Life and Times of Jesus
Section 4, Part 3

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Seventy sent to announce Jesus
Parable of the Good Samaritan
A special visit to Bethany


In studying the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (and later that of the Good Samaritan), we must once more remind ourselves of the general canon of the need of distinguishing between what is essential in a Parable, as directly bearing on its lessons, and what is merely introduced for the sake of the Parable itself, to give point to its main teaching.

In the present instance, no sober interpreter would regard of the essence of the Parable the King's command to sell into slavery the first debtor, together with his wife and children. It is simply a historical trait, introducing what is analogous circumstances might happen in real life, in order to point the lesson, that a man's strict desert before God is utter hopeless, and eternal ruin and loss.

Similarly, when the promise of the debtor is thus introduced: 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' it can only be to complete in a natural manner the first part of the Parabolic history and to prepare for the second, in which forbearance is asked by a fellow-servant for the small debt which he owes. Lastly, in the same manner, the recall of the King's original forgiveness of the great debtor can only be intended to bring out the utter incompatibility of such harshness towards a brother on the part of one who has been consciously forgiven by God his great debt.

"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a man, a certain king, who would take account with his servants. And after he began to reckon, there was brought to him one debtor who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have anything to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. Because of this, the servant fell down and worshiped him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And being moved with compassion, the lord of that servant released him, and forgave him the debt.
"Then that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred silver coins; and after seizing him, he choked him, saying, 'Pay me what you owe.' As a result, his fellow servant fell down at his feet and pleaded with him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' But he would not listen; instead, he went and cast him into prison, until he should pay the amount that he owed. Now when his fellow servants saw the things that had taken place, they were greatly distressed; and they went to their lord and related all that had taken place.

"Then his lord called him and said to him, 'You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you implored me. Were you not also obligated to have compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had compassion on you?' And in anger, his lord delivered him up to the tormentors, until he should pay all that he owed to him. Likewise shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother's offenses from the heart." (Matthew 18:23-35, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV))

Thus keeping apart the essentials of the Parable from the accidents of its narration, we have three distinct scenes, or parts, in this story. In the first, our new feelings towards our brethren are traced to our new relation towards God, as the proper spring of all our thinking, speaking, and acting. Notably, as regards forgiveness, we are to remember the Kingdom of God: 'Therefore has the Kingdom of God become like' - 'therefore:' in order that thereby we may learn the duty of absolute, not limited, forgiveness - not that of 'seven,' but of 'seventy times seven.' And now this likeness of the Kingdom of Heaven is set forth in the Parable of 'a man, a King' (as the Rabbis would have expressed it, 'a king of flesh and blood'), who would 'make his reckoning with his servants' - certainly not his bondservants, but probably the governors of his provinces, or those who had charge of the revenue and finances. 'But after he had begun to reckon' - not necessarily at the very beginning of it - 'one was brought to him, a debtor of ten thousand talents.' This was an enormous sum. No wonder, that one who during his administration had been guilty of such peculation, or else culpable negligence, should, as the words ' brought to him' imply, have been reluctant to face the king.

The Parable further implies, that the debt was admitted; and hence, in the course of ordinary judicial procedure - according to the Law of Moses, and the universal code of antiquity - that 'servant,' with his family and all his property, was ordered to be sold, and the returns paid into the treasury.

Of course, it is not suggested that the 'payment' thus made had met his debt. Even this would, if need were, confirm the view, previously expressed, that this trait belongs not to the essentials of the Parable, but to the details of the narrative. So does the promise, with which the now terrified 'servant,' as he cast himself at the feet of the King, supported his plea for patience: 'I will pay thee all.' In truth, the narrative takes no notice of this, but, on the other hand, states:

"And being moved with compassion, the lord of that servant released him, and forgave him the debt."

A more accurate representation of our relation to God could not be made. We are the debtors of our heavenly King, Who has entrusted to us the administration of what is His, and which we have purloined or misused, incurring an unspeakable debt, which we can never discharge, and of which, in the course of justice, unending bondage, misery, and utter ruin would be the proper sequence. But, if in humble repentance we cast ourselves at His Feet, He is ready, in infinite compassion, not only to release us from meet punishment, but - O blessed revelation of the Gospel! - to forgive us the debt.

It is this new relationship to God which must be the foundation and the rule for our new relationship towards our fellow-servants. And this brings us to the second part, or scene in this Parable. Here the lately pardoned servant finds one of his fellow-servants, who owes him the small sum. Mark now the sharp contrast, which is so drawn as to give point to the Parable. In the first case, it was the servant brought to account, and that before the King; here it is a servant finding and that his fellowservant. Again, in the first case payment is only demanded, while in the second the man takes his fellow-servant by the throat - a not uncommon mode of harshness on the part of Roman creditors - and says: 'Pay what,' or according to the better reading, 'if thou owest anything.' And, lastly, although the words of the second debtor are almost the same as those in which the first debtor besought the King's patience, yet no mercy is shown, but he is 'cast' [with violence] into prison, till he have paid what was due.

It can scarcely be necessary to show the incongrousness or the guilt of such conduct. But this is the object of the third part of the Parable. Here, the other servants are introduced as exceedingly sorry, no doubt about the fate of their fellow-servant, especially in the circumstances of the case. Then they come to their lord, and 'clearly set forth,' or 'explain' what had happened, upon which the Unforgiving Servant is summoned, and addressed as 'wicked servant,' not only because he had not followed the example of his lord, but because, after having received such immense favor as the entire remission of his debt on entreating his master, to have refused to the entreaty of his fellow-servant even a brief delay in the payment of a small sum, argued want of all mercy and positive wickedness. And the words are followed by the manifestations of righteous anger.

As he has done, so is it done to him - and this is the final application of the Parable. He is delivered to the 'tormentors,' not in the sense of being tormented by them, which would scarcely have been just, but in that of being handed over to such keepers of the prison, to whom criminals who were to be tortured were delivered, and who executed such punishment on them: in other words he is sent to the hardest and severest prison, there to remain till he should pay all that was due by him.

We pause to notice, how near Rabbinism has come to this Parable, and yet how far it is from its sublime teaching. At the outset we recall that unlimited forgiveness - or, indeed, for more than the farthest limit of three times - was not the doctrine of Rabbinism. It did, indeed, teach how freely God would forgive Israel, and it introduces a similar Parable of a debtor appealing to his creditor, and receiving the fullest and freest release of mercy, and it also draws from it the moral, that man should similarly show mercy: but it is not the mercy of forgiveness from the heart, but of forgiveness of money debts to the poor, or of various injuries, and the mercy of benevolence and beneficence to the wretched. But, however beautifully Rabbinism at times speaks on the subject, the Gospel conception of forgiveness, even as that of mercy, could only come by blessed experience of the infinitely higher forgiveness, and the incomparably greater mercy, which the pardoned sinner has received in Christ from our Father in Heaven.

But to us all there is the deepest seriousness in the warning against unmercifulness; and that, even though we remember that the case here referred to is only that of unwillingness to forgive from the heart an offending brother who actually asks for it. Yet, if not the sin, the temptation to it is very real to us all - perhaps rather unconsciously to ourselves than consciously. For, how often is our forgiveness in the heart, as well as from the heart, narrowed by limitations and burdened with conditions; and is it not of the very essence of sectarianism to condemn without mercy him who does not come up to our demands?

Jesus sends seventy to announce his arrival

"Now after these things, the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two before His face, into every city and place where He Himself was about to come. And so He said to them, "The harvest is indeed great, but the workmen are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest that He may send out workmen into His harvest. Go forth! Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, nor provision bag, nor sandals, and do not salute anyone on the way. But whatever house you may enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' And if indeed a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; but if, on the other hand, it be not so, your peace shall return to you. And lodge in the same house, eating and drinking that which is supplied by them; for the workman is worthy of his hire. Do not move from house to house. And whatever city you may enter, and they receive you, eat the things set before you, And heal the sick in it, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.'

" But whatever city you may enter, and they do not receive you, go into the streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city, which clings to us, we wipe off against you; yet know this, that the kingdom of God has drawn near to you.' For I tell you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which have been taking place in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.

"And you, Capernaum, who have been lifted up to heaven, shall be brought down to the grave. The one who hears you hears Me; and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me." Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us through Your name." And He said to them, 'I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you in any way. Yet do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'" (Luke 10:1-20, HBFV)

On His progress southwards at this time Jesus designated seventy others who were to herald His arrival in every town and village. Even the circumstance, that the instructions to them are so similar to, and yet distinct from, those formerly given to the Twelve, seems to point to them as those from whom the Seventy are to be distinguished as 'other.' We judge, that they were sent forth at this time, first, from the Gospel of Luke, where this whole section appears as a distinct and separate record, presumably, chronologically arranged; secondly, from the fitness of such a mission at that particular period, when Jesus made His last Missionary progress towards Jerusalem; and, thirdly, from the unlikelihood, if not impossibility, of taking such a public step after the persecution which broke out after His appearance at Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles. At any rate, it could not have taken place later than in the period between the Feast of Tabernacles and that of the Dedication of the Temple, since, after that, Jesus 'walked no more openly among the Jews. '

With all their similarity, there are notable differences between the Mission of the Twelve and this of 'the other Seventy.' Let it be noted, that the former is recorded by the three Evangelists, so that there could have been no confusion on the part of Luke. But the mission of the Twelve was on their appointment to the Apostolate; it was evangelistic and missionary; and it was in confirmation and manifestation of the 'power and authority' given to them. We regard it, therefore, as symbolical of the Apostolate just instituted, with its work and authority.

On the other hand, no power or authority was formally conferred on the Seventy, their mission being only temporary, and, indeed, for one definite purpose; its primary object was to prepare for the coming of the Master in the places to which they were sent; and their selection was from the wider circle of disciples, the number being now Seventy instead of Twelve. Even these two numbers, as well as the difference in the functions of the two classes of messengers, seem to indicate that the Twelve symbolized the princes of the tribes of Israel, while the Seventy were the symbolical representatives of these tribes, like the seventy elders appointed to assist Moses. This symbolical meaning of the number Seventy continued among the Jews.

There was something very significant in this appearance of Christ's messengers, by two and two, in every place He was about to visit. As John the Baptist had, at the first, heralded the Coming of Christ, so now two heralds appeared to solemnly announce His Advent at the close of His Ministry; as John had sought, as the representative of the Old Testament Church, to prepare His Way, so they, as the representatives of the New Testament Church. In both cases the preparation sought was a moral one. It was the national summons to open the gates to the rightful King, and accept His rule. Only, the need was now the greater for the failure of John's mission, through the misunderstanding and disbelief of the nation. This conjunction with John the Baptist and the failure of his mission, as regarded national results, accounts for the insertion in Matthew's Gospel of part of the address delivered on the Mission of the Seventy, immediately after the record of Christ's rebuke of the national rejection of the Baptist. For Matthew, who (as well as Mark) records not the Mission of the Seventy - simply because (as before explained) the whole section, of which it forms part, is peculiar to Luke's Gospel - reports 'the Discourses' connected with it in other, and to them congruous, connections.

On these introductory words followed the commission and special directions to the thirty-five pairs of disciples who went on this embassy. In almost every particular they are the same as those formerly given to the Twelve. We mark, however, that both the introductory and the concluding words addressed to the Apostles are wanting in what was said to the Seventy. It was not necessary to warn them against going to the Samaritans, since the direction of the Seventy was to those cities of Perea and Judea, on the road to Jerusalem, through which Christ was about to pass. Nor were they armed with precisely the same supernatural powers as the Twelve. Naturally, the personal directions as to their conduct were in both cases substantially the same. We mark only three peculiarities in those addressed to the Seventy.

The direction to 'salute no man by the way' was suitable to a temporary and rapid mission, which might have been sadly interrupted by making or renewing acquaintances. Both the Mishnah and the Talmud lay it down, that prayer was not to be interrupted to salute even a king, nay, to uncoil a serpent that had wound round the foot. On the other hand, the Rabbis discussed the question, whether the reading of the Shema and of the portion of the Psalms called the Hallel might be interrupted at the close of a paragraph, from respect for a person, or interrupted in the middle, from motives of fear. All agreed, that immediately before prayer no one should be saluted, to prevent distraction, and it was advised rather to summarize or to cut short than to break into prayer, though the latter might be admissible in case of absolute necessity. None of these provisions, however, seems to have been in the mind of Christ. If any parallel is to be sought, it would be found in the similar direction of Elisha to Gehazi, when sent to lay the prophet's staff on the dead child of the Shunammite.

The other two peculiarities in the address to the Seventy seem verbal rather than real. The expression, 'if a son of peace be there,' is a Hebraism, equivalent to 'if the house be worthy,' and refers to the character of the head of the house and the tone of the household. Lastly, the direction to eat and drink such things as were set before them is only a further explanation of the command to abide in the house which had received them, without seeking for better entertainment. On the other hand, the whole most important close of the address to the Twelve - which, indeed, forms by far the largest part of it - is wanting in the commission to the Seventy, thus clearly marking its merely temporary character.

Whether or not the Seventy actually returned to Jesus before the Feast of Tabernacles, it is convenient to consider in this connection the result of their Mission. It had filled them with the 'joy' of assurance; nay, the result had exceeded their expectations, just as their faith had gone beyond the mere letter unto the spirit of His Words. As they reported it to Him, even the demons had been subject to them through His Name. In this they had exceeded the letter of Christ's commission; but as they made experiment of it, their faith had grown, and they had applied His command to 'heal the sick' to the worst of all sufferers, those grievously vexed by demons. And, as always, their faith was not disappointed. Nor could it be otherwise. The great contest had been long decided; it only remained for the faith of the Church to gather the fruits of that victory. The Prince of Light and Life had vanquished the Prince of Darkness and Death. The Prince of this world must be cast out. In spirit, Christ gazed on and said,

"I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven." (Luke 10:18)

It has been asked, whether the words of Christ referred to any particular event. The answer is yes, yes it does. Jesus, who is God, saw God the Father throw Satan and his demons out of heaven when Lucifer rebelled and try to take over the entire universe!

"How you are fallen from the heavens, O shining star, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart, 'I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.' (Isaiah 14:12-14, HBFV)

The authority and power over 'the demons,' attained by faith, was not to pass away with the occasion that had called it forth. The Seventy were the representatives of the Church in her work of preparing for the Advent of Christ. As already indicated, the sight of Satan fallen from heaven is the continuous history of the Church. What the faith of the Seventy had attained was now to be made permanent to the Church, whose representatives they were. For, the words in which Christ now gave authority and power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the Enemy, and the promise that nothing should hurt them, could not have been addressed to the Seventy for a Mission which had now come to an end, except in so far as they represented the Church Universal. It is almost needless to add, that those 'serpents and scorpions' are not to be literally but symbolically understood. Yet it is not this power or authority which is to be the main joy either of the Church or the individual, but the fact that our names are written in heaven. And so Christ brings us back to His great teaching about the need of becoming children, and wherein lies the secret of true greatness in the Kingdom.

It is beautifully in the spirit of all this, when we read that the joy of the disciples was met by that of the Master, and that His teaching presently merged into a prayer of thanksgiving. Throughout the occurrences since the Transfiguration, we have noticed an increasing antithesis to the teaching of the Rabbis. But it almost reached its climax in the thanksgiving, that the Father in heaven had hid these things from the wise and the understanding, and revealed them unto babes. As we view it in the light of those times, we know that 'the wise and understanding' - the Rabbi and the Scribe - could not, from their standpoint, have perceived them; nay, that it is matter of never-ending thanks that, not what they, but what 'the babes,' understood, was - as alone it could be - the subject of the Heavenly Father's revelation. We even tremble to think how it would have fared with 'the babes,' if 'the wise and understanding' had had part with them in the knowledge revealed.

And so it must ever be, not only the Law of the kingdom and the fundamental principle of Divine Revelation, but matter for thanksgiving, that, not as 'wise and understanding,' but only as 'babes' - as 'converted,' 'like children' - we can share in that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation. And this truly is the Gospel, and the Father's good pleasure.

The Good Samaritan

Next in the sequence of events in the life of Christ is the event that led to the giving of the Good Samaritan Parable. We find a 'certain lawyer' standing up before Christ to ask what, on the surface, seems like an honest question. The lawyer, however, is seeking to tempt Jesus into giving an answer that will give the religious authorities an excuse to arrest him. The Lord, who knows the minds and hearts of all men, is aware of the motives of the lawyer and answers accordingly.

"Now a certain doctor of the law suddenly stood up, tempting Him and saying, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" Then he answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly. Do this, and you shall live."

"But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'

"And taking it up, Jesus said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and was encircled by thieves; and after they had stripped him of his goods and inflicted him with wounds, they went away, leaving him half dead. Now by coincidence, a certain priest went down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. And in like manner also, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and saw him, and passed by on the opposite side. But a certain Samaritan, as he was journeying, came to him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. And he went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he put him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And when he left on the next day, he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him, and whatever you may expend above this, I will repay you when I come back.' Therefore, which of these three seems to you to have been a neighbor of him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "The one who showed compassion toward him." Then Jesus said to him, 'You go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:25-37, HBFV)

The words of this lawyer referred, or else that himself belonged, to that small party among the Rabbinists who, at least in theory, attached greater value to good works than to study. At any rate, there is no occasion to impute directly evil motives to him. Knowing the habits of his class, we do not wonder that he put his question to 'tempt' - test, try - the great Rabbi of Nazareth. There are many similar instances in Rabbinic writings of meetings between great Teachers, when each tried to involve the other in dialectic difficulties and subtle disputations. Indeed, this was part of Rabbinism, and led to that painful and fatal trifling with truth, when everything became matter of dialectic subtlety, and nothing was really sacred. What we require to keep in view is, that to this lawyer the question which he propounded was only one of theoretic, not of practical interest, nor matter of deep personal concern, as it was to the rich young ruler, who, not long afterwards, addressed a similar inquiry to the Lord.

We seem to witness the opening of a regular Rabbinic contest, as we listen to this speculative problem: "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" At the foundation lay the notion, that eternal life was the reward of merit, of works: the only question was, what these works were to be. The idea of guilt had not entered his mind; he had no conception of sin within. It was the old Judaism of self-righteousness speaking without disguise: that which was the ultimate ground of the rejecting and crucifying of the Christ. There certainly was a way in which a man might inherit eternal life, not indeed as having absolute claim to it, but in consequence of God's Covenant on Sinai.

The reply of the 'lawyer' is remarkable, not only on its own account, but as substantially, and even literally, that given on two other occasions by the Lord Himself. The question therefore naturally arises, whence did this lawyer, who certainly had not spiritual insight, derive his reply? As regarded the duty of absolute love to God, indicated by the quotation of Deuteronomy 6:5, there could, of course, be no hesitation in the mind of a Jew. The primary obligation of this is frequently referred to, and, indeed, taken for granted, in Rabbinic teaching. The repetition of this command, which in the Talmud receives the most elaborate and strange interpretation, formed part of the daily prayers. When Jesus referred the lawyer to the Scriptures, he could scarcely fail to quote this first paramount obligation. Similarly, he spoke as a Rabbinic lawyer, when he referred in the next place to love to our neighbor, as enjoined in Leviticus 19:18.

Rabbinism is never weary of quoting as one of the characteristic sayings of its greatest teacher, Hillel (who, of course, lived before this time), that he had summed up the Law, in briefest compass, in these words: 'What is hateful to thee, that do not to another. This is the whole Law; the rest is only its explanation.'

Still, the two principles just mentioned are not enunciated in conjunction by Rabbinism, nor seriously propounded as either containing the whole Law or as securing heaven. They are also, as we shall presently see, subjected to grave modifications. One of these, as regards the negative form in which Hillel put it, while Christ put it positively, has been previously noticed. The existence of such Rabbinic modifications, and the circumstance, already mentioned, that on two other occasions the answer of Christ Himself to a similar inquiry was precisely that of this lawyer, suggests the inference, that this question may have been occasioned by some teaching of Christ, to which they had just listened, and that the reply of the lawyer may have been prompted by what Jesus had preached concerning the Law.

If it be asked, why Christ seemed to give His assent to the lawyer's answer, as if it really pointed to the right solution of the great question, we reply: No other answer could have been given him. On the ground of works - if that had been tenable - this was the way to heaven. To understand any other answer, would have required a sense of sin; and this could not be imparted by reasoning: it must be experienced. It is the preaching of the Law which awakens in the mind a sense of sin. Besides, if not morally, yet mentally, the difficulty of this 'way' would soon suggest itself to a Jew. Such, at least, is one aspect of the counter-question with which 'the lawyer' now sought to retort on Jesus.

There can be no doubt as to the main object of the lawyer's question regarding who is his neighbor. He wished to justify himself, ' in the sense of vindicating his original question, and showing that it was not quite so easily settled as the answer of Jesus seemed to imply. And here it was that Christ could in a 'Parable' show how far orthodox Judaism was from even a true understanding, much more from such perfect observance of this Law as would gain heaven. Thus might He bring even this man to feel his shortcomings and sins, and awaken in him a sense of his great need. This, of course, would be the negative aspect of this Parable; the positive is to all time and to all men.

That question of who is someone's neighbor has ever been at the same time the outcome of Judaism (as distinguished from the religion of the Old Testament), and also its curse. On this point it is duty to speak plainly, even in face of the wicked persecutions to which the Jews have been exposed on account of it. Whatever modern Judaism may say to the contrary, there is a foundation of truth in the ancient heathen charge against the Jews of hatred of mankind.

God had separated Israel unto Himself by purification and renovation - and this is the original meaning of the word 'holy' and 'sanctify' in the Hebrew. They separated themselves in self-righteousness and pride - and that is the original meaning of the word 'Pharisee' and 'Pharisaism'. In so saying no blame is cast on individuals; it is the system which is at fault. This question: ' Who is my neighbor? ' frequently engages Rabbinism. The answer to it is only too clear. If a hypercriticism were to interpret away the passage which directs that idolators are not to be delivered when in imminent danger, while heretics and apostates are even to be led into it, the painful discussion on the meaning of Exodus 23:5 would place it beyond question. The sum of it is, that, except to avert hostility, a burden is only to be unloaded, if the beast that lieth under it belongeth to an Israelite, not if it belong to a Gentile; and so the expression, ' the ass of him that hateth thee, ' must be understood of a Jewish, and not of a Gentile enemy.

It is needless to follow the subject further. But more complete rebuke of Judaistic narrowness, as well as more full, generous, and spiritual world-teaching than that of Christ's Parable could not be imagined. The scenery and coloring are purely local. And here we should remember, that, while admitting the lawfulness of the widest application of details for homiletical purposes, we must take care not to press them in a strictly exegetical interpretation.

Some one coming from the Holy City, the Metropolis of Judaism, is pursuing the solitary desert-road, those twenty-one miles to Jericho, a district notoriously insecure, when he 'fell among robbers, who, having both stripped and inflicted on him strokes, went away leaving him just as he was, half dead.' This is the first scene. The second opens with an expression which, theologically, as well as exegetically, is of the greatest interest. The word rendered 'by chance' occurs only in this place, for Scripture commonly views matters in relation to agents rather than to results. As already noted, the real meaning of the word is 'concurrence,' much like the corresponding Hebrew term. And better definition could not be given, not, indeed, of 'Providence,' which is a heathen abstraction for which the Bible has no equivalent, but for the concrete reality of God's providing. He provides through a concurrence of circumstances, all in themselves natural and in the succession of ordinary causation (and this distinguishes it from the miracle), but the concurring of which is directed and overruled by Him. And this helps us to put aside those coarse tests of the reality of prayer and of the direct rule of God, which men sometimes propose. Such stately ships ride not in such shallow waters.

It was by such a 'concurrence,' that, first a priest, then a Levite came down that road, when each, successively, 'when he saw him, passed by over against (him).' It was the principle of questioning about who is my neighbor, which led both priest and Levite to such heartless conduct. Who knew what this wounded man was, and how he came to lie there: and were they called upon, in ignorance of this, to take all the trouble, perhaps incur the risk of life, which care of him would involve? Thus Judaism (in the persons of its chief representatives) had, by its exclusive attention to the letter, come to destroy the spirit of the Law. Happily, there came yet another that way, not only a stranger, but one despised, a semi-heathen Samaritan. He asked not who the man was, but what was his need. Whatever the wounded Jew might have felt towards him, the good Samaritan proved a true neighbor.

His resolution was soon taken. He first bound up his wounds, and then, taking from his travelling provision wine and oil, made of them, what was regarded as the common dressing for wounds. Next, having 'set' (lifted) him on his own beast, he walked by his side, and brought him to one of those houses of rest and entertainment, whose designation has passed into Rabbinic language.

These khans, or hostelries, by the side of unfrequented roads, afforded free lodgment to the traveller. But generally they also offered entertainment, in which case, of course, the host, commonly a non-Israelite, charged for the victuals supplied to man or beast, or for the care taken. In the present instance the Samaritan seems himself to have tended the wounded man all that evening. But even thus his care did not end. The next morning, before continuing his journey, he gave to the host two dinars - about one shilling and threepence of our money, the amount of a laborer's wages for two days, - as it were, two days' wages for his care of him, with this provision, that if any further expense were incurred, either because the wounded man was not sufficiently recovered to travel, or else because something more had been supplied to him, the Good Samaritan would pay it when he next came that way.

So far the Parable: its lesson 'the lawyer' is made himself to enunciate. 'Which of these three seems to thee to have become neighbor of him that fell among the robbers? ' Though unwilling to take the hated name of Samaritan on his lips, especially as the meaning of the Parable and its anti-Rabbinic bearing were so evident, the 'lawyer' was obliged to reply, ' He that showed mercy on him, ' when the Savior finally answered, ' Go, and do thou likewise. '

Some further lessons may be drawn. The Parable implies not a mere enlargement of the Jewish ideas, but a complete change of them. It is truly a Gospel-Parable, for the whole old relationship of mere duty is changed into one of love. Thus, matters are placed on an entirely different basis from that of Judaism. The question now is not ' Who is my neighbor?' but ' Whose neighbor am I? ' The Gospel answers the question of duty by pointing us to love. Wouldst thou know who is thy neighbor? Become a neighbor to all by the utmost service thou canst do them in their need. And so the Gospel would not only abolish man's enmity, but bridge over man's separation. Thus is the Parable truly Christian, and, more than this, points up to Him Who, in our great need, became neighbor to us, even at the cost of all He had. And from Him, as well as by His Word, are we to learn our lesson of love.

Visiting Mary and Martha in Bethany

"Now it came to pass as they were going that He came into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat down at Jesus' feet and was listening to His message. But Martha was distracted because of much serving; and she came to Jesus and said, "Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Now then, speak to her, so that she will help me." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are full of care and troubled about many things; But there is one need above all else; and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her." (Luke 10:38-42, HBFV)

The history which follows that of the home of Bethany, when one of His disciples asks Him to teach them to pray, as the Baptist had similarly taught his followers, seems to indicate, that they were then on the scene of John's former labors - north-east of Bethany; and, hence, that it occurred on Christ's return from Jerusalem.

Again, from the narrative of Christ's reception in the house of Martha, we gather that Jesus had arrived in Bethany with His disciples, but that He alone was the guest of the two sisters.

According to law, it was duty during the festive week to eat, sleep, pray, study - in short, to live - in these booths, which were to be constructed of the boughs of living trees. And, although this was not absolutely obligatory on women, yet, the rule which bade all make 'the booth the principal, and the house only the secondary dwelling,' would induce them to make this leafy tent at least the sitting apartment alike for men and women. And, indeed, those autumn days were just the season when it would be joy to sit in these delightful cool retreats - the memorials of Israel's pilgrim-days! They were high enough, and yet not too high; chiefly open in front; close enough to be shady, and yet not so close as to exclude sunlight and air. Such would be the apartment in which what is recorded passed; and, if we add that this booth stood probably in the court, we can picture to ourselves Martha moving forwards and backwards on her busy errands, and seeing, as she passed again and again, Mary still sitting a rapt listener, not heeding what passed around; and, lastly, how the elder sister could, as the language of verse 40 implies, enter so suddenly the Master's Presence, bringing her complaint.

To understand this history, we must dismiss from our minds preconceived, though, perhaps, attractive thoughts. There is no evidence that the household of Bethany had previously belonged to the circle of Christ's professed disciples. It was, as the whole history shows, a wealthy home. It consisted of two sisters - the elder, Martha (a not uncommon Jewish name, being the feminine of Mar, and equivalent to our word 'mistress'); the younger, Mary; and their brother Lazarus, or, Laazar. Although we know not how it came, yet, evidently, the house was Martha's, and into it she received Jesus on His arrival in Bethany. It would have been no uncommon occurrence in Israel for a pious, wealthy lady to receive a great Rabbi into her house. But the present was not an ordinary case. Martha must have heard of Him, even if she had not seen Him. But, indeed, the whole narrative implies, that Jesus had come to Bethany with the view of accepting the hospitality of Martha, which probably had been proffered when some of those 'Seventy,' sojourning in the worthiest house at Bethany, had announced the near arrival of the Master. Still, her bearing affords only indication of being drawn towards Christ - at most, of a sincere desire to learn the good news, not of actual discipleship.

And so Jesus came. He was to lodge in one of the booths, the sisters in the house, and the great booth in the middle of the courtyard would be the common living apartment of all. It could not have been long after His arrival - it must have been almost immediately, that the sisters felt they had received more than an Angel unawares. How best to do Him honor, was equally the thought of both. To Martha it seemed, as if she could not do enough in showing Him all hospitality. And, indeed, this festive season was a busy time for the mistress of a wealthy household, especially in the near neighborhood of Jerusalem, whence her brother might, after the first two festive days, bring with him, any time that week, honored guests from the City. To these cares was now added that of doing sufficient honor to such a Guest - for she, also, deeply felt His greatness. And so she hurried to and fro through the courtyard, literally, 'distracted about much serving.'

Her younger sister, also, would do Him all highest honor; but, not as Martha. Her homage consisted in forgetting all else but Him, Who spake as none had ever done. As truest courtesy or affection consists, nor in its demonstrations, but in being so absorbed in the object of it as to forget its demonstration, so with Mary in the Presence of Christ. And then a new Light, another Day had risen upon her; a fresh life had sprung up within her soul. At last, the sister who, in her impatience, could not think that a woman could, in such manner, fulfill her duty, or show forth her religious profiting, broke in with what sounds like a querulous complaint about how her sister is not helping her. But, with tone of gentle reproof and admonition, the affectionateness of which appeared even in the repetition of her name, Martha, Martha - did He teach her in words which, however simple in their primary meaning, are so full, that they have ever since borne the most many-sided application:

"Martha, Martha, you are full of care and troubled about many things; But there is one need above all else; and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her."

It was, as we imagine, perhaps the first day of, or else the preparation for, the Feast. More than that one day did Jesus tarry in the home of Bethany. Whether Lazarus came then to see Him - and, still more, what both Martha and Mary learned, either then, or afterwards, we reverently forbear to search into. Suffice it, that though the natural disposition of the sisters remained what it had been, yet henceforth, 'Jesus loved Martha and her sister.'

Adapted from
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
by A. Edersheim
Jewish World in First Century A.D.
Hellenism prepares
people for gospel
Jesus cleanses
the temple
John the Baptist killed
Five Thousand fed
Walking on Water
Parable of Great
Supper, Lost Sheep,
The Prodigal Son
Judas arranges betrayal
The Last Passover
Jews and the
Roman Empire
Jesus and Nicodemus
The Samaritans
The Bread of Life
Vain religious traditions
Lazarus resurrected
Jewish Burial Rites
The True Vine
Garden of Gethsemane
Arrested and betrayed
Coming of
John the Baptist
Jesus' First
Public Message
Four Thousand Fed
Demands for a sign
Is divorce allowed?
Blessing of Children
Peter denies Jesus
Judas commits suicide
Beaten and crucified
What Messiah did
the Jews Expect?
The Sermon
on the Mount
Jesus rebukes Peter
The Transfiguration
The Triumphal Entry
Barren Fig Tree cursed
Forsaken and stabbed
Death and Burial
Birth of Jesus
Visit of the Magi
Jesus heals man
and forgives sins
The Good Shepherd
Jesus pays temple tax
Parable of Vineyard
and Wedding Feast.
Spies try to entrap Jesus
Jewish views on Angels,
Demons, Fall of Angels,
Magic and Magicians
A Voice in
the Wilderness
Jesus selects apostles
Widow's Son resurrected
Seventy sent to preach
The Good Samaritan
Marriage - Resurrection
Is Christ son of David?
The Widow's Mites
Old Testament verses applied to Messiah
in Jewish Writings
Jesus' First Disciples
and First Public Miracle
Jesus attends Feast
Parables of Sower, Tares,
Mustard Seed, Pearl
The foolish Rich Man
Jesus almost stoned
End Time prophecies
Parable of the Ten
Virgins and Talents
The Theology
of Ancient Rabbis
Temptation of
Jesus by Satan
A Legion of demons Ruler's daughter raised

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