The Samaritans were a Gentile people mostly living in Samaria, and Jews thought of them as inferior and hated them. It probably shocked the lawyer to hear Jesus speak well of the Samaritan as the only one who acted compassionately toward the beaten traveler (Proverbs 25:21; Matthew 18:33; Luke 6:27-31; Galatians 5:13-14; I Peter 3:8-9).
"Compassion" in Luke 10:33 comes from the Greek splagchnizomai meaning "to be moved as to one's innards." A person's innards represent the seat of the warm, tender emotions or feelings. It specifically symbolizes the higher viscera: the heart, lungs, and liver, signifying compassion out of the depth of one's character. The Samaritan not only intervenes on behalf of the beaten traveler, he goes beyond the call of duty to ensure the man receives care until he has recovered. He does not contemplate his action but reacts from the pre-shaped compassion of his true character.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Unless a person has a heart of stone, he will feel compassion for those who are suffering, and that emotional reaction often fuels a helpful response in the form of aid, much like the Good Samaritan had compassion on the man who was wounded by thieves on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:30-37). He saw the man in his plight, sympathized with him, and selflessly cared for him at his own expense. Jesus shows that we should "go and do likewise" (verse 37), as such compassion is the mark of a true Christian. We see compassion similarly encouraged in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, where the righteous sheep help those in need, expecting no reward (Matthew 25:31-46).
It is instructive to see Jesus showing compassion in the few times it is mentioned in the gospels. The first appears in Mark 1:41, where He, "moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched [a leper], and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.'" Another time, recorded in Luke 7:13, He feels compassion for a widow who had just lost her only son, and He raises him from the dead. In Matthew 20:34, He has compassion on two blind men and heals them. Both Matthew and Mark record that Jesus had compassion on the multitude that had followed Him "because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36; see Mark 6:34). He also has compassion on multitudes because they had nothing left to eat (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2) and because many of them needed healing (Matthew 14:14).
In each of these cases, Jesus shows compassion for people whose circumstances had reached a point of dire need, and they had no ability to help themselves. He then performs a miracle that alleviates the problem. Notice, however, that, like the Good Samaritan, He asks for nothing for Himself, except perhaps that they keep the miracle to themselves. He has little or nothing to gain by helping them—and in fact, His miracles could draw the unwanted attention of the authorities—but He helps them anyway out of outgoing concern. His compassion has no ulterior motive except to draw them closer to God.
Jesus was not a politician; He never demanded a quid pro quo. True compassion, as He practiced it, is an outpouring of agape love, a selfless concern for the ultimate well-being of another expressed in sacrificial action in the other's behalf. His compassion for humanity went so far that He gave His life for us "while we were still sinners," unworthy of aid as His enemies (Romans 5:8, 10). His compassion for our weakness and suffering will ultimately lead to our eternal life in His Kingdom, for when He expresses His love for us, it never ends (I Corinthians 13:8).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A parable is not a news report. However, in a real-life situation, a priest or a Levite might have widely varying feelings when confronted with such a situation. They might range from aversion and/or fear that a similar tragedy might happen to him if he remained in the area to sympathy and commiseration. Jesus does not explore this angle, but we can understand the possibility because we also are not unmoved by another's plight. We are not cold marble statues without feelings.
Jesus does not mention what the priest and Levite specifically felt, but He clearly shows that mercy began with the Samaritan feeling compassion for the wounded man. Then, the Samaritan made a number of sacrifices to meet the miserable man's needs. How frequently are we moved to make some small sacrifice toward relieving another's misery, but never mercifully follow through?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) differs from most other parables in that it is so simple and concrete that a child can understand its basic point. However, it is also an insightful and memorable exposition of practical moral principles. That so many religious and secular people understand it shows the effectiveness of its simplicity and depth. Unlike other parables, each figure in the story does not necessarily represent a spiritual equivalent. The whole narrative describes working compassion as contrasted to selfishness, of hate compared with love.
In the parable's introduction (Luke 10:26), Jesus uses a technical term regularly used by the scribes or lawyers when consulting one another about a matter of the law: "What is your reading of it?" The lawyer gives the only right answer—the necessity of loving God and his neighbor (verse 27). He then asks the question—"Who is my neighbor?" (verse 29)—that prompts Jesus into giving His parable. The lawyer believes that no Gentile is his neighbor, although it seems he suspects they really are. This parable makes clear who is our neighbor and how we should respond to his needs.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 10:33: