Luther’s Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 13 -Charity

The Good Samaritan
Luke 10:23-37
New King James Version

23 Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?

27 So he answered and 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.’

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and 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. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 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.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


 Luther’s Explanatory Notes:

23 If And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:
24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

This passage embraces principally three parts: First, that the Lord praises the time of the revelation and proclamation of the Gospel, verses 23. 24.

Secondly, it teaches us what are truly good works, according to God’s com mandment, (verses 25-28;) and shows this by a beautiful example, verses 30-37.

In this he also presents the third part, as in a lovely painting, a picture of the kingdom of Christ; that is, the grace, which the preaching of the Gospel proclaims.

The seeing and the hearing must be understood simply of the outward seeing and hearing. Many prophets and kings have also seen Christ, but only in spirit. (John 8:56.) And though this seeing of the holy fathers and prophets saved them, yet they had a hearty longing and sighing to see the Lord Christ also bodily, as this is indicated here and there in the prophets. Therefore the Lord here says to his disciples, who saw it bodily and spiritually, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see.”

Previously the Gospel had not been preached so clearly and openly before everybody; the Holy Ghost had not yet been openly given, but was still hidden, and effected only little. Oh, if we only had such eyes and ears, that we could see and hear it aright, and be fully certain of the matter. Therefore also the Scripture calls faith emuna in Hebrew and Paul calls it plerophoria, that the heart may be fully certain.

With these words the Lord Christ indicates also the shameful ingratitude and contempt of his Gospel found in our hearts, as if he would say, If the holy prophets of old had heard the things which you have heard and seen, they would have leaped for joy.

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

What shall I do to inherit eternal life? This is the most important question, concerning which people have various and contradictory opinions. The lawyer imagines he understands it much better than Christ.

26 He said unto him, what is written in the law? How readest thou?

How readest thou? Christ does not instruct him, (for the lawyer does not desire any instruction, but wants to tempt the Lord,) but asks him in return, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” Here you learn that by all means the Scripture shall and must be read. But the most important thing is, that the readers of the Bible are not only diligent but also faithful. The Lord will say, when he asks here, “How readest thou?” What teachest thou? Namely, that thou seekest nothing else in the Scriptures than me, (Christ,) not what is thine, 1 Tim. 6:5.

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.

How to be saved. Concerning the question, how one may be saved, there were various opinions, especially among the Jews. In the main they were agreed in teaching salvation by works. But yet there was a difference among them in this, that some insisted on sacrifices, washing of garments, ceremonies in regard to meats and drinks, and the like outward works. Others, however, thought that this alone was not sufficient; but that it was necessary also to love God with the whole heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. This lawyer was also of this opinion. Yet he was not really in earnest about it.

All refer to love. When we examine the laws of Moses, we find that they all refer to love; for this commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” I can not interpret or explain otherwise than, “Thou shalt love God only.”

To love God with all thy heart means, to love him above all creatures.

To love God with all thy soul means that your entire bodily life should tend to the love of God. “Soul” in the Scriptures, means the life of the body, consisting in the five senses, eating, drinking, sleeping, hearing, smelling and all that the soul accomplishes through the body.

With all thy soul” means with the inward soul, so that I feel in the flesh, that I have love to God.

With all thy strength. That is, with all the limbs; controlling all the members of the body, so that one will devote all that he is capable of doing through his natural body, rather than do anything against the will of God.

To love God with all my mind, means that I entertain nothing but what pleases God, all my senses, thoughts and imagination shall be directed to God.

This command inculcates the very highest wisdom and art, which we can never completely learn, and much less fulfill and live up to. On this account the Son of God had to come from heaven, shed his blood and communicate the Gospel, that this commandment may be kept. Though there is but a small beginning of it among Christians in this life, yet in the future life we shall have it before our eyes and in our hearts for ever and ever, and live in the love of God.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Do this. The lawyer thinks he has fully kept this commandment, and expects a high compliment; namely, that the Lord will say: “You are a masterly lawyer, you have kept the whole law!” But Christ proceeds to tell him first, “This do!” With this he gives him a home thrust, as if he would say to him (in good German): You are a hypocrite and a knave in your whole skin; you never have kept it in all your life; yea, you have not kept a single letter of the law. You Pharisees think it is enough to say the words and to think, — that this is enough ; but no, it must be kept!

But from this teaching of the law, that we shall do it, it does not follow that we can do it. Therefore this law condemns us all as sinners.

This is the first part of this Gospel, and is a discourse on the law. Now follows the other part, and that is the preaching of the Gospel, how we shall fulfill the law, and whence we shall obtain it; the Samaritan will teach this.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

Who is my neighbor? The lawyer, willing to justify himself, asks the Lord, “Who is my neighbor?” He does not ask, Who is my God? As if he would say, “I do not owe God anything; I am all right with God; I am also of the opinion, that I am under no obligation to any man; still, I should like to know who is my neighbor.” This is a shameful presumption of such devil-saints. Though they are accused by the law, and are plainly shown that they do not keep it, yet they do not concern themselves about it.

When he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” he unconsciously confesses that he has not loved his neighbor, since he has not yet advanced so far as to know his neighbor. In this state of foolishness and blindness are all this kind of saints, who not only do not keep any part of the law, however much they may boast, but really also do not understand it.

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

The parable of the good Samaritan. The Lord answers, and tells him a very fine parable, by which he shows that we are all neighbors among ourselves, both he that doeth a kindness to another, and he who is in need of help.

The man who lies here wounded, bruised, half dead and stript of his raiment is Adam and all mankind.— This parable stands out strongly and paints us very finely, shows what we are and what we can accomplish with our high reason and free will.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

Passed by on the other side. In such distress we should have had to remain if we depended on the “Priests” and the “Levites;” that is, on the law; for they pass by and do not help the poor man. (Rom. 3:20) Those who are regarded as high, wise, and powerful have the least love for their neighbor.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

The good Samaritan. But at last the good Samaritan is found; namely, our dear Lord Christ, whom his own people would not receive, but regarded him as a heathen, a man possessed of the devil (John 8:48.) He performed no work for himself, but every thing for the neighbor. When it came to the great point, to love God with the whole heart, (v. 27,) he also gave the life of his body, with all that he had.

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

The unspeakable mercy. In the case of this Samaritan, Christ shows an example, not only of love, but es pecially of the great, unspeakable grace and mercy, and benefit, help and consolation, which he displays in his kingdom through the Gospel, of which he spake in the beginning to his disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see what ye have seen.”

He himself “went to him,” and bound up his wounds; he requires not that the poor man should come to him; for here is no merit, but pure grace and mercy.

“He binds up his wounds, and pours in oil and wine;” this is the whole gospel through and through. The oil he pours in when grace is preached. But the wine is sharp and signifies the holy cross, which soon after follows.

Then the Samaritan sets the wounded man on his own beast. There is hardly a lovelier example in the whole gospel, than where the Lord compares himself to a shepherd, who carries the lost sheep upon his shoulders into the fold again. Luke 15:5.

And brought him to an inn. That is, Christendom here in this world, in which we must remain a short time. “And took care of him.” I am not yet fully sound. In the mean time Christ takes care of me, purifies me by the infused grace, so that I become purer from day to day.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

The host are the preachers of the word of God.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves ?

Which was the neighbor? The mean ing of this example is, that the neighbors are those who belong together before God, where the one needs help and the other can help.

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

The Christian life consists in this, that I am to act toward God with the faith and the heart; but towards my neighbor with my life and works; and I must not tarry long, till my neighbor desires any thing from me, but anticipate him with my benefits.
Luther’s Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 216-220.


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