Eighth Sunday of Luke
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
By Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria
25-28. And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said unto him, "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" And he answering said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." And He said unto him, "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."
This lawyer was not only arrogant and proud but also deceitful, as is shown by what follows. He comes to put the Lord to the test, and he imagined that he would trip the Lord by the answer which He gave. But the Lord leads him to the very law of which the lawyer boasted such great knowledge. See how precisely the law commands us to love God. Man is more perfect than all other created things, being in some respect like all created things, but in addition having something exceptional. For example, there is a part of man that is like stone, for he has hair and nails which are unfeeling, like a stone. And he is also in part like a plant, in that he grows and is nourished and engenders his own kind, just as plants do. He is in part like the irrational animals, in that he has emotions, and becomes angry, and desires. But unlike all other animals, he is also in part like God, in that he has a mind. Therefore the law teaches that man must give each and every part of himself entirely to God, and must expend all the forces of his life in loving God. When the law says, "with all thy heart," it speaks of that force of human life that is purely physical and organic, a force likewise present in plant life. When the law says, "with all thy soul," it speaks of that force of human life which feels, a force likewise present in animals. When the law says, "with all thy mind," it speaks of that power which is unique to man, the intellect. "With all thy strength" means that we must use all these powers to pull [our stubborn selves to God]. We must harness even the organic, plant-like force of our soul to the love of Christ. How? With strength, and not faintheartedly. We must also subject, with strength, the power of all our senses to the love of Christ. As for the power of our rational soul, this too we must subject with all our strength to the love of Christ. So then, we must give all of ourselves to God, and we must subject our biological powers, our sensory powers, and our intellectual powers to the love of God. "And thy neighbour as thyself." The law was not yet able to teach perfection on account of the spiritual immaturity of its listeners. Therefore the law urged a man only to love his neighbor as himself. But Christ taught man to love ones neighbor more than oneself. For He says, "Greater love hath no man than this, thata man lay down his life for his friends." [Jn. 15:13] Therefore He says to the lawyer, "Thou hast answered right." Since you are still subject to the law, you have answered correctly, for your thoughts are in accordance with the old law.
29-37. But he, wanting to show himself to be righteous, said unto Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" And Jesus answering said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And as it happened there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan journeyed and came to him: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said unto him, 'Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.' Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He that showed mercy on him." Then said Jesus unto him, "Go, and do thou likewise."
After the Saviour praised him, the lawyers pride and arrogance knew no bounds. That is why he said, "And who is my neighbour?" that is, "Who is close to me?" (1) He imagined himself to be righteous and thought that there was no one like him and that no one could come close to him in virtue. He imagined that a righteous man could have as "neighbor" only another righteous man. Therefore wanting to show himself to be righteous and superior to all men, he says haughtily, "And who is my neighbour?" But the Saviour as Maker of all, knowing that all men are one creation, defines neighbour not according to deeds or merits, but according to human nature. "Do not think," He says, "that just because you are righteous, no one is like you. All mankind shares the same nature and thus all men are your neighbors. Therefore, you too must be a neighbor to them and be near to all, not by location, but by the disposition of your heart and by your care for others. Therefore I present to you a Samaritan as an example, to show you that no matter how different or foreign he may have seemed, he was the neighbor of the one in need of mercy. You also must show yourself to be a neighbor by your compassion, and even unasked you must go to the help of others." Thus we learn from this parable to be always ready to show mercy and to make haste to be near those in need of our help. But this parable also teaches us the goodness of God towards man. It was our human nature that was going down from Jerusalem, that is, was descending from tranquillity and peace, for Jerusalem means vision of peace. Where was man descending? To Jericho, a place sunk down low and suffocating with heat, that is, to a life of passions. See that He did not say, "went down," but, "was going down." For fallen human nature is always inclined downwards, not just once of old, but continuously going down towards passionate life. And man fell among thieves, that is, among demons. For if a man did not come down from that high place where the spiritual mind rules, he would not fall among demons who strip the man, depriving him of his raiment of virtue, and then inflict the wounds of sin. They strip us of every good thought and of Gods protection, and when we are thus naked, they lay on the stripes of sin. They leave human nature half dead, that is, with a mortal body and an immortal soul. And human nature was left only half dead in the further sense that man did not lie completely in despair, but hoped to find salvation in Christ. Human nature had not yet been slain outright; though death had entered the world through Adams transgression, death was soon to be abolished by the righteousness of Christ. The priest and the Levite signify the law and the prophets, who desired to make human nature righteous, but were unable to do so. "For it is not possible," says Paul, "that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin." [Heb. 10:4] The law and the prophets took pity on man and sought to heal him. But they were defeated by the severity of the wounds of sin, and they passed into the past. This is what it means that they passed by. The law came and stood over the fallen man, but since it could not heal him, it turned away in revulsion and went on the other side. See that the words as it happened also have a certain spiritual meaning. For indeed the law was not given for the express purpose [of healing the wounds of sin, for Christ, not the law, was to be the healing of Adams wound]. Instead, the law was given [as a stopgap measure] on account of human weakness which could not immediately receive the mystery of Christ. This is why He says that it was as it happened, or, as we say, "by chance," and not intentionally, that the priest, signifying the law, came to heal the man. But our Lord and God, Who "for our sake was made a curse" [Gal. 3:13], and was called a Samaritan [Jn. 8:48], "journeyed to us," that is, His journey had as its very purpose and goal our healing. He did not just catch a glimpse of us as He happened to pass by: He actually came to us and lived together with us and spoke to us. Therefore He at once bound up our wounds. He no longer permitted wickedness to operate in us freely and at will, but He bound and restrained our sinfulness and poured on oil and wine. Oil is the word of teaching which exhorts us to virtue by the promise of good things; wine is the word of teaching leading us towards virtue by the fear of punishment. For example, when you hear the Lord say, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest" [Mt. 11:28], this is the oil of gladness and rest. And it is the same when He says, "Come ye and inherit the kingdom prepared for you" [Mt. 25:34]. But when He says, "Depart into darkness" [Mt. 25:30], this is the wine of sharp teaching which stings as it cleanses our wounds. You may also understand it this way: oil represents Christs human actions and wine represents His divine actions, for I may say that the Lord acted at times as a man and at times as God. When He ate and drank and relaxed, not displaying the austerity and asceticism of John the Forerunner, this is the oil. But His extraordinary fasting, His walking on the water, and all His mighty deeds of divine power, these are the wine. We can compare Christs divinity to wine, which no one could tolerate if it were poured onto a wound, unless it were tempered with oil, that is, accompanied by His humanity. Therefore, since Christ has saved us both by His divinity and by His humanity, this is why it is said that oil and wine were poured out. And at every baptism those who are baptized are delivered from wounds of the soul when they are chrismated with the oil of myrrh and then immediately commune of the divine Blood. The Lord lifted up our wounded nature upon His own beast of burden, namely, upon His own Body. For He made us members of Himself and communicants of His own Body; and when we were lying down, wounded, He raised us up to His own dignity, making us one Body with Himself. The inn is the Church, which receives all. (2) But the law did not receive all. For the law says, "the Ammanite and the Moabite shall not enter into the Church of God" [Dt. 23:3] But now, from every tribe and people, God accepts those who fear Him and who desire to believe and to become a member of Christs Body, the Church. God receives all, even sinners and publicans. See the preciseness of His expression, how He says that the Samaritan brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Before he brought him to the inn, he had only bound his wounds. What then am I saying? That when the Church had been established, becoming the inn which receives all, and was increased by the faith of nearly all peoples, then there were the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God was spread far and wide. You may learn this from the Acts of the Apostles. The innkeeper is a type and symbol of every apostle, teacher, and archpastor, to whom the Lord gave two pence, representing the two Testaments, Old and New. Just as both coins bear the image of the one king, so do both Testaments bear the words of the same God. When the Lord ascended into the heavens He left these two coins in the hands of the Apostles, and in the hands of the bishops and teachers of every generation. And He said to them, "And whatsoever thou spendest more of thine own, I will repay thee." Indeed the Apostles spent much more of their ownâ€”with great labors they sowed the word of teaching everywhere. And those teachers in each generation who have explained the Old and the New Testaments have also spent much of their own, for which they will be rewarded when the Lord returns at the second coming. Then may each of them say to him, "Lord, Thou gayest me two pence; behold, another two pence have I spent of mine own." And to him the Lord will answer, "Well done, thou good servant."
1. The Greek word for "neighbour" is plesios, and has the literal meaning "one who is close." The question, "Who is my neighbour?" in Greek sounds very much like, "Who is close to me?" The English word "neighbor" and its German cognate Nachbar, likewise refer to "one who is nigh," or near.
2. Pandocheion, "inn," has the literal meaning "that which receives all."