1. Knowing My Neighbour
Luke 10: 25 - 37
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known parables of Jesus but it’s not always correctly understood. Boy came home from Sunday School after learning about the Good Samaritan. He told his mother the story. He had the facts straight and the people in their right roles. When his mom asked, “What’s the purpose of the parable?” her son replied, “It means that when we’re in trouble, others should come to help us!” Not exactly.
The popularity of this parable in some ways works against it. It’s so well known that we think we know everything without knowing that we might not really know it. You know what I mean? It’s common to just skim a story, especially when we’re pretty familiar with it. This morning we’re going to take a different angle in the hope that we’ll encounter the parable’s purpose in a fresh and moving way. Today we’re going to discover that a neighbour is anyone in need that God brings in front of me. [Reading]
Putting the Text in Context
There are 2 basic structural divisions, each prompted by a question.
1. What must I do to inherit eternal life? v. 25
This expert understood the OT and wanted to put Jesus to the test, hoping he could trip Him up so the people would stop listening to Him. Do you see the contradiction in his question? He’s asking what he must do in order to inherit eternal life. An inheritance is not something that we work for; it’s a gift that comes from being born into a family.
As Jesus often did, He turns the question back on the person who asks it – v. 26. Jesus answers a question by asking his own question - we can do the same. If someone were to ask you, “Do you really believe everyone goes to hell except those who believe in Jesus?” you could answer with a question: “Oh, do you think nobody should go to hell, then?” The person is likely to say, “Well, maybe some do go there…like….” You could then follow-up with something like: “On what basis do you decide who goes to hell and who doesn’t?” Now you’re ready to talk about God and His holiness and why He sent His Son to earth.
Jesus led the lawyer to the authority of the Bible, which is something we should do as well. The man answers correctly by quoting Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19: 18: “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 neighbour as yourself.’”
Jesus affirms him for giving the right answer. Jesus then adds these unsettling words: “Do this and you will live.” Jesus is saying that if you want to use the Law as leverage to get into heaven, then you better follow everything in it by always loving God every second, every hour, every day with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind from the day you are born until the day you die.
That’s the standard that God sets. If you want to get in, then be perfect. One slip up and you’re out. This legal eagle is condemned by the very Law he quoted. So the 1st question the man asks is, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Here’s the 2nd question…
2. Who is my neighbour? v. 29
Jesus’ response makes the expert nervous and he’s probably regretting he ever asked the question. Instead of owning up to his inability to keep the law, the lawyer is looking for a loophole when he asks a second question.
The man now seeks to defend himself and deflect his responsibility. Our lawyer tried to put Jesus on the defensive, to force Him to justify Himself. Now, suddenly and unexpectedly, it is the lawyer who is on the spot. He now scrambles to justify himself.
People do this all the time. Some rely on being a “good person” in order to get into heaven. Others know that they’re not all that good so they try to reduce God’s entrance requirements. Does that describe anyone here today? Do you really think you’re good enough to get in? Or do you think you can justify yourself by lowering God’s standards?
Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question but instead tells a simple story. On the surface this popular parable appears to be a simple story about being nice to our neighbours. It’s actually much deeper than that because it’s designed to show each of us how sinful and selfish we really are and that our only hope of going to heaven is by being justified by Jesus, not by doing good works. Being good is not good enough because none of us is good enough to get in.
In an effort to keep us from checking out because the story is so familiar, we’re going to view the events through the swollen eyes of the wounded man.
I had just left Jerusalem and was on my way home to Jericho, about 25kms away. I treasured my time of worship in the Temple but was now eager to see my family. The road I took was dangerous, dropping some 1500m from beginning to end.
There were huge boulders and caves where robbers would hide out. We called it the “bloody pass” because so many who passed this way got beaten up and robbed. It was like walking through a dark alley. I knew I shouldn’t be out there alone.
As I rounded a sharp bend in the road a man jumped off a rock on to my back. Another took me out at the knees. I felt a 3rd guy grab my head and he started slamming it onto the stony path. I tried to scream but nothing came out. They took all my money and then I felt them rip my clothes off my back.
As they got up to leave the bigger guy kicked me in the face and I felt excruciating pain as one of my teeth fell to the dirt. Another one slugged me in the stomach and I started vomiting.
I don’t know how long I lay there because I slipped in and out of consciousness. I then heard some noise and thought the robbers were coming back to finish me off. I had a difficult time focusing but I could make out a priest coming my way. Surely he would help me because he had just come from the Temple. I saw him glance at me and then look away as he moved to the opposite side of the path where he picked up his pace and vanished around a corner.
A few minutes later a Levite came upon me. He slowed down and gazed at me. I was relieved because surely this religious man would help. He seemed grossed out by my wounds and quickly scurried to the other side of the road and was gone. I thought I was a goner.
By now the sun was going down and I couldn’t get up. I was just starting to shut my eyes and drift off when I saw a blurry image of a man on a donkey. I could tell by the way he was dressed and by his features that he was a Samaritan. Initially I recoiled but I needed some help. Our people hated people like him and he hated people like me.
The very reason this road to Jericho was so long is because Jews used it as a detour so as not to travel through the land of the Samaritans. This was the Samaritan’s opportunity to spit on me or finish me off.
I couldn’t believe what happened next. I saw compassion in his eyes. He jumped off his donkey and came right over to see how he could help. He then took his precious wine, which served as an antiseptic and poured it on my wounds. Then he soothed my wounds with expensive oil. He then ripped some of his clothes off and used the strips as bandages.
When the bleeding stopped he lifted me up and put me on his donkey and walked next to me for kms until we came to an inn. He stayed up all night taking care of my needs, bringing me water and trying to get me to eat something.
The next day he took out 2 denarii (2 days’ wages) and gave them to the innkeeper and urged him to look after me until he could return. That might be hard for you to grasp in your economy but that was enough money for about 2 weeks worth of food and lodging. He even told the motel manager to put any extra charges on his credit card and he would settle up when he came back. This was over the top but I was grateful because people who couldn’t pay their debts often had to sell themselves into slavery.
Two Points of the Parable
The first has application to those of us who are already born again. The second application, which gets to the main purpose of the parable, is for those who have yet to be converted.
1. For believers v. 36, 37
The question is not “Who is my neighbour?” but rather, “Am I being neighbourly to everyone, even my enemies?” The law expert put the emphasis on whether a person was worthy of love; Jesus put the emphasis on the one who does the loving. The lawyer wanted a definition and a limitation and so Jesus defined love as limitless.
A neighbour is anyone in need who God brings in front of me. Be careful about allowing “religion” to become an excuse for excluding those you don’t like. The religious people in this story gave the right answers but they didn’t apply what they knew. They spent all their time worshipping and praising but didn’t work it out practically. They came from God’s presence but somehow God’s presence never got through to them.
We’re to practice acts of kindness and compassion. Proverbs 21:13 says: “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.” When the Samaritan saw the man, he “had compassion” on him. This is a very strong word in the Greek referring to the inner recesses of the stomach and bowels. It’s the idea of being deeply moved. One of the best definitions I’ve heard for compassion is this: “Your hurt in my heart.”
His emotion led to motion. Compassion must lead to action. Seeing led to sympathy, which led to service. He crosses a cultural, racial and religious boundary. We must do the same.
There are 3 groups presented in this parable. Which one represents you?
• The robbers: “What’s yours is mine and if I want it, I’ll take it from you.” They were the takers.
• The religious: “What’s mine is mine and if you need it, you can’t have it.” They were the talkers.
• The redeemed: “What’s mine is yours and if you need it, I will give it to you.” They are the touchers.
2. For unbelievers. The question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is easily the most important question any person can ask. The primary purpose of this parable is to convince those who think they’re good enough to realize that there is no way to inherit eternal life by doing good works. You’re not good enough, but there is One who is good enough. Put your faith and trust in Jesus. Don’t be like the religious man who, instead of being justified by throwing himself on the mercy of God, tried to justify himself.
Don’t miss the main message of this story. If you are not yet a believer, don’t run out of here and try to just do a bunch of good works by being nice to your neighbours, thinking that will somehow get you into heaven.
It’s impossible to live up to God’s standards. Are you ready to admit that right now? The Law doesn’t save but shows us that we need saving. There can be no real conversion without conviction. That’s why you need a substitute, one who will take your place. That’s exactly what Jesus did.
Jesus is really the perfect Good Samaritan. Jesus comes along and sees us wounded on the side of the road. Satan has left us for dead and our sins have consumed us. Our dignity is robbed and our righteousness has been stripped.
When no one else cares, Christ comes to us and with compassion cleans our wounds and carries us to safety, paying our sin debt so that we will not be enslaved and guaranteeing our future. He pays for it all himself, bringing hope to the hopeless and healing to the wounded, forgotten and abandoned. Why would we not respond in faith and receive all that He offers us?
Prayer: God, I confess that I fall way short of loving you and loving others. I am not only selfish; I admit that I am a sinner. I can’t help myself and nothing else seems to work either. Please rescue and redeem me so that I can be healed and forgiven. I believe that you sent your Son Jesus to fulfill the requirements that I cannot keep and right now I receive what He has done for me. I ask you, Lord Jesus to save me from my sins and it’s my desire to follow you for the rest of my life. If there’s anything in my life that you don’t like, please get rid of it. And help me now to go and do likewise for those who have fallen on the path. Give me your compassion and enable me to put my faith into action by serving others.