I haven't field tested the theory, but I suspect that this is the best known parable of Jesus. Whether in Christian circles or non-Christian circles, people know about this parable. But in all fairness, they don't know the whole account. Most people only know verses 30-35. There is an entire setting in which this account takes place, but most people only know the bit that says, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho," and so on. That is then fit into a certain grid: "You want to know what a real Christian looks like?" they say. "Love God; love your neighbor." And that means helping someone when his car is broken down by the side of the road. That's what a Christian is. It's not entirely wrong, but it seems to leave out quite a lot of things. For example, at this point in Luke's narrative, Jesus is on his way to the cross and the resurrection. Loving God and loving your neighbor—helping people who are broken down by the side of the road—is not the full picture. There's something more going on in the account than this.
What I want to do this morning, first of all, is take you through the entire account—not just the narrow parable, but all the way from verse 25 through verse 37. Then I want to show how it fits it into the broader flow of Luke's Gospel. I want to discuss what we can learn from the larger context, and then we'll think through how it applies to our lives today.
The story as a whole
First, let's talk about the parable in its immediate context. Verses 25-37 are structured as two matching dialogues. You will see this if you have your Bible open in front of you. First, a man asks Jesus a question. But instead of answering, Jesus replies with his own question. The man answers Jesus' ...
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D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and author of numerous books, including Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Crossway).