Mar 21

Session 7 Recap: Carson, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”

2015 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Clarus 15

Editor’s Note: Tim Bradley is Pastor for Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of D.A. Carson’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 21, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” from Luke 10:25-37.


Dr. Carson began by stating that while the parable of the Good Samaritan is likely the most well-known parable in our culture, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Many believe the parable essentially teaches “Christianity is all about being nice to your neighbor,” but Carson repudiated this as the main teaching of the parable. He stated that most do not understand the context and therefore misunderstand the parable. In winsome fashion Dr. Carson reflected upon his own father who taught him, among other things, “a text without context becomes a pretext for a proof text.” In light of this Carson explained both the immediate and extended context of the parable, so that we may truly understand Jesus and the hope of the gospel.

The Parable In the Immediate Context

The immediate context is a Jewish “lawyer-theologian” asking Jesus a question in order to “test” Him. The lawyer asks, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He is attempting to discredit Jesus by his question, but Jesus answers the lawyer’s question with a masterful question of His own, which leaves the lawyer trapped. The lawyer knows he does not measure up to the standard given in his own answer, and that he cannot go and do this as Jesus has now told him he must do. In response to the lawyer’s second question, Jesus tells this parable to set up his own next question.

Carson explains there is much context to be understood in the parable itself, especially about the actions of the Samaritan, who got down from his beast to care for the man, took him to an inn, cares for him further, and provides for all his costs of healing and care in order to save the beaten, half-dead, naked man from death and slavery. Carson states Jesus is taking the OT law and forcing it upon the heart. In the end, He asks the lawyer which man in the parable was a neighbor to the robbed man. Being trapped again with the impossibility of this, and having difficulty with even mentioning the Samaritan, the lawyer answers in a general way by stating, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus again tells him to go and do likewise.

The Parable in the Extended Context

The larger context of this parable must be understood by understanding that the book of Luke turns in 9:51, and that from this point in Luke’s gospel Jesus is “on the way” to Jerusalem and the cross. This means that the parable must be understood as being under the shadow of the cross. Jesus’ undeterred determination to get to Calvary and finish His work is critical to understanding this parable. Jesus is saying the ultimate answer to the lawyer’s question is that there is only one thing that is really needed—to become My disciple on the way to My cross. Jesus and His gospel is the answer to the question.

Three Pastoral Reflections

Carson concluded with these three pastoral reflections:

  1. If we are to think of eternal life as inherited, then we must see clearly that we cannot possibly earn this inheritance.
  2. Who is the Good Samaritan? Jesus is the one who rescues the dead and damned, pays for it all, rescues them from slavery, and is often hated by the ones he cares for.
  3. Clearly Jesus expects His followers to live as he does.  The gospel of Jesus justifies us, but it also transforms us.