and the Levite came by (Luke 10:31-32). The Scriptures teach, however, that there is no such thing as chance in the truest sense of the word. It is Divine Providence that knows when each sparrow falls or needs food (Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6). It was the providence of God that watched over Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:42-46). It was God working in the circumstances of Naomi and Ruth that put Ruth where they would be helped (Ruth 2:1-3). It is God who works in the circumstances of those in trouble and provides help. Nevertheless, man has been given free moral agency and may refuse to operate within the blessing of God. He may choose to pass by the love of God on his journey from blessing to that cursed place.
Both the priest and the Levite represent the inadequacy of the Law. The fact that the man was bleeding made him ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:1-33). If the priest or the Levite helped the man, or if the man died while they ministered to him, they would have become ceremonially unclean (Numbers 19:11-22; cf. Numbers 5:2) and would not have been able to enter any city nor perform their duties at the Temple for seven days. Yet, they were commanded to come to the aid of their brother in trouble (Deuteronomy 22:4; cf. Isaiah 58:6, 7). The demands of the Law and religion fail miserably to change any man from within.
Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews (John 4:9). They were hated and avoided, since the time of the Jews’ return from captivity and the trouble that occurred between them during that period (see the Biblical account in Ezra and Nehemiah). Jesus was accused of being a Samaritan (John 8:48), so he is the man who helps the victim in the parable. The Samaritan was not journeying from blessing to cursing; rather, it was “as he journeyed” that he came to where the man lay half dead (Luke 10:30, 33). He cared for him and took him to an inn. An inn is a place that accepts all, without discrimination—perhaps referring to the way our churches should be today.
Before the Samaritan left, he gave the innkeeper “two pence” which is two denarii. Two denarii are equal to half a shekel, which is the ransom money for a life (cf. Exodus 30:12-13). In a brief story, the Lord gave the redemption message to this scribe. When he was finished, Jesus again pointedly asked the lawyer: “which now of these three, do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The scribe could only say, “he that showed mercy.” he could do nothing else. In a moment, he unwittingly told all that could hear that the Law and those who practice the Law cannot give or find eternal life. The priest and the Levite, the scribe and the Pharisee were no better off than the Samaritans and the publicans, whom they hated. Jesus ended by saying: “Go and do likewise!” (Luke 10:37) or in other words, “Follow Me!”
Prophets and kings have desired to know what we understand. In our world, Jesus is a rejected Messiah. The world is unable to receive Him (John 14:17). The world desires life, but it doesn’t know how to receive life. Sometimes I look at my own life, and I really don’t see a whole lot of difference between my behavior and that of the priest and the Levite. I see a need, and I pass by. Someone needs the Lord, and I’m afraid of being rejected. I want to appear like everything is just fine, but I really need the Samaritan, just as much as anyone else in trouble needs him. We all need the Lord, but we need to be able to admit it, and I think Jesus waits for us to say so.