The True Searcher of Hearts

“In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus presented his own love and character. The life of Christ was filled with works of love toward the lost and erring.”

“ ‘And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ . . .

“Christ, the true searcher of hearts, understood the intents and purposes of his enemies. He turned the matter over to the lawyer who had asked the question, saying, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ . . . And the lawyer said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’ ” . . .

“Jesus found himself surrounded by scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers, and the lawyer asked him, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ To this question Jesus presented a parable that . . . illustrated what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. But he also showed that this love will never be exercised by those who do not keep the first four precepts of the law. Where love to God is practiced, natural self-idolatry will not exist. No man can love God supremely unless he loves his neighbor as himself. ‘If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?’ Love to God is the golden chain that binds the ten precepts of Jehovah together.

“To answer the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus presented the parable of the good Samaritan. He knew that the Jews included only those of their own nation under the title of neighbors, and looked upon the Gentiles with contempt, calling them dogs, uncircumcised, unclean, and polluted. But above all others they despised the Samaritans. They cursed them, and would have no dealings with them. Jesus himself had been taught, both by precept and example, thus to regard this hated people, and the lawyer had been educated by the same kind of teaching. Yet Jesus said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’

“In journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho the traveler had to pass through a portion of the wilderness of Judea, and the road led through a wild, rocky ravine. It was here that robbers attacked the traveler, stripped him of all that was valuable, wounding and bruising him, and leaving him half dead by the wayside. As the sufferer lies thus, a priest passes by, but merely glances at the wounded man; and, as he does not wish to be put to the trouble and expense of helping him, he passes by on the other side. Then a Levite passes. Curious to know what has happened, he stops and looks at the sufferer; but he has no feeling of compassion to prompt him to help the dying man. He does not like the work, and, as he thinks it is no concern of his, he too passes by. Both these men were in sacred office, and claimed to know and to expound the Scriptures. They had been trained in the school of national bigotry, and had become selfish, narrow, and exclusive, and they felt no sympathy for anyone unless he was of the Jews. They look upon the wounded man, but cannot tell whether he is of their nation or not. He might be of the Samaritans—and they turn away. Had they not read of Job, who said, ‘The stranger did not lodge in the street; but I opened my doors to the traveler’? Had they not read of Lot, when the two angels came to Sodom, how he bowed himself to the ground, and said, ‘Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way’?

“Jesus, enshrouded in the pillar of cloud and fire, had taught them a very different lesson from the lesson they had received from bigoted and exclusive teachers. The merciful Saviour of the Gospels was the One who had instructed the Hebrews in the wilderness; and, had they read the Scriptures correctly, and practiced the teaching he had given, they would have pursued a very different course of action from the one they did pursue. The weightier matters of the law were judgment, mercy, and love. The stranger was to be treated with kindness, and it was to be understood that strangers were under God’s special protection. Directions had been given to Moses for the children of Israel to this effect: ‘If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.’ And was not a man better than an ox?”1

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“In the parable Jesus presented a stranger, a neighbor, a brother in suffering, wounded and dying. How much more should their hearts have been moved with pity for him than for a beast of burden! But, though priests and scribes had read the law, they had not brought it into their practical life. They had read: ‘For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ ‘And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’

“In speaking of the manner in which the priest and the Levite treated the wounded man, the lawyer had heard nothing out of harmony with his own ideas, nothing contrary to the forms and ceremonies that he had been taught were all the law required. But Jesus presented another scene: ‘But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ ‘And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” ’ . . .

“Everyone who claims to be a child of God should note every detail of this lesson. The wounded and bruised sufferer was a man, and the Samaritan showed himself to be a man. He did not stop to consider whether or not this man would be pleasant or disagreeable, whether he was a Jew or a Gentile. He knew that he was in need of help from humanity. ‘Thy neighbor’ does not mean one of the church or faith to which you belong. If our names are upon the church book, we should represent the mercy, compassion, and tenderness of Jesus Christ, with no thought as to race, color, or class distinction. The Samaritan realized that there was before him a human being in need and suffering, and as soon as he sees him, he has compassion upon him.

“He takes off his own garment with which to cover his nakedness, and uses the oil and wine he has provided for his own comfort to heal and refresh the wounded man. He forgets that he may be in danger of similar treatment from robbers by tarrying in the place, and places the man on his beast, and moves slowly along, with even pace, so that the stranger may not be jarred and made to suffer increased pain. He brings him to a comfortable inn, takes care of him through the night, watching his case carefully, and in the morning, as the suffering has improved, he ventures to leave him to the care of the inn keeper. He hands him a sum of money, bidding him care for the stranger, and saying that if he spends more than he has provided, he will repay him on his return.

“The Samaritan followed the impulse of a kind and loving heart. Christ so presented the scene that the most severe rebuke was placed upon the unfeeling actions of priest and Levite. But this lesson is not only for them; but for Christians of this day, and is a solemn warning to us that for humanity’s sake we may not fail to show mercy and pity to those who suffer. . . . There are many who are sentimental, and who are ready to weep over any tale of woe, but who do not manifest real love in doing for the needy those things that should be done. But those who have read this lesson, and have been benefited, will be able to distinguish real love from sentimentalism.

“In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus presented his own love and character. The life of Christ was filled with works of love toward the lost and erring. In the man bruised and wounded and stripped of his possessions, the sinner is represented. The human family, the lost race, is pictured in the sufferer, left naked, bleeding, and destitute. Jesus takes his own robe of righteousness to cover the soul, and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. The Lord Jesus gives no encouragement to the idea that one is superior to another, and justifies no one in cherishing feelings of contempt or even indifference toward his fellow-men. The law of God is the standard to which all must attain, and sinful man can obey that law only by the merit and grace of Jesus Christ, who has died for his salvation.”2

 


1. Signs of the Times, July 16, 1894.

2. Ibid., July 23, 1894.