Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 3 Interpreting Parables

Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 3

Interpreting Parables

By Dr. G. Steve Kinnard


The Bible contains various genre or types of literature. Take a moment and think of the many genres of literature that the Bible has. How many genres can you name?

Here’s a partial list: The Bible contains narrative, poetry, wisdom sayings, legislative/legal statements, apocalyptic literature, prophecy, gospels, letters, and parables, to name a few.

To properly interpret the Bible, we must understand that each literary genre has it’s own rule of interpretation. If you don’t use the proper rules of interpretation for each type of genre, then you will misinterpret the Bible.

For example, narratives are stories. They are written to inform and inspire. They aren’t legal codes. They aren’t filled with imperatives or exhortations. Narratives aren’t meant to be legal codes. It would improper to take a particular detail in a narrative and twist that detail into a command or an exhortation.

The old preacher’s illustration of this is the person who decided that he was going to open his Bible and point at three scriptures. Whatever the scriptures said, the reader would literally obey.

The first scripture: “Judas went out and hanged himself.” That was a discouraging first attempt.

The second scripture: “Go and do likewise.” That’s right here in the parable of the good Samaritan. It didn’t help the anxious Bible student. Certainly the third scripture would solve his dilemma.

It didn’t. The third scripture read, “Whatever you do, do quickly!”

That’s not a great way to interpret the Bible. We have to consider context, and we have to consider genre.

What must we consider in interpreting parables?

  1. Live in the house of the parable.

Parables are stories. When we read a story, we need to get involved in the story. Parables are like a house that invites us to come inside and live there for while. The more we live in the house, the more the story comes to life.

I’ve been living in the house of the good Samaritan for over a week now. I put a face on the injured man. I saw his cuts and bruises. I witnessed the robbery and the beating. I put faces on the priest and the Levites. I watched their eyes as they noticed the injured man, then passed by on the other side of the road.

I put a face on the good Samaritan. I noticed that he was dressed differently from the priest and the Levite. I also saw the way he looked at the injured man, his look of love and compassion. I watched as picked up the injured man and placed the man on his donkey. He didn’t care that the man’s blood stained his own garment. I asked myself: Would I be willing to stain my clothes with the blood of a complete stranger? I watched as his opened his satchel and pulled out two denarii for the innkeeper to cover the cost of nursing the man back to health. Two denarii would have covered the expenses for two weeks. Two denarii is the equivalent of two days pay. I asked myself: Would I be willing to give up two days of pay to cover the expenses of a complete stranger?

(2) Don’t allegorize the parables.

In an allegory, we can find meaning in every detail of the story. But parables are not strict allegories. So we have to be careful not to allegorize every detail in a parable.

For example, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, you might say that the Samaritan’s donkey represents the church because the Samaritan put the injured traveller on the donkey to transport him to the inn. You could then say that because the traveller received aid in the inn, that the inn is heaven.

However, you could just as easily say that since the donkey carried the injured traveler to the inn, that the donkey is baptism and the inn is the church. The problem with an allegory is that you can make it say almost anything you want it to say. You shouldn’t treat a parable in this way.

It’s better to see the donkey and the inn as simple elements in the telling of the bigger story. Jesus didn’t attach any special meaning to these elements, therefore we shouldn’t either.

(3) Look for the “Aha” or “Gotcha” moment.

A parable usually contains an “aha” or “gotcha” moment. That’s the moment when fortunes are changed and tables are turned. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the gotcha moment is when the Good Samaritan sees the injured man and has “compassion.” The priest and Levite see the man, and they cross to the other side of the street. When the audience hears Jesus introduce the Samaritan in the story, they must think, “Here’s a third person who will walk right by the injured man.” However, their thinking was wrong. The Samaritan did stop. He didn’t just stop, he put the injured man on the back of his donkey and took him to an inn for care. He also paid for the injured man’s stay at the end. That’s the “gotcha” moment.

(4) Find the lesson/lessons the parable is teaching.

We shouldn’t leave the house of the parable until we learn a lesson (or lessons) that will carry us through the day or through the week. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, one lesson is compassion. When we see a person in need, we should have a compassionate heart toward the person.

Another lesson is clearly stated by Jesus at the end of the story, “Go and do likewise.” Go and be a Good Samaritan to others.

Find the lesson the parable is teaching and then, “God and do likewise.”


The Teaching and Practice of “Sanctifying the Ordinary” in the Life and Ministry of Jesus — Teaching Ministry of the ICOC

The Teaching and Practice of “Sanctifying the Ordinary” in the Life and Ministry of Jesus — Teaching Ministry of the ICOC
— Read on

Here is an excellent article on the spiritual discipline—Sanctifying the Ordinary. Renee Uribe wrote it for a class I taught at Lincoln Christian University entitled “Jesus and Spiritual Formation.” The article is well-written and well-researched. It is both informative and inspiring. Thanks to Renee for sharing this article with us. —Dr. G. Steve Kinnard

A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th Anniversary of his Death



A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th Anniversary of his Death

By Dr. G. Steve Kinnard

Let Justice Roll, A Social Justice Blog. Volume Three. 

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

—Amos 5:24, NRSV


Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

50 years ago today, James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. King as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.


On that day, I was a boy of ten living about 175 miles east of Memphis in a small town called Columbia. I was in the fifth grade. I went to a public school, but it was an all-white public school. I didn’t experience integration until Middle School. I went to an all-white church. I did not have any black friends.

The only black person I knew was Herman. He worked for my dad at my dad’s shoe repair shoe. Herman was deaf and dumb. He had lost his hearing as child, and because of his loss of hearing, he never learned to speak. He also couldn’t read or write. My dad communicated with Herman by using a form of sign language that he and Herman developed over the years. I have fond memories of Herman. He was a gentle soul.

Except for Herman, I grew up in a lily-white world.

I knew who Dr. King was. Everyone did. But I didn’t know what he was doing in Memphis fifty years ago today, and I didn’t understand the importance of his life and ministry. I wouldn’t understand that until years later.

I don’t remember much about the day Dr. King was murdered. I remember hearing the news of his death. I remember some of my circle of family and friends reacting to the news with enthusiasm. I feel tremendous shame as I type those words, but it’s the truth. Some of my family and friends were glad that Dr. King was dead.

I remember other family members and friends showing little or no reaction. I don’t remember anyone grieving his death. I don’t remember anyone shedding a single tear.

Personally, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t know enough about Dr. King to understand that a great leader and a great man had been killed. I feel sad about that.

The news of the death of Dr. King was received very differently by my family and friends from the news of the death of President John F. Kennedy. I remember how sad everyone was when JFK was assassinated. I remember them crying. I remember them sobbing.

Personally, I remember feeling sad. I remember trying to comfort my mother who adored JFK. I remember watching on television the procession of his casket down the middle of the road in Washington and the streets lined with people to see his casket. I remember Jacqueline dressed in black and walking behind the casket. I remember her face being hidden behind a dark veil.

I have vivid memories of the death of JFK. I don’t have those memories of the death of MLK. Again, I feel sad about that.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned of the greatness of Dr. King. I read his book of sermons, Strength to Love, and those sermons moved my heart. Then I read Stride toward Freedom and I learned of his non-violent protests. Then I listened over and over to his great speeches and was inspired by them.

On April 4th, 1968 our country lost a great leader, a prophet, and a visionary. The day before he was murdered, he gave his last sermon, his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in the Mason Temple in Memphis. I encourage you to read or listen to the speech to honor the legacy of Dr. King. You can find an annotated version of the speech here:

Every time I read the speech, I’m always amazed at the prophetic tone of the final paragraph. I’ll close this article of tribute to Dr. King with his own final words from his final speech. Dr. King preached,

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 2 Context—Mercy and Justice

Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 2

Context—Mercy and Justice


When it comes to understanding a passage of scripture, there’s nothing more important than context. In real estate, it’s all about “Location! Location! Location!” In hermeneutics, it’s often about “Context! Context! Context!”

My hermeneutics professor in college pounded this into our brains by repeating over and over, “Context! Context! Context!” When I teach hermeneutics, I repeat his mantra to my students, “Context! Context! Context!”

What’s the context of the Parable of the Good Samaritan? The story begins with a question. A lawyer asked Jesus a question. (I could tell some lawyer jokes at this point, but I’ll refrain).

This particular lawyer stood up and started a conversation with Jesus. The text says he stood in order “to test” Jesus, which could also be translated as “to tempt Jesus.” In the gospels, there are occasions where lawyers are good people with good intentions. But in this case, the lawyer’s motive for asking the question was to entrap Jesus.

However, his opening question was still a good question. The question was, “Teacher (Rabbi), what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Lawyers typically asked rabbis this question. They also asked, “What is the greatest of all the laws?” They wanted to know the alignment of the rabbi—conservative or liberal. Once they discovered where the Rabbi stood in relation to the Law, they would then trap the Rabbi with a followup question.

Regardless of the lawyer’s intent for asking the question, Jesus considered the question and started a dialogue with the lawyer. He answered the question with a question. Jesus wasn’t a teacher who spat out answers without causing people to think. He answered questions with questions. He engaged people in conversation. Jesus asked, “How do you read what is written in the Law?”

The lawyer answered, “Love God and neighbor.” That’s a good answer. That’s a summary of everything in the law.

In essence Jesus says to the lawyer, “That’s a great answer; now make sure you knowledge and your actions mesh together.” Jesus says to the lawyer, “Do this and you will live.”

The lawyer wasn’t satisfied with Jesus’ answer. He hadn’t trapped Jesus yet. Instead, Jesus had challenged him to make sure his life matched his intellect. The lawyer felt the need to vindicate himself, so he asked another question in an attempt to ensnare Jesus. He asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

This question often trapped Rabbis. That’s because some Rabbis believed that anyone in need was your neighbor, but others taught that only people of the covenant community (i.e. other Jews) were their neighbors.

Sirach 12:4-5 states, “Give to the devout, but do not help the sinner.” In Qumran, the Essenes segregated themselves from the Jews of Jerusalem. The members of Qumran did not believe people outside their community were their neighbors. They were only obligated to help other Essenes. 1 Qumran Scroll 10:19-21 reads, “My anger I shall not remove from unjust men. … I shall have no mercy for all those who deviate from the path. I shall not comfort the oppressed until their party is perfect.” In other words, the Essenes only showed mercy to other Essenes.

Where did Jesus stand on this issue? Who does Jesus say is our neighbor?

Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a parable—then parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus told the parable, then he asked the lawyer to answer his own question. Jesus asked him, “Who proved to be the neighbor in the story.” He didn’t give the lawyer the answer. He made the lawyer find the answer in the story.

The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy.”

That lawyer answered correctly. A good neighbor is anyone who shows mercy/justice to people in need. The OT term is Hesed. It means “love, mercy, justice.” A good neighbor engages in social justice.

The parable of the good Samaritan is a parable about social justice. The good neighbor is the person who demonstrates justice and helps people who are in need.

But it’s not enough just to recognize who is the good neighbor. Jesus adds, “Go and do likewise.” These four words challenge us to be a good Samaritan for others.

“Let justice roll.”


Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 1

Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 1



I have two favorite parables. It’s a tossup as to which is my most favorite. I love the story of separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. I’m convicted every time I read it that I need to see Jesus in the eyes of the dispossessed and disinherited, that’s anyone “has their back to the wall” in the words of Howard Thurman. I also love the parable of the good Samaritan. The simple phrase at the end of the parable gets stuck in my head like an enticing earbug, “Go and do likewise.”

I’ve been reading an excellent book on the parables (some call it “the best” book on the parables) entitled, Stories with Intent by Klyne R. Snodgrass. Warning: This book is like a Odell Beckham, Jr. pass route—long and deep. And, like all his pass routes, it’s pricey. Before you order it on Amazon (or purchase it at Barnes and Noble if you still believe in brick and mortar stores) in the words of Jesus “count the cost to see if you will finish it.” My estimate is one in one hundred people will finish this book. Perhaps you are that “one” in one hundred?

This week I’m going to share with you some thoughts on my thoughts on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

First, a translation. Exegesis should always begin with a good translation. Since I couldn’t find a good translation (just kidding), here’s my translation from a future publication that I like to call the GSKV (the G. Steve Kinnard Version):

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

25And behold, a certain lawyer rose up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

27He answered him, “Love the Lord your God with the whole of your heart, the whole of your life essence, and the whole of your strength, and the whole of your intellect, and  love your neighbor as yourself.”

28Jesus said to him, “You answer correctly, do this and you will live.”

29But the man, wishing to vindicate himself, said to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

30Replying to him, Jesus said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among thieves.  They stripped him, inflicted him with many blows, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31By chance a certain priest was going down that road.  Seeing the man, he passed by on the opposite side. 32Likewise a Levite came by the place. Seeing the man, he passed by on the opposite side. 33A certain Samaritan who was traveling came by. Seeing the man, he felt compassion. 34He approached the man, bandaged his wounds, and poured olive oil and wine on them. He placed the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he got out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him. Whatever you spend, when I return, I will repay you.” 

36Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?

36The lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy to him.”

Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”


“A Child Shall Lead Them” The March for Our Lives

“A Child Shall Lead Them”

The March for Our Lives

By Dr. G. Steve Kinnard

Let Justice Roll A Social Justice Blog

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

—Amos 5:24, NRSV

Volume Two: “A Child Shall Lead Them”


I know the phrase “a child shall lead them” refers in prophecy to Jesus.  However, I often think of this phrase when I see a child teaching an adult a lesson. Like when a child sat on the knee of Jesus and taught Jesus’ disciple a lesson about humility.

This past weekend this phrase could have been used to describe hundreds of thousands of children across the US who taught adults to stand up, step up, and speak up concerning the rise of gun violence in their schools. Students from across our nation are leading the discussion about gun legislation, and they will not be silenced.

On Valentines Day, 2018 (which also happened to be Ash Wednesday) there was a shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida that claimed seventeen lives. I’m sure you also remember that back on December 14, 2012 there was a shooting in an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut that took twenty-seven lives.

The beginning of the modern era of school shootings began in 1999 at Columbine High School. Since 1999, The Washington Post estimates that at least 200 students have died from shootings at schools and over 170,000 students have experienced a school shooting on campus. Most of these are students who were not even born  when the era of school shootings began in 1999.

Also, we must not forget the children who face gun violence daily on the urban streets of our nation. Children of color face gun violence in a disproportionate rate in the United States.

At this point the Psalmist would ask, “How long, O Lord? How long?”

On February 22nd, grieving parents and students met in a town hall style meeting with the two Florida state senators and a state representative to talk about the shooting and to discuss ways to prevent future shootings. I applaud the courage of the senators and the representative for attending the meeting. The president and state governor declined to attend.

Two of the three legislators said they supported a total ban of sale of assault weapons.   When one senator was asked to renounce donations from gun lobbyists, he refused.

As you can imagine, the discussion was fierce and heated. Many tears were shed. People were angry. And, as is often the case, behind the anger was fear.

Students, parents, and school administrators marched on the state capitol building in Florida to demand changes in gun laws. Thousands of people raised their voices to say to state and federal legislators that something must be done.

Their voices were heard outside the state legislature. Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the US, announced that it would stop selling military style weapons, and it was raising the age to be able to purchase firearms from 18 to 21.

On Saturday March 24th an estimated 850,000 students marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to the Capitol building. They carried posters which read “ACT! FEAR has no PLACE our our schools!” and “Protect our Future.” These children have decided that if adults won’t listen to adults, then perhaps they will listen children. “A child shall lead them.”

What about our voice as Christians? What do we have to say about the plaque of school shootings in the United States?

At this time, while so many are mourning and while so many are talking about gun legislation in the US, let’s ask, “How do we respond?”

First, with prayer and fasting. I appreciate my friend Tony Fernandez who leads the church in Broward County for calling the disciples there to fast one meal a day for seventeen days. That’s one meal a day for each of the seventeen victims of the shooting. Prayer and fasting are always an appropriate response.

Let’s fast. And while we are fasting, let’s pray for our nation and all the nations of the world to find lasting solutions to gun violence.

Second, with love. People are angry. That’s understandable. But we have to make sure that our anger doesn’t bleed over into hatred, bile, and vitriol. Hate begets hate. Only love can conquer hate.

Third, humility. No one has all “the” answers. I have my opinions about what should happen at this moment with gun legislation. But I also know that I’ve never participated in drafting a bill to congress, debating a bill in congress, or passing a bill in congress. I have opinions, but I don’t have “the” answers.

It does seem that some common sense proposals ought to rule the day. The purchasing age for firearms ought to be raised from 18 to 21. Stocks that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire like automatic weapons ought to be outlawed. The sale of military style weapons ought to be outlawed. And, legislatures ought not received contributions from the NRA.

Our children are asking us adults to consider these changes.

Will these actions stop all the violence? I don’t think so. We also need to invest in proper evaluation and treatment of people with mental health problems. We need to provide more and better trained security at our schools.

And, more than anything else, we need Jesus. “A child shall lead them.” The ultimate answer to all violence in the world is the love of Jesus.

So, let’s pray and fast, let’s love, and let’s stay humble. These are always appropriate responses to any situation. And let’s follow Jesus.

And, until next time, “Let Justice Roll.”

Dr. G. Steve Kinnard, March 26, 2018


Let Justice Roll: A Social Justice Blog

Let Justice Roll

A Social Justice Blog


“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

—Amos 5:24, NRSV

Volume One: Social Justice

“Houston, we have a problem.” Tom Hanks spoke this line in the 1995 film Apollo XIII. The line alerted the Mission Control Center in Houston that the Apollo spacecraft had suffered a crippling explosion.

It’s actually a misquote.

Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert spoke the original line to Mission Control. Swigert said, ”Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” I see why movie director Ron Howard changed the wording. The original isn’t as juicy as “Houston, we have problem.” The Hank’s revision is much more quotable.

So I will rephrase and revise the Hank’s revision:

“World, we have a problem.”

“United States of America, we have a problem.”

“Disciples of Jesus around the globe, we have a problem.”

The problem isn’t new. It’s as old as humanity. It was addressed in the legislation of the Pentateuch millennia ago. It was addressed by the prophets of Israel centuries ago. It was a major concern of Jesus’ kingdom manifesto when he walked the earth. It’s been addressed by advocates of social justice globally for decades. And, a few visionary disciples have been addressing the problem in our churches for the past couple of decades.

The problem is a problem of justice. Social justice. Or, lack of justice. Social justice. That’s the problem.

I rarely hear issues of social justice talked about in our churches. Not in a broad, wide-ranging manner. I’ve participated in discussions on race. I’ve participated in a more limited way on discussions of sexism and ageism. I’ve participated in discussions on Christians and the military.

We’ve had more wide-ranging discussions on poverty and have even created a parachurch organization to administer our global response to world poverty. This response to poverty includes free medical treatment for the sick, early childhood development initiatives, aids prevention and treatment, housing and vocational education for lepers, housing and education for orphans, and the list continues. Kudos to Hope-Worldwide and its sponsoring churches and individuals for giving the poor a voice in our movement of churches.

But I’ve never participated in a discussion on what is the proper Christian response both as individuals and as churches to issues like human trafficking, immigration reform, abusive child labor practices, abortion, gun-regulation in the United States, criminal justice reform, sentencing reform, homelessness, poverty, greed, abuse of authority (including church authority), sexual harassment, environmentalism, inequitable distribution of wealth, and the list continues.

You might think, “What’s the point in discussing something like human trafficking. Human trafficking is wrong and I’m against it. ‘Nuff said”

Okay. But what are we going to do about it? What can we as a movement say and do to help shine a light on the evils of human trafficking so that governments decide to take action against those who perpetrate such evil?

This should be discussed.

So, I want to start some discussions. Why? Because the Bible is not silent on these issues. Instead, the Bible is filled with verses on “justice.” Here’s a sample:

Psalm 37:28 states, “For the Lord loves justice.”

Psalm 37:30 reads, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice.”

Psalm 82:3, states, “Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.”

Psalm 103:6 says, “The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.”

Proverbs 29:26 reads, “Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.”

Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.”

Jeremiah 9:24 states, “‘But let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight,” says the Lord.”

In Micah 6:8 Micah writes, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

In Matthew 23:23, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.”

Yahweh loves justice. Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting justice. Do we love or neglect justice?

Amos 5:24 reads, “Let justice roll down like water.”

Let’s get justice rolling.

“Let Justice Roll.”

—Dr. G. Steve Kinnard, March 24, 2018