The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

1. The meaning and acceptance of the kingdom message, 9:51-10:42

v] Who inherits eternal life?


Jesus is approached by a legal expert in Biblical law who asks what a person must do to gain eternal life. As a discussion-starter Jesus asks the theologian what he thinks the scriptures say on the matter. The theologian gives the standard answer, "love God, love neighbor." Jesus replies "Indeed, do this and you will live." Yet, here lies the problem, doing God's law is no easy matter, but it does help if our neighbor belongs to a select group of people we like. So, the theologian asks Jesus "who is my neighbor?" Jesus doesn't actually answer the theologian's question (eg. my neighbor is even my enemy), rather he illustrates in a teaching parable what it means to love "your neighbor as yourself"; he illustrates the nature of selfless love, of neighborliness. Selfless love asks "not who is qualified for my help? But, what need can I meet?", Danker.


Jesus exposes the impossible perfection of God's law and thus the truth that "God can only relate to a person who, having lost self-confidence, humbles himself in repentance", Ellis.


i] Context: See 9:51-56. The parable of the Good Samaritan is the fifth episode in a group of six dealing with the meaning and acceptance of the kingdom's message, 9:51-10:42. The long awaited kingdom of God has dawned in the person of Jesus. God, in his kindness has freely offered entry into the kingdom and all we need to do is ask Jesus. This offer from God is proclaimed for all to hear, 10:1-20, and those who believe are blessed, 10:21-24. Yet beware, kingdom membership is neither maintained nor progressed by obedience to the law, for who can love as the Good Samaritan loved?


ii] Structure: This passage, Who inherits eternal life? presents as follows:

A legal question on inheriting eternal life, v25-28:

The scribe's question, v25;

"what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus' question, v26;

"what is written in the Law?"

The scribe's reply, v27;

love God, love neighbor.

Jesus' response, v28;

"do this and you will live."

A legal question on the application of God's Law, 29-37:

The scribe's second question, v29:

"who is my neighbor?"

Jesus' response, v30-35:

The teaching parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus' question, v36:

"which of these ..... was neighborly ...."

The scribe's reply, v37a:

"the one who had mercy on him."

Jesus' reply, v37b:

"go and do likewise."


iii] Interpretation:

A superficial reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan leaves us with an ethical imperative (be a good Sam) rather than a declaration of judgment (go and do likewise (if you can!) ). Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, within the context of hearing and doing God's word, confronts the "expert in the law" with the full weight of God's law and thus leaves him without excuse. It is only through the apostle Paul, the inspired exegete of Jesus, that we can properly understand Jesus' teachings, here in particular, the function of the law to expose sin and thus drive the righteous to rest on faith for God's mercy. For Paul, covenant compliance / right-standing before God, is neither maintained nor advanced by obedience to the law, but is a gift of grace appropriated through faith in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Faith incorporates the believer in Christ, in his faithfulness (the cross) and his vindication (his resurrection). Thus, a believer stands approved before God, not by works of the law, but as a gift of divine grace through the instrument of faith. In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus confronts the expert in the law with the simple fact that eternal life is not secured by law-righteousness. Our lawyer friend is going to have to find another way - maybe the example of Abraham will help! Faith? One thing is clear, doing "likewise" is out of the question; the be a good Sam pathway is beyond the best of us. Thankfully, unlike the lawyer, the reader is provided with a clue in the following story of Martha and Mary. There is the pathway of business, of doing, "serving", but the "better portion" is found "at the Lord's fee and listening to his teaching."

It should be noted that the above interpretation is not widely accepted. It sits broadly within a reformed tradition, but is shaped by the view that Second Temple Judaism is nomistic rather than legalistic. For a religious Jew of the first century, law-obedience served to maintain covenant standing, not gain covenant standing. For an excellent exposition of this passage from a purely reformed tradition see Hendriksen, Luke, Banner of Truth, p596. Still, not many commentators accept that the parable of the Good Samaritan is a commentary on the law - its function to expose sin and promote dependence on grace.

So, this passage exposes the heresy of nomism, a heresy that had infested second temple Judaism. Religious Jews of the day believed that by obedience to the law they were able to perfect their standing before God and thus guarantee their place in the kingdom. Yet, the faithful application of Mosaic law, for someone possessing covenant standing, does not serve as the way to access the promised blessings of the covenant / the promised fullness of life under God, rather the law of the Sinai covenant serves primarily to expose sin, inculcating a divine curse and thus forcing a reliance on the basis of covenant standing established in the Abrahamic covenant, namely faith. The law serves to expose human corruption and its consequence, divine judgment, and thus forces the child of God to rest on divine mercy. The "expert in the law" was obviously dulled to this function of the law, since he saw himself as a good law-keeper, although he did have a minor theological concern which he felt Jesus may be able to help him with. Yet, this religious Jew did not need a legal definition for "neighbor", he needed to act in a neighborly way (with mercy) to inherit eternal life. The problem was he had never loved as the Samaritan loved, nor could he. Therefore, he stood under the condemnation of God and was in dire need of divine mercy. "Jesus deliberately shock the lawyer by forcing him to consider the possibility that a semi-pagan foreigner might know more about the love of God than a devout Jew blinded by preoccupation with pettifogging rules", Caird.


A survey of interpretations offered on the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

• Allegorical interpretations by the Fathers, eg. the Samaritan is Jesus and he is to be loved by sinners (the man attacked by thieves) as the neighbor who saves. Such interpretations are now mostly discounted, although ref. Gerhardsson The Good Samaritan - The Good Shepherd? who argues that Jesus is the good shepherd who binds up Israel's wounds;

• An authorization of the Old Testament as a final authority in matters of faith;

• "Righteousness and salvation are not the exclusive privilege of the Jew", Plummer;

• An exposition and application (in terms of discipleship) of the law of love, Deut.6:5, Lev.19:18. "Love of the neighbor is to know no bounds or boundaries", Evans - "go and do likewise" = "go forth and live a life of true love to God and to your fellow-man through the power I give you", Geldenhuys. The answer to the theologian's question serves to make the point that love of God = "to accept what God in his grace has done and to trust in him", Stein / "engagement with his (Jesus') teachings", Nolland, and love neighbor = "love of neighbor flows out of a radical love of God", Green, which commandments "Jesus' followers must obey .... in order to inherit eternal life", Marshall. "The point we learn, is not who deserves to be cared for but rather the demand to become a person who treats everyone encountered - however frightening, alien, naked or defenseless - with compassion..... One must take the same risks with one's life and possessions that the Samaritan did!", Johnson, so also Creed, Gooding, Leaney, Danker, Evans, Nolland, Bock, Marshall, Fitzmyer, Green, Tinsley (I fully accept that the parable serves as a powerful guide for Christian living, but that's not Jesus' purpose, so when the parable is used as a basis for discipleship instructions it can only lead to guilt-laden pharisaism - we live by grace, not law!).

• The law is self-defeating, particularly with regard ritual defilement, cf. Jeremias, Parables (The issue is certainly the law, or more particularly our inability to keep it!)


iv] Synoptics:

The parable is unique to Luke, but the initial discussion on the law finds parallels in Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 10:25

Who inherits eternal life?, v25-37. i] A legal question on inhibiting eternal life, v25-28. "An expert in the law" asks how to gain "eternal life". He is a theologian, and wants to engage with Jesus on the mother of all issues.

idou "on one occasion" - behold. Introducing a new episode.

nomikoV (oV) "an expert in the law" - A person trained in the interpretation and application of Biblical law.

ekpeirazwn (ekpeirazw) pres. par. "to test [Jesus]" - testing, tempting. The participle here is usually treated as adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to test him", but possibly attendant circumstance, "stood up and tested him", in the sense of putting a test question to Jesus. Not necessarily a question that tempts Jesus to say something incriminating, or testing him in a negative way. Johnson argues for a "hostile" intent, possibly "challenges", but the question seems anything but hostile, possibly even "friendly", Marshall, so Plummer.

legwn (legw) "he asked" - saying. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the testing; "he stood up and tested him, saying, ...."

poihsaV (poiew) aor. part. "[what] must I do" - [what] having done [will I inherit eternal life]. The participle is adverbial, instrumental, expressing means; "I will inherit eternal life by doing what?" = "what do I have to do to obtain a share in eternal life?" Cassirer.

zwhn aiwnion "eternal life" - "Life" in the sense of "life in the land of Israel" as part of the covenantal promise is certainly common to the Old Testament, but "life in the age (to come)", the eschatological promised new age, did not emerge until the later prophets, eg. Dan.12:2. It is very likely that the question concerns "life" in all its fullness, the full appropriation of all the promised covenantal blessings both now, and then (at the resurrection of the righteous).


Jesus asks him what he thinks the scriptures say on the issue.

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "is written" - has been written. This passive perfect is commonly used of scripture, of what has been written and is still relevant. Jesus is asking for a scriptural answer to the question and certainly not the recitation of tradition, cf. Plummer.

en + dat. "in [the law]" - Expressing space/sphere.

twV "how" - Establishing an interrogative clause.

anaginwskeiV (anaginwskw) pres. "do you read it" - do you read. In the sense of "understand"; "what does your reading tell you?", Rieu.


The theologian thinks the answer lies in keeping God's law, summarized in the command to love God and love neighbor. Elsewhere in the synoptics Jesus states this summary of the law, here it comes from a Jewish expert on the law and Jesus agrees with it. The two parts consist of the Shema, Deut.6:5, and Lev.19:18a. Both parts are idealistic and therefore beyond even the most faithful child of God. If "life" in all its fullness depends of the doing of the law then the temptation for reductionism is always going to be present. This temptation prompts the theologian's next question, a question which attempts to limit those who are neighbor, cf. Danker, Bock, Marshall.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "he answered" - answering [he said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he said". A common phrase.

agaphseiV (agapaw) fut. "love" - you will love. Imperatival (volitive) future tense.

sou gen. pro. "your [God]" - The genitive sou, "you", with "heart", "soul", etc. is obviously possessive, "your heart", etc. but with "God" it is serving as a genitive of subordination; "the Lord God over us."

ek + gen. "with [all your heart]" - from. Expressing the source of the love, although best translated in English as NIV.

kardiaV (a) "heart" - Referring to the seat of intellect, not emotion, although the individual parts listed are not to be divided but rather serve to define an allegiance and devotion of the whole person to God.

en + dat. "with [all your soul]" - in [all the soul of you]. Here with an instrumental sense expressing means, as NIV.

wV "[love your neighbor] as [yourself]" - as. Establishing a comparison, "as you would love yourself." "The neighbor is to be trusted with the love we have for ourselves", Danker.


Jesus agrees, "Do this and you will live". A person's standing in the kingdom of God is guaranteed if they keep the whole law.

autw/ dat. pro. "[Jesus replied]" - [he said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

poiei (poiew) pres. imp. "do [this]" - The present tense is durative expressing continued action. The imperative takes the force of a condition; "if you do this", TH.

zhsh/ (zaw) fut. "you will live" - The "live" obviously as v25, "eternal life", but still "life in all it's fullness" = the promised new life of covenant membership.


ii] A legal question on the application of God's law, v29-37: The theologian, wanting to confirm his righteous-standing in the sight of God, raises the thorny issue of "who is my neighbor?" He just wants to check on the details, especially as his standing in the kingdom may depend on identifying who rightly deserves his love. Of course, it's the wrong question.

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative.

oJ ... qelwn (qelw) pres. part. "he wanted" - the one wishing, wanting. The participle may function as a substantive, "the one/man who wanted / wished", but more likely adverbial, causal, "but he, because he wanted to justify himself, said."

dikaiwsai (dikaiow) aor. inf. "to justify [himself]" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal sense of the participle "wanting". This word provides the motive behind the theologian's question, but even so, the motive remains unclear. The sense here may be quite general, "to vindicate": "to show how expert he was", Barclay. Yet, it is unlikely that such a highly charged theological word would be used so lightly, so better "wishing to put himself in the right", Cassirer. He wants, for himself (rather than "before men", 16:15), to establish/confirm a recognition of covenant inclusion / covenant acceptance, and this by making sure he had clearly defined those to whom he has an obligation of love.

kai "and [who is my neighbor?]" - Here serving to introduce a subsequent question in the discussion and so best left untranslated. As noted above, this question, "who qualifies for my help?", is the wrong question and so Jesus does not bother answering it. What Jesus does do is illustrate what it means to love "your neighbor as yourself", what it means to be neighborly. Given that the theologian wants to stand right before God and so possess the fullness of covenant life, then it is essential that he understand the nature of neighborliness.


As if answering the theologian's question, Jesus tells the story of a man attacked by thieves, v30-35. Religious Jews, who see the wounded man on the side of the road, fail to show mercy, probably for good religious reasons (eg. the prohibition on touching a corpse). Yet, the Samaritan shows mercy, and that to a man who is probably a Jew.

uJpolabwn (uJpolambanw) aor. part. "in reply" - having replied. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said". "Continuing the discussion Jesus said."

katebainen (katabainw) imperf. "was going down" - The imperfect is durative, expressing the action of traveling. The "going down" expresses movement from a high place to a low place, the low place being Jericho. In Australia going down to somewhere represents a movement from North to South.

apo + gen. "from [Jerusalem]" - Expressing separation.

periepesen (peripiptw) aor. "fell" - he encountered, fell among, was surrounded. "Fell into the hands of brigands", Rieu .

lhstaiV (hV ou) dat. "[fell into the hands of / when he was attacked by] robbers" - [fell among] thieves, robbers, highwaymen, brigands. The dative is possibly instrumental, as TNIV, but more correctly a dative of direct object after the verb peripiptw.

oi} kai "-" - This construction "is without apparent significance", Zerwick, so NIV, although BAGD argues that it reinforces the independence of a relative clause, lit. "who also having stripped him", "who, as you would expect, .....", Creed, "who went so far as to ...", Nolland, "who, in addition to other violence, ...", Plummer.

ekdousanteV (ekduw) aor. part. "they stripped [him]" - having stripped. As with "having inflicted [blows]", the participle is adverbial, possibly temporal; "after they stripped ... and beat him they went away."

afenteV (afihmi) aor. part. "leaving [him half dead]" - having left [half dead]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their leaving; "left him half conscious lying in a pool of his own blood", Junkins.


kata sugkurian "happened" - according to chance. An idomatic expression meaning "by coincidence", TH; "it so happened", Phillips.

katebainen (katabainw) imperf. "to be going down" - was coming down. The imperfect is durative expressing the action of travelling. "The road drops 3,300 feet in 17 miles", Evans.

en th/ oJdw/ "the [same] road" - on/in/ [that] way. An idomatic expression meaning "on the road." "The road was notorious for its hazards", Danker.

idwn (oJraw) aor. part. "when he saw [the man]" - having seen [him]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

antiparhlqen (antiparercomai) aor. "he passed by on the other side" - The aorist expresses punctiliar action. It is only a story, but the reason for this action is usually taken as fear of the robbers, or fear of defilement from a corpse.


oJmoiwV de kai "so too" - and likewise also. "And in the very same way", TH.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "-" - having happened. Variant, cf. Metzger, 152. The participle would be adjectival, attributive, limiting "a Levite", "who happened [on the scene/place, and having gone and taken a look]", cf. Zerwick. If the longer reading is accepted, the actions of the Levite are more heartless than the priest because "he came up to him, quite close, and passed on", Plummer.

kata + acc. "to [the place]" - to, up to [the place]. This preposition takes a spacial sense here of direction toward; "up to."

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "when he came [to the place and saw him] / when he saw [the man]" - having come [and having seen]. The participle, as with idwn, "having seen", is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. Note the improved rendering by the TNIV.


oJdeuwn (oJdeuw) pres. part. "as he traveled" - traveling. The participle is possibly adverbial, temporal, as NIV, but better adjectival, attributive, limiting "a Samaritan", "who was travelling"; "a Samaritan traveller", Moffatt.

kat (kata) + acc. "[came] where [the man was]" - [came] up to / upon [him]. Again this preposition takes a spacial sense here.

idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when he saw him" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

esplagcnisqh (esplagcnizomai) aor. pas. "he took pity on him" - he was filled with compassion, deeply moved with pity. The aorist is punctiliar; "he was instantly moved with compassion."


kai "-" - Coordinative.

proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "he went to him" - having approached. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he bound up [his wounds]", as NIV.

epicewn (epicew) pres. part. "pouring on [oil and wine]" - pouring on. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of attending to his wounds; "bound up, pouring on as he bound, oil and wine", Plummer. Oil was used on wounds as a liniment, while wine (alcohol) was used as an antiseptic.

epibibasaV (epibibazw) aor. part. "then he put [the man on his own donkey]" - having put on. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV. "He then put him on his own pack animal", Cassirer.

pandoceion (on) "an inn" - a public inn. A hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT.

epemelhqh (epimeleomai) aor. pas. "took care of" - cared for. The picture presented in the parable is of the Samaritan taking the man to the inn, staying the night with him to care for him (rather than just dumping him there) and paying for ongoing care the next day. "As a neighbor, the Samaritan did everything he could", Bock.

autou gen. pro. "him" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "cared for."


epi thn aurion "the next day" - upon the next. Here the preposition with the accusative of time forms "an unusual phrase", Evans, cf. Plummer, "towards the morrow."

ekbalwn (ekballw) aor. part. "he took out" - having taken out. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he gave"; "he took out .... and gave ...."

tw/ pandocei (uV ewV) "to the innkeeper" - Dative of indirect object.

autou gen. pro. "[look after] him" - Genitive of direct object after the verb epimelhqhti, "take care of."

en tw/ + inf. "when [I return]" - This construction, the preposition en with the dative articular infinitive, forms a temporal clause; "I shall pay you back when I am on my journey home", Cassirer.

soi dat. pro. "[I will reimburse] you" - [I will repay] you. Dative of indirect object.

o{ ti an + subj. "any extra expense [you may have]" - whatsoever [you spend further]. This construction forms an indefinite relative conditional clause 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "whatever, as the case may be, you spend in addition, then I will repay you."

egw "I" - Emphatic by position and use.


Jesus asks "who was neighborly?", ie. who in the story acted with love, acted with mercy? Of course, this is the right question.

The syntax of this verse is somewhat tricky. Culy identifies the main verb as dokei, "seems", taking as its subject the interrogative pronoun tiV, "who?"; lit. "who seems to you of the three to have become neighborly to the one having fallen into the robbers." The infinitive gegonenai, "to have become", introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "seems", namely, "to have become neighborly = that which is neighborly." Some translations have assumed a ellipsis, eg. ESV; "which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor ....." "Which of these three proved [himself] to have become [by what he had done (Meyer)], neighborly" = "proved himself to be neighbor", Cassirer; "proved himself neighbor", NJB, Knox; "proved a neighbor", Moffatt; or simply "was really neighbor", Berkeley.

tiV "which" - who. This interrogative pronoun serves to introduce a question.

toutwn twn triwn gen. "of these three" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

dokei (dokew) pres. "[do you] think" - seems [to you]. Here taking a dative pronoun soi, dative of direct object. "Which of these three, in your opinion", Moffatt.

gegonenai (ginomai) perf. inf. "was" - to have become. For the infinitive, see above. The tense is interesting suggesting that the Samaritan became, and continued to be, neighborly in his compassionate actions.

plhsion adv. + gen. "a neighbor" - neighborly. The adverb, rather than the noun is intended, as the adverb takes a genitive, here the participle tou empesontoV, "the one having fallen in." The twist in Jesus' illustration comes out at his point. The theologian asked "who is my neighbor?". Jesus ignores the question and asks the more important question, "who was neighborly?" This, of course, is the nub of the issue. The full blessings of covenant life rest on doing neighborly love, of showing mercy as the Samaritan showed mercy.

tou empesontoV gen. aor. part. "to the man who fell [into the hands of robbers]" - of the one having fallen [into the thieves]. The participle functions as a substantive, genitive after the adverb plhsion.


The theologian rightly identifies the neighborliness of the Samaritan. The difficulty lies with Jesus' command, "you go and do likewise." The trouble is, the theologian could never do likewise, for who can claim to love as the Samaritan loved? This being the case, the lawyer is reminded that his right-standing in the sight of God and thus his possession of life in all its fullness, cannot rest on his own self-righteousness. Thankfully, the gospel reminds us that although righteousness cannot be earned, it can be ours in Jesus.

oJ poihsaV (poiew) aor. part. "the one who had" - the one having done. The participle functions as a substantive. Plummer notes that the theologian cannot bring himself to use the designation "Samaritan". At any rate, the use of the descriptive "mercy" is far more powerful in that it encapsulates neighborly love. The expression is Semitic and reflects scripture, eg. Mic.6:8. As God is gracious and merciful to his people, so his people should be gracious and merciful.

to eleoV met + gen. "mercy on [him]" - This Semitic idiomatic prepositional phrase takes the sense "to show mercy to."

su " [go and do likewise]" - [go and] you [do likewise]. The pronoun is emphatic by position and use; "you yourself do likewise." The imperative verb, poiei, "do" takes the present tense, durative, so the command is "you yourself adopt the Samaritan's way of behaving/doing and keep on doing it." Here we have the punch line of the episode, not so much as a command to do, but more a reality check, for who can claim that they have any chance whatsoever of doing "likewise"? Many a sermon has placed this obligation on the congregation, leaving them to wrestle with failure and guilt. Those who have decided not to give up because it's all too hard, usually develop a sophisticated guilt-transferance system identified by Jesus as speck removal - the exposure of another's sins to effectively cover our own. So, what we have in this episode is the use of of a moral ideal to expose the state of human sin and so prompt the search for divine mercy. In Jesus, that search comes to fruition.


Luke Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]