NKJV in “bolded italics;” [Scripture words in brackets added by Bible translators].
[Underlining is my emphasis.]
In today’s society the news of the day revolves around a plethora of bribery, extortion, muggings, rapes and murders. While the news of a story about of a good deed is seldom reported the person involved would be called a Good Samaritan. This shows that there is a universal knowledge about a dramatic story that was used by Christ to make a point.
The Good Samaritan story was not just about a man being attacked by thieves, but it was the irony of a helpless and injured person being neglected by men of his own religion and background. Ultimately he was cared for by one, who under a more normal encounter would have referred to the Samaritan as a dog.
Before continuing to examine the Good Samaritan story it is important to define the essence of Christ’s parables. A simple explanation is that they are groups of analogies put together to present a picture, or story not apparently related or needed to illustrate the point, or points, initially being made. This is done to conceal the real messages that actually apply to those who understand what God is accomplishing by the creation of man. Matthew 13:13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
For example: Matthew 20:1 says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.”
What would the hiring of laborers to pick grapes have anything to do with the kingdom of heaven? Unless it is understood that he is talking about the preparatory work needed to bring about that kingdom, what is left is a story about a landowner and his hiring of workers, and how he paid them.
Only by carefully examining this parable will the truth be revealed.
Christ uses at least seven analogies here, and all need to be understood in order to grasp the meaning of this parable.
- Who is the landowner?
- Who are the workers?
- What is being harvested?
- What is the pay?
- What is the difference between the first group of laborers and the rest?
- What is the time element?
- What is meant by the term “friend?”
#1 – The landowner is God the Father as explained in John 17:6. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom you have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”
#2 – The workers are those whom God uses to teach the truth of the word to those he is calling out of this world. Ephesians 4:11-12 “And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,”
The workers are the ministry.
#3 – The harvest is of the grapes, which are the people called by the Father who are being taught by the workers (laborers). John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
#4 – The pay promised is one denarius and it represents the one thing that in the end matters most, which is to live forever. It is not just to live forever, but to live in a society free from fear of being trampled by the way of this world’s unrestricted desire to “get” at any cost. James 4:1-2 “Where do wars and fights [come] from among you? Do [they] not [come] from your [desires for] pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
#5 – The difference between the first group of workers and the rest is significant. The first group of laborers did not go to work until they had an agreement with the landowner for one denarius. The word “agreed” is #4856 [Matthew 20:2], and means “a compact agreed upon by both parties.” All of the rest who were hired trusted that the landowner would pay them fairly. II Corinthians 1:9-10 “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver [us,]”
#6 – The time element of the end of the day is the end of life of the worker. The time of death is followed by the judgment, and it should be noted who was paid first. It is equivalent to the first resurrection. Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy [is] he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
#7 – The worker who required a contract before he started was there to earn a living, and was paid first. What did his pay represent? Luke 16:25 “But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” The rest received a different reward because they trusted that God would pay them equitably. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him,] for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Their reward was being in the first resurrection—eternal life.
The reality is made clear when the landowner refers to one of the first group with the term “friend.” The word “friend” #2083 means a friend by contract—meaning what can be gained as a physical reward by being a friend who looks to gain from the friendship. This word “friend” is used only four times in Scripture as follows: Matthew 11:19; 20:13; 22:12; and 26:50.
Matthew 22:12-13 is the reference that tells what is going to happen to the disgruntled workers. “So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast [him] into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”
Did they all receive the same payment? It was not the same payment as Matthew 22:12-13 clearly points out. What was it that the second group received for their labor? Luke 16:25 gives the answer, “But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”
Taking a closer look at what is called the Good Samaritan parable and answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The Bible often uses a word that when understood makes what is being said far more poignant, clarifying what the real impact of the story is. As in the case of the Good Samaritan that word is “certain.” It is the identifying mark for three of the four individuals who are mentioned. The man put upon by the thieves, the priest who passed him by, and the Good Samaritan who cared for the wounded man. The word “certain” is #5100 in Strong’s, and has the following definition, which is taken from the Word Study Dictionary, New Testament: “Particularly and generally of some person or thing whom one cannot or does not wish to name or specify particularly.”
Because Christ used the word “certain” clearly means He was not telling a fictitious story, but was recalling an actual event that the lawyer was intimately familiar with. Christ, not wishing to bring shame on the one who actually lived through the experience, needed the lawyer to remember the good deed done to him by one he would have considered a dog.
Therefore, the Good Samaritan so-called “parable” was not a parable at all, but a real-life story that Christ used to drive home the point for both us and the lawyer. That is: that all men are our neighbors. He did this in a loving way, not wanting to embarrass the lawyer, who after he went through this life threating experience failed to know who his neighbor was; someone he did not know or had ever met, meaning all of his fellow men.
Don Roth Revised 07-13-22