For 10¢ a day you can enjoy ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Luke 10

Verse 1

With this chapter begins the great body of material unique to Luke, comprising some of the most glorious teachings the Saviour delivered to mankind, and making this some of the most interesting writings in the sacred Scriptures. The sending forth of the seventy (Luke 10:1-16), their return (Luke 10:17-20), the rejoicing of Jesus (Luke 10:21-24), the account of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and an incident in the home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) are narrated in Luke 10.


Now after these things the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself was about to come. (Luke 10:1)

Seventy others ... It is of no consequence that some ancient authorities add "and two," making this place read "seventy and two"; the teaching is not altered by such a slight variation.

Others ... This word derives from [@heterous], meaning "others of a different kind,"[1] thus distinguishing this group from the Twelve.

Two by two ... This plan provided courage, companionship, and credibility on the part of those delivering the message, and also afforded protection for the messengers from both physical and moral dangers.

Every city and place ... The time for the crucifixion of Christ was rapidly approaching; there were many places which Jesus had not been able to visit; and the sending of this group provided an extension of his ministry possible in no other way. Also, Dummelow thought, "He wished to train his followers to act alone after his departure."[2] It is significant that Jesus was able to command such a large group of men in such a mission, indicating the power his ministry had already generated. Jesus followed up their visits by going personally to all those places.

The number sent on this mission (whether seventy or seventy-two) had spiritual and symbolic overtones. The Jews held that the Gentiles were made up of seventy nations; and at their feast of Tabernacles, "seventy bullocks were offered on behalf of the Gentile nations ... to make atonement for them."[3] The cities and places to which these seventy were dispatched were in Trans-Jordan[4] where Gentile population predominated.

[1] Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 178..

[2] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 751.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952), p. 299.

Verse 2

And he said unto them, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest.

The harvest metaphor was often used by Christ. There is always a great harvest, but the laborers have always been in short supply. As Childers expressed it:

The laborers have always been tragically few; it is man's fatal lack of concern for his fellowmen that keeps the numbers so small; but the Master makes it clear throughout his Gospel that this concern is a test of discipleship.[5]

Verse 3

Go your ways; behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no wallet, no shoes; and salute no man on the way.

The similarity of these instructions to those given to the Twelve has been made the basis of denying this mission of the seventy as historical by scholars like Easton, Klostermann, Creed, Luce, and many others.[6] Such denials, however, are but arrogant, unscientific prejudice; and as Geldenhuys commented:

Such opinions are mere subjective conjectures, at variance with the available data, as well as with Luke's express purpose to relate only actual facts (Luke 1:1-4). No conclusive evidence can be adduced to prove as unhistorical Luke's description of the mission of the seventy.[7]

Carry no purse, wallet ... The meaning here is clearly that of eliminating baggage, as if Jesus had said, "Go just as you are." These are essentially the same restrictions imposed on the Twelve.

No shoes ... The Cambridge Bible Commentary translates this clause, "Carry no purse, or pack; and travel barefoot!"[8] And this is just the type of crooked exegesis that mars so many works of critical scholars. The verb in this clause which is applicable to "shoes" is "carry" not "wear"; and the meaning is undeniably a prohibition of carrying "extra" shoes. Gilmour went out of his way to muddy the meaning when he wrote: "Carry no (extra) sandals would be a forced interpretation."[9] This is not, however, a "forced" interpretation at all, but the only intelligent and natural interpretation of Jesus' words. If the Lord had meant for them to go barefoot, would he not have said so? The trouble that prevents some from accepting this obvious meaning of the instruction is that it takes away all excuse for claiming contradiction in the synoptics. Matthew (Matthew 10:10) says, "no staff"; Mark (Mark 6:8) says "staff only"; and the true harmony of these lies in the fact of Matthew's reference to "extras" and Mark's exception for what was already in use. This passage in Luke gives the key of understanding all three synoptics.

Salute no man on the way ... This means that "They were not to waste their time along the road through long-winded salutations as is customary in the East."[10]

[6] Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 302.

[7] Ibid.

[8] E. J. Tinsley, Commentary on Luke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 111.

[9] S. MacLean Gilmour, The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1952), Vol. VIII, p. 185.

[10] Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 300.

Verse 5

And into whatsoever house ye shall enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: but if not, it shall turn to you again.

Son of peace ... is a Hebrew idiom meaning "a person inclined to peace"; and the use of it in this context shows that no positive or righteous action is ever lost. An expression of good-will will bless the receiver of it, but if rejected will return to bless the giver. As Summers wrote: "No prayer for God's peace or blessing is wasted ... if one upon whom the blessing is pronounced rejects it, it will return to bless him who sincerely offered it."[11]

Verse 7

And in that same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

See below for comment. The Lord expressly forbade these representatives of himself to shop around, as it were, for more convenient or comfortable accommodations.

Verse 8

And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.

Found only in Luke, this admonition was especially appropriate in view of the Gentile character of the area (Trans-Jordan) where the seventy were sent. Even many of the Jews in that area were not very scrupulous in observing the restrictions imposed by their law; and, as those restrictions were shortly to disappear altogether in the approaching kingdom, there could have been nothing gained by Jesus' messengers making any big point of their observance. Other New Testament passages bearing on this question are 1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Corinthians 10:27; and Matthew 15:10-20. The seventy were thus instructed "to eat what they were served without causing inconvenience to their host by requiring `kosher' food."[12]

Verse 9

And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

There was no admonition to the seventy to "raise the dead," as in the case of sending forth the Twelve (Matthew 10:7); and this is proof of the inferior nature of the mission upon which the seventy were sent forth. Allegations that the sacred gospels are merely giving confused accounts of the same mission are inaccurate and unreasonable.

The kingdom of God is come nigh ... It had come nigh in two dimensions: first, the King himself had appeared and was soon to visit in the communities where the seventy went; and again, that Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, when the kingdom would come, was less than a year in the future.

Verse 10

But into whatsoever city ye shall enter, and they receive you not, go out into the streets thereof and say, Even the dust from your city, that cleaveth to our feet, we wipe off against you: nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh.

No gospel mission has any valid purpose beyond that of giving men the opportunity to hear and know the truth. The foregone certainty that countless souls shall reject the message cannot invalidate or change the message, nor impose any further responsibility upon the messengers beyond that of faithfully declaring the word of God. In these instructions, Jesus clearly recognized the right of cities to reject the truth if they wished to do so; but such a rejection entailed also their suffering of the penalties and consequences of their choice. The message was exactly the same to those who received and those who rejected God's messengers: "The kingdom of God is come nigh."

The carryover from this Scripture has wide applications in the church of all ages. God does not command that any specific individual or city be "won for the Master," but rather that the message be proclaimed in its full integrity; the rest is left up to the hearer.

We wipe off against you ... Adam Clarke has the following with regard to this:

The Jews considered themselves defiled by the dust of a heathen country, which was represented by the prophets as a "polluted land," Amos 7:17, when compared with the land of Israel, which was considered as a "holy land," Ezekiel 14:1; therefore, to shake the dust of any city of Israel from off one's clothes or feet was an EMBLEMATICAL action, signifying a renunciation of all further connection with them, and placing them on a level with the cities of the HEATHEN. See Amos 9:7.[13]

The practice of this symbolical action was continued into the apostolic age; Paul and Barnabas, for example, "Shook off the dust of their feet against them and came unto Iconium" (Acts 13:51). The relevance of this for present-day missionaries lies in the fact that if God's word is rejected in one place, the message should then be declared in another. Of course, this is also true regarding individuals; and no preacher of the word should consider it his divine mission to nag any man into the kingdom of God.

Verse 12

I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

In that day ... is a reference to the final judgment which shall terminate the dispensation of grace. The Saviour's use of "that day" in this passage, where its primary reference would appear to apply to the "coming nigh" of the kingdom, shows that the kingdom of God will "come" in a more exalted state at the final judgment. Peter's reference to Christians entering into "the external kingdom" (2 Peter 1:11) also sheds light on this.

Sodom ... was a grossly wicked city whose very name came to be associated with depravity; but their carnal sins in the sight of God were actually less reprehensible than the arrogant rejection of the Redeemer by the cities of Israel. Sodom was destroyed by fire from heaven (Genesis 19:1-26). The greater sin of the cities of Israel derived from their refusing to see the Light of all nations, an opportunity Sodom did not have.

Verse 13

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which were done in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you.

Chorazin ... Bethsaida ... The New Testament does not record the mighty works done in these cities, making no mention of them at all, with the exception of a single miracle of healing a blind man (Mark 8:22). Again, here is the most conclusive evidence that only a small fraction of the miracles of Jesus are recorded in the New Testament. Chorazin is mentioned only one other place in the New Testament (Matthew 11:21); and while Bethsaida is mentioned several times as the residence of Peter, Andrew, Philip, etc., only one miracle was reported there, and even it was done outside the city. The feeding of the five thousand was only a few miles from it, but still not in it.

Tyre and Sidon ... Like Sodom, these cities were considered as the most wicked of antiquity; and the prophets of the Old Testament had spoken God's judgment against them in most somber accents; and the Jews fully believed that those cities deserved the awful judgments that fell upon them. The point Jesus was making here was that Jewish cities rejecting their rightful King were more wicked than proverbial Tyre and Sidon. Sodom, Tyre and Sidon all fell, being overwhelmed with total destruction; and Christ's words here foretold a similar destruction of the cities of Israel; but he went far beyond this and spoke of the ultimate accounting which all men shall face in the final judgment. The physical ruin of such cities was only a part of the eternal consequence of their sins; all must confront God's final judgment on the Great Day.

They would have repented ... This shows that the depravity of such cities as Sodom and Tyre were due in part to lack of opportunity; for Jesus says here that if they had seen such wonders as Jesus performed in Jewish cities, they would have repented. This raises a question of why they did not receive a greater opportunity; and, coupled with the projection of a more endurable status in eternity for Tyre and Sidon than for the cities of Israel, these become elements of a mystery which lies totally beyond the perimeter of human understanding. Obviously, there shall be many surprises in the judgment. J. W. McGarvey pointed out that "When the time came for evangelizing the Gentiles, Tyre and Sidon accepted the gospel and verified the words of this text (Acts 21:3-6; 27:3).[14] For more on Tyre and Sidon, see in my Commentary on Mark, under Mark 7:24.

In sackcloth and ashes ... Clothing oneself in the coarsest of garments and sitting dejectedly in ashes was from the remotest times a symbolical expression of repentance, as exemplified by Job (Job 2:8) and by Nineveh (Jonah 3:6).

Verse 15

And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt be brought down unto Hades.

Capernaum ... This was the home of Jairus whose daughter was raised from the dead, and of the centurions whose son and servant were healed, and of the nobleman whose son was healed of a fever; but the implication is clear that many such wonders were wrought in addition to these which found their way into the sacred gospels.

Shalt thou be exalted unto heaven ...? Favorably situated in Galilee, a strong commercial city, gateway to Palestine from the East, beneficiary of the payroll afforded by a strong military outpost of the Romans, this city might have imagined that nothing but increasing prosperity and glory would mark their future; but Jesus did not see their future in such a favorable light. As a consequence of rejecting Jesus, Capernaum and all the cities of Israel would be utterly destroyed.

Hades ... Geldenhuys wrote that in the New Testament, "Hades does not mean the abode of the dead (the good and the wicked) but a place of punishment and condemnation."[15] Summers, however, while conceding that "Hades" sometimes has this meaning (as in Revelation 20:14), insisted that the usual meaning is "the place of the dead. In the sense of the realm of the dead it was used for the idea of extinction."[16] Perhaps we might reconcile scholarly opinions by supposing that both meanings appear in the word here. Certainly the character of Capernaum which deserved a judgment of extinction would also project a final overthrow in hell itself.

[15] Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 305.

[16] Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 131.

Verse 16

He that heareth you heareth me; and he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me.

Many passages in John emphasize the facts stated here. This verse has been called a Johannine thunderbolt in a synoptic sky; and of course those scholars who allege irreconcilable differences between John and the synoptics have cause enough to view this verse as a thunderbolt. It proves the teaching of John to be one with that of the synoptics. The thesis maintained in this verse is that of the identity of God with Jesus and of Jesus with his servants, a major tenet of Holy Scripture. The same relationship appears in Acts 22:8, where Paul's persecution of the church is made the equivalent of persecuting Jesus. In this also appears the responsibility of men to receive the word of God when delivered through God's messengers.

Verse 17

And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.


Satan fallen as lightning ... The power of Jesus' disciples over Satan, in that they were able to cast out demons, was proof to Jesus that Satan was defeated. "Satan is a conquered enemy; and where action is taken in the name of Jesus, victory is gloriously assured."[17] Here Jesus was both reminiscing and prophesying. Satan had suffered some major defeats, notably in connection with Christ's temptation; but Jesus was looking forward to Satan's final fall, his complete defeat at Christ's hands."[18]

[17] Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 302.

[18] Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 131.

Verse 19

Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall in any wise hurt you.

Tread upon serpents ... This was not an inducement to snake-handling, either for the seventy or to the Christians of all ages, but rather an affirmation of God's providence as exerted upon behalf of his servants in all generations. The symbolical meaning of "serpents and scorpions" is primarily "the works of the devil." The key to this verse is the last clause, "nothing shall in any wise hurt you." This is equivalent to the promise in the great commission. "Lo, I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). Any presumption on the part of God's children is not to be grounded in these promises. While it is true that the apostles and prophets of the New Testament did actually take up poisonous serpents and were bitten without harm (Acts 28:5), there is utterly no example where any person ever did such things on purpose and presumptuously.

Verse 20

Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Rejoice not ... That is, rejoice not in these victories as your own personal triumph; although through you, they are nevertheless victories of the Lord.

Names are written in heaven ... The names of God's servants are inscribed in the Lamb's book of life; and for a full discussion of this book, who are inscribed in it, when the inscription takes place, and who may be blotted out of it, see my Commentary on Hebrews, Hebrews 12:23.

Verse 21

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes: yea, Father; for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.


Significantly, this rejoicing of Jesus was "in the Holy Spirit," indicating that even his emotions were in harmony with that Spirit which, without measure, dwelt in him. The true joy of the redeemed issues automatically in the outpouring of prayers of thanksgiving to the Father.

Hide these things ... God did not hide capriciously his revelation from the wise and understanding of earth; for they received exactly the same revelation as the "babes," with this difference: "The revelation to those with the wrong attitude, when they persistently rejected it, was taken away from them, and they were permanently confirmed in their spiritual blindness."[19]

Verse 22

All things have been delivered to me of my Father: and no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.

This verse is of incredible importance in showing that the Christology of the gospel of John is fully equaled by that of the synoptics. As should have been expected, the radical scholars who deny both the divinity of Christ and the inspiration of the Scriptures have greeted this verse with screams of outrage, many of them having had resort to the last refuge of unbelief, that of making this verse an interpolation. But, in the words of Geldenhuys:

Plummer's words remain true: "It is impossible upon my principle of criticism to question its genuineness, of its right to be regarded as among the earliest materials used by the evangelists; and it contains the whole of the Christology of the Fourth Gospel." As regards the theory of a later interpolation, even Creed writes: "It is precarious to desert the evidence of the manuscripts." It is only because there are persons who refuse to recognize the divinity of Jesus, or at any rate to believe that he proclaimed it so explicitly, that they try to get rid of this verse. They have, however, not the slightest real basis of proof for their "a priori" views.[20]

Verse 23

And turning to the disciples he said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things which ye see: for I say unto you, that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not.

No king or prophet in Israel's great past had been so blessed as these humble men. Though picked from the lower ranks of society, they went out to proclaim the establishing of the kingdom of Christ - the good news of salvation.[21]

Although Christ might not have had in mind any specific examples of kings and prophets who were not so privileged as the seventy, one naturally thinks of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Solomon, David, and Hezekiah, none of whom received the glorious revelation which came to Jesus' followers.

Verse 25

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and made trial of him, saying Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?


Trench held that "We may not ascribe to this lawyer any malicious intentions,"[22] basing his argument upon the revelation that another lawyer, also described as TEMPTING Christ, nevertheless received encouraging words, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34).

What shall I do to inherit eternal life ... It is erroneous to deny that Jesus answered this question; because the ensuing conversation shows that, when requested to answer his own question, the lawyer accurately did so, Jesus receiving his answer as true, thus confirming it.

Verse 26

And he said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

How readest thou ...? A number of important deductions are mandatory from this response of Jesus. First, there is the premise that one may find in the sacred Scriptures the true answer to the question of what must be done to inherit eternal life. Second, there is the deduction that every man is responsible for reading the answer himself. Third, there is the implication that the sacred Scriptures give the same answer to all who faithfully read them. This verse has the impact of saying, "Look, Lawyer; God has told men what to do to be saved; it is written in the Scriptures; and you, like every other man, may surely read it. What does the Bible say?" This is still the only way to receive the correct answer to so important a question.

Verse 27

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: do this, and thou shalt live.

On another occasion, a lawyer (not the same as this) was given this very reply by Jesus to the effect that loving God and loving one's neighbor fulfilled all the law and the prophets, saying, "On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets" (Matthew 22:40). Significantly, both there and here, the attainment of eternal life depends absolutely upon keeping perfectly the entire law of God. Salvation has never been possible except on the basis of doing God's will, all of it; but of course, this has always been impossible for every man, save one alone, the God-man, Jesus Christ our Lord; he kept the law, all of it, in uttermost perfection; and the man who would be saved must be saved as Christ, in Christ, and completely identified with him, such a thing being achieved by membership in Christ's spiritual body of which he is the head. Membership in that body is free to all mankind upon their fulfilling the preconditions of faith, repentance, and baptism (into the one body, 1 Corinthians 12:13); but the grounds upon which God accounts man as righteous must be identified as the perfect faith and obedience of the Son of God.

The full scope of this marvelous truth does not come into view in this passage; but the manner of Jesus' referring the lawyer back to all the commandments in the law and the prophets most certainly points toward it. In his conversation with the rich young ruler, Jesus reiterated the principle in view here, namely, that eternal life depends upon keeping the commandments of God (Matthew 19:17; Luke 18:20). This mountain fact sends every man to Christ for salvation; only he kept God's commandments perfectly. Every soul seeking salvation must: (1) keep perfectly the sum total of God's commandments, or (2) accept identity with Christ, absolutely, who did observe all of the Father's commandments. Only Christ can save; for only he fully obeyed. The lawyer who asked the question of how to win eternal life, seeing the true answer, quailed in Jesus' presence, and then sought to justify himself on a technicality.

Verse 29

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

It was in answer to this question of "who is my neighbor?" that Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, and not in answer to the question of how to inherit eternal life. The questions are related, but certainly are not identical; and the significant thing is that the lawyer's conscience condemned him in the knowledge that he had not loved God fully nor his neighbor as himself. The more acute distress in his conscience related to neighborly relations, hence, the direction of his inquiry about "who is my neighbor?"; but it should not be thought that his conscience was totally at ease with regard to loving God. The parable of the Good Samaritan was given for the purpose of demonstrating to this lawyer that he did not have a clear conscience and that under no circumstances was he an heir of eternal life, having failed, as all men fail, to live perfectly in keeping all of God's commandments.

Verse 30

Jesus made answer and said, A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance a certain priest was going down that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And in like manner a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion, and came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine; and he set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow he took out two shillings, and gave them to the host, and said, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, I, when I come back again, will repay thee.

The method of interpreting this parable which is usually followed in these times is that of contrasting religious people (the priest and the Levite) with non-religious people (the Samaritan), making the non-religious humanitarian superior to the uncharitable religious person: then construing the whole as an answer to the question of how to inherit eternal life, with the conclusion that the only thing needful in order to inherit eternal life is for one to do good to his fellowmen. This parable teaches no such thing. While it is true, of course, that uncharitable and pitiless religious persons cannot be saved, it is likewise true that the unreligious humanitarian is also without hope. It is the conviction of this student that "a certain Samaritan" in this parable does not stand for non-religious humanitarians at all, but for the Christ of Glory, who alone, of all who ever lived on earth, has shown infinite compassion and pity upon all. Bertel Thorvaldsen, the great Danish sculptor whose "The Good Samaritan" adorns the rotunda at Johns Hopkins University, depicted the true message of the parable, making Christ the Good Samaritan. Jesus our Lord is the true model of all human behavior, and not the unnamed Samaritan who lavished pity and care upon the victim of robbers on the Jericho road.

One of the favorite slanders of Jesus by the Pharisees called him a "Samaritan" (John 8:48). See under Luke 9:19. But in this parable Jesus touched that slander with the genius of his divinity and changed it into the most glorious encomium, an accolade of eternal praise. They called him a Samaritan; very well, Jesus defined "Samaritan" for all generations in this incredibly beautiful parable.


The parables of Jesus are excellent beyond all excellence. The hymns of Wesley, dramas of Shakespeare, novels of Scott, eloquence of Churchill, stories of O. Henry, philippics of Demosthenes and the scope of the ILIAD and the ODYSSEY are all surpassed and exceeded by the parables of Jesus.

"The Sextette" from "Lucia di Lammermoor," the "Hallelujah Chorus," the "Chant of the Pagan Priestess" from "Aida," the marches of Sousa, and all the harmonies of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel none of these nor all of them are as beautiful as the parables of Jesus.

The whole world for nearly two millenniums has loved the parables. They are the essence of all philosophical and moral wisdom, the distilled knowledge of all that characterizes human behavior, and the most influential words ever written. They live in the hearts of millions, monitor the activities of all mankind, judge the secrets of men, reveal their motives, disclose their sins, and announce their destiny. They are at once simple and profound.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has alone built a thousand hospitals, or a million; it has fed orphans, relieved the poor, and poured its blessings upon all the wretchedness and disease of this earth. Thorvaldsen's statue of the Good Samaritan symbolizes the relation of this parable to the science of medicine, but the connection with all the sciences of human service is just as real and dramatic. If there is anything ever written that compares with the parables of Jesus, why does not someone identify it? Good Samaritan hospitals all over the world honor this parable. Where is its rival? If the sacred parables of Jesus are not indeed of God himself, why have twenty centuries of human genius been unable to write another?

The conceit that a parable has only one point is a human device for the reduction of infinity to a smaller theater for the purpose of accommodating inadequate understanding of God's word. When man is bewildered, challenged, perplexed, and amazed at the scope of one of Jesus' parables, he may console himself and reduce embarrassment by the allegation that, after all, there is only one point anyway! The inability of men to agree on which is the "one point" proves there are many. Jesus allegorized the Master Parable (Matthew 13:18f); and here is another parable of the same type, displaying the same quality of exciting analogies.


The wounded man stands for Adam and all his posterity.

The descent from Jerusalem to Jericho is the Fall.

The thieves are the devil and his servants who strip men of their garments of purity and the fear of God.

The man left half dead shows the result of the Fall in that man was left dead in his body, but immortal in his soul.

The priest is the Law given through Moses.

The Levite is the teaching of the prophets.

The Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ himself.

The inn is the church which receives every kind of men.

The failure of the priest and the Levite to aid the stricken man shows the inability of the Law and the Prophets to save the souls of men.

The compassion of the Samaritan shows the loving compassion of Christ himself.

The Samaritan's paying all of the charges for the care of the wounded man stands for the fact that Christ paid the total cost of human redemption.

With slight variation, this is the allegorization of this parable as found in Euthymius,[23] who extended the allegory to include the innkeeper as the ruler of the church; but the innkeeper is an inert factor in the parable, bearing no analogy whatever. Such an understanding of the parable does no violence at all to the obvious teaching on "who is my neighbor?" and it also has the advantage of refuting the humanistic nonsense which modern commentators have imported into it.

As Spence said:

This exegesis which has commended itself so heartily to learned and devout churchmen in all the Christian ages deserves at least a more respectful mention than the scornful allusion or contemptuous silence with which it is nowadays too often dismissed.[24]

The parable was given by the Master in response to the question of "Who is my neighbor?"! and if Jesus had nothing else in mind except answering that question, he might merely have said, "Every human being is my neighbor if he is in need and I have the ability at whatever cost to help him." The mistake of the lawyer lay in the restricted view he had with regard to the identity of his neighbor. Even if the person in need is of another race or color, if his need is the result of his own folly, or if aiding such a one is fraught with danger, expense, and inconvenience, nonetheless, he is my neighbor.

One of the ministers of Central Church of Christ, Houston, Texas, whose life was ended in a tragic traffic accident in the mid-1930's, especially loved the parable of the Good Samaritan; and, in the sermon outlines and notes which he left to the church library, James H. Childress left the following poem. It is included here out of respect to a faithful, energetic, and brilliant preacher of the gospel whose genius as a church builder is still attested, forty years after his untimely death, by the fact that a great church still retains as its nucleus many of the faithful souls whom he gathered together in the name of the Lord.


In the long, long ago, a traveler came down the road to Jericho; He fell among robbers, who stripped him, and left him dying from many a blow. A priest passed by on the other side; he had no time to spare; A Levite glanced at the wounded man, but left him lying there.

A human being, beaten and robbed, and left by the road to die! And others content to have it so, and willing to pass him by! But, lo! another traveler came, a man of a hated race; He came to the victim's side, and grief and pity were in his face.

He bathed and bound the bleeding wounds of the man by the side of the road; And on his beast of burden placed a different load. And then to the inn there slowly moved that tiny caravan; That wounded man and the little beast and the Good Samaritan.

His time and his strength and his money too, the Good Samaritan gave, That he might from a cruel death that day his needy neighbor save. And my prayer is that I may be like the man who mercy showed In the long ago on the Bloody Way to the man by the side of the road.

-James H. Childress

[23] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 752.

[24] H. D. M. Spence, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 16, Luke, p. 277.

Verse 36

Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among robbers? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. And Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

He that showed mercy on him ... Significantly, the lawyer did not use the hated word "Samaritan," thus affording a glimpse of his inner thoughts toward others.

Go and do likewise ... By such a command, Jesus enjoined upon all who would be his followers that they should go and be a neighbor to all men; and, in this, there is sharp divergence from the question of the lawyer, who seemed to be asking who was a neighbor to himself; whereas, Jesus focused on the converse of it, "What kind of neighbor are you?"

Verse 38

Now as they went on their way, he entered into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.


A certain village ... This is undoubtedly Bethany; and Martha and her sister named in the next verse are undoubtedly the sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11). It is an error to understand all the incidents in this section of Luke as if they had been successive events consecutively following each other as in some kind of a journey. "Luke does not appear to be using a journey sequence, though that was suggested at Luke 9:51."[25]

Verse 39

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet, and heard his word.

Sister called Mary ... This paragraph in Luke is the only mention of the family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary outside the gospel of John; and the failure to mention Lazarus in a connection that so strongly suggests it dramatically points up the synoptic omission of the name Lazarus, demanding also the conclusion that the omission of his name was by design. Regarding this mystery, Spence said:

The long recital of John 11 gives us the clue. For the disciples of Jesus publicly to call attention in their sermons and addresses to Lazarus, on whom the Master's greatest miracle had been wrought, would have no doubt called down a ceaseless, restless hostility on the Bethany household; for it must be remembered that for years after the Resurrection the deadly enemies of Jesus and his followers were supreme in Jerusalem and the neighborhood.[26]

Sat at the Lord's feet ... This has a dual meaning, namely, that Mary sat beneath Jesus on a lower seat; "but it also has a figurative meaning of listening as a disciple would listen to a teacher."[27] There is thus implied here a teacher-pupil relationship. Thus Paul is said to have sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).

[26] H. D. M. Spence op. cit., p. 277.

[27] Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 506.

Verse 40

But Martha was cumbered about much serving; and she came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Martha's attitude toward her sister in this verse suggests that Mary was a resident in Martha's house; for, had she been merely a guest on that occasion, it is not likely that Martha should have objected so vigorously to Mary's failure to help with the serving. Also, the three, Lazarus included, from the events recorded in John, would appear to have belonged to one household.

It is not true that Martha was an unspiritual person, for one of the noblest confessions of faith in the New Testament was made by her (John 11:27); but in the incident here, she was indignant at what appeared in her eyes as a slight of duty on Mary's part; and she called for the Lord to rebuke it. Nor do the Lord's words deny that a duty had been neglected; but, rather, they stress that a higher duty had been honored by Mary. It is the setting aside of lesser duties for the observance of higher duties that appears to be Luke's reason for including this intimate, revealing story of two sisters.

Verse 41

But the Lord answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The one thing needful ... This can be nothing except hearing the word of the Lord; that is what Mary was doing, and it was the thing which Jesus refused to interrupt on behalf of lesser human obligation. The application is timeless: whatever the duties of men, whether real or imagined, whether less or greater, the one great obligation of all who were ever born is that they shall heed the word of the Son of God. Much of the failure of modern Christianity lies in the fact that Christians are busy with all kinds of things, many of them important and necessary, of course; but yet they have no time for the word of the Lord.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 10". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.