Going and Doing Likewise – Luke 10:25-37

Regarding the topic of our summer series on the Parables of Jesus, a technique of teaching and application I have heard over the years has been to challenge the hearer with this question: Which character in the story do you identify with?

Hopefully you don’t identify with the self-righteous lawyer – the fellow who thinks he has more answers than anyone else and wants to be seen in that light. I have to say that I have found a few of these folks over the years.

It would also not be flattering to be identified as like the first two religious fellows who went over into the passing lane to ignore the person in need.

We might like to be seen as the Samaritan, but how often is it true? The extent of his care and connection was indeed highly expensive by every measure. But as we’ll see, this is the goal.

Perhaps we might be most like the innkeeper. We’ll do the job of caregiving if paid for it or if we benefit personally in some way.

Talk to yourself, or among yourselves if you are studying this in a group.

But this much I can say for sure: We should be able to identify with the victim who fell among the thieves. What the Samaritan did is what Christ has done for us. He found us on the road of life – half dead – with no way of helping ourselves. Men did not help us, religion did nothing to save us, but Christ came to where we are, taking on flesh and humanity. He paid the cost of our sin to bring healing to us through his sacrificial gift.  And now we should possess an attitude of service to do likewise for others with what we possess.

Jesus’ Interpretation

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The question the lawyer had asked was one of identity: who is my neighbor?  The question that Jesus asks is one of activity: who acted as a neighbor? Jesus turns it from a noun to a subject/verb.

The lawyer can’t even say the word “Samaritan.”  All he can say is … “the one who showed mercy.”  Jesus acknowledges this and encourages His hearers to do the same.

We need to care for people who are like us – those close – family, etc. This is a primary responsibility to be intentional about the church family.

But beyond that, we need to care for people who are different than us, people who most likely don’t have enough close relationships to help them with their needs – beginning with physical/material things – and beyond to spiritual needs. So we need to be intentional about being on mission in our communities and neighborhoods – the places that, even in a technological age, we have interaction with others who need a relationship with Christ to have success in their lives.

The common denominator for each is looking away from self. This means intentionality, making cognizant plans to live a certain way. But the funny thing is this: when serving others, your own needs are only then truly met in abundance.

A “Gotcha” Parable (Luke 10:30-37)

I have a ministry friend who is famous for telling stories to illustrate what he is talking about. They are really good. But sometimes it gets a bit old and everyone around sighs with a little bit of a “here we go again” feeling. Abraham Lincoln had a reputation like this as well, always quick with a folksy story to make his point.

That might likely be how the Pharisees felt about Jesus when he went into one of his parables. But truthfully – Jesus could put out about 10 zingers in the time it takes my buddy to get through the details of a single account.

In answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” – a question the lawyer thought was a hit back over the net at Jesus that would be difficult to answer – Jesus tells this story:

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This story was really going downhill … no, really, it was. Jericho is about 800 feet below sea level, whereas Jerusalem is 2500 feet above it. The distance between the two places was 17 miles. So that is a drop of 200’ per mile. I need a bicycle path like that! Jericho Road

Beyond this, the road was notorious as one that was plagued with robbers and thieves. There were plenty of places for them to hide in the crooks and crannies and rocks, caves and valleys. So a story about a man being robbed, beaten and left “half dead” would have been very imaginable to these “locals.”

The first to pass him – a priest – clearly sees the man, as he actually “changes lanes” to get around him. The fact that Jerusalem was the center of worship and Jericho the home of as many as half of the priestly order suggests that this cleric was coming from the Temple. This was the equivalent of leaving the church parking lot and seeing someone on the side of the road in need, but passing by on the way to Sunday brunch at Panera Bread.

Offering no specific reason for the priest passing by, Jesus turns the focus now to a second Jewish religious leader. A Levite (family of Levi, but not through Aaron) was responsible for lesser tasks at the Temple. This means that while the same potential laws of defilement applied, his lesser duties made him slightly freer to offer aid if he felt compelled.

The text says that he too passed by on the other side. The wording in the original language would seem to say that he looked more closely – that he saw the man and checked him out before deciding to not get involved and help him.

The fact that both religious officials passed by is a clear indictment of religiosity without compassion – and could not have been lost on this audience as a sort of poke in the eye.

Finally a third man approaches, this time not a religious leader or even a Jew – but a Samaritan – and certainly at this point the listeners thought, “Oh no, the guy is really in trouble now!” We have often shared the centuries-old antagonism that existed between these “dirty half-breeds” and the Jews.

But instead, the Samaritan has mercy on the poor man, caring for him on the spot and making provision for his long-term recovery.

  1. He had compassion – the Greek word for compassion speaks of an inner emotion of being deeply stirred and moved. This is how Christ is spoken of as he looked at the unsaved masses of people. It is how God sees us; and in that he first loved us, we are commanded to likewise love others.
  1. He made contact – He did not excuse himself with fears that the robbers might be in the area. He did not worry about uncleanness. He did not assume the man was too far gone and beyond ability to be helped. Love sees opportunity and is not undone by the obstacles.
  1. He demonstrated care – It is nice to be compassionate and make contact, but the third step is to get involved with demonstrated care that meets real needs.
  1. He accepted the cost – There was nothing for him to personally gain from this; he risked much, but was willing to pay the cost. Love is costly; it was costly at the cross, and it costs us to be truly involved in mission and ministry.

In tomorrow’s final section on this passage we will speak of some specific applicational thoughts, but let’s ask some questions for discussion and pondering…

Obviously we cannot help with every need and situation we become aware of, so where should we look to have a practical role in helping human suffering?

When we encounter a person in need – say, a homeless individual – what are the concerns and obstacles that give us pause in terms of immediately helping?

How can we make an encounter with a person in physical/material need to be more than merely that, but to also address spiritual needs and issues?

How can we be a “Good Samaritan sort of neighbor” in an intentional and regular way?

Q and A with the Rabbis (Luke 10:25-29)

I have some very good and wonderful friends who are lawyers. Yet this profession is sometimes viewed as lower than a used car salesman or even a U.S. Congressman (though to be truthful, many of them are lawyers)! They may even be seen as worse than pastors!

The job of a lawyer is to represent a client favorably (or in the case of a prosecuting attorney, just the opposite) in the light of the law. To do so, one needs to be good with words, with rhetoric and with logic. We might say that he needs to be verbally “slick.”

In the beginning of our text today we have a slick lawyer. Understand that this is a law expert about the law of God as we know it in the Old Testament, so we could think of him as a theological expert. And we know from a host of biblical passages that these “experts” (who were also rabbis divided into groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees) did not like Jesus whatsoever. To them, he was an itinerant, country bumpkin, non-credentialed, unschooled preacher dude who somehow garnered a following of ignorant people who together upset their comfortable status quo. He needed to be taken down a peg.

To discredit Jesus, he needed to be caught in his words by making some blasphemous statement about which they could accuse or prosecute him. And to do this, Jesus is invited into the “big boy” circle of rabbis who discussed fine points of the law in a sort of question and answer format.

Here is the question that the expert puts to Jesus …

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

He gives him a sticky theological question. The essence of it may be more than would appear in simple terms. It is likely inclusive of more than just how a person is in right relationship with God, but beyond that to how one is positioned by the deeds of life to achieve a high inheritance from God in the world beyond. There were varied answers, opinions and emphases in the Jewish world about this subject.

Jesus answers a question with a question, essentially taking back the initiative in this high-level wordsmanship debate…

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The lawyer plays along and answers well by quoting two very well-known passages to Jewish people of the time. There was both a vertical (love God) and horizontal (love man) component in his quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Jesus does not take the bait to argue applications of these passages. As a law expert, the lawyer was certainly part of the community of religious leaders who had many detailed ideas about keeping the Law and obeying it – legalistic details that set them up as the most exemplary people of the time. Jesus just affirms the words of the Word – obey this and you will be fine with God.

The lawyer is understandably embarrassed; he had just been “schooled” by this itinerant, non-credentialed country teacher and had his own authority turned upside down by Jesus’ probing questions.

Therefore when the text says he wishes to “justify” himself, it seems very likely that he was seeking to salvage his reputation or to “get the last word in.”  So he asks the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

His actual question should have been, “What am I to do, because I cannot love God perfectly, and I cannot love my neighbor as much as I love myself?”  And this would have led to a presentation of the Gospel … but …

The lawyer’s intent was to discover what the minimum requirements were – how to define love’s parameters by linking religious duty with personal identity. It is this assumption that Jesus’ parable so directly challenges.

Before we go on to tomorrow’s portion of the passage that is the actual parable, let’s sort of sit in a circle like the rabbis did and ask a few questions …

What are some self-righteous ideas and beliefs that some people have about how they think themselves to be in good standing with God?

What does it mean to love God with all of one’s heart, soul and mind? Does this not sound something like a sort of works salvation?

What does it mean to love one’s neighbor as one’s own self? Can this truly be done?

From the Front Porch to the Back Yard (Mark 10:25-37)

The question that will be asked by the lawyer in Mark 10 with the story of the Good Samaritan is a timeless one: Who is my neighbor?

And as we ask that question of ourselves, there are answers that today may be very different than they were just a few decades ago. A number of factors of the modern, technological age have changed the way we do and maintain relationships. We are able to have ongoing connectedness with people who are far from us – to do so in ways very different than the past.

I remember when I was in college and seminary – before the advent of the cell phone or computer – how different it was to communicate with my parents, as compared to how it has been for my children in those stages of life. A long distance phone call costed a good bit of money, and it was not something you flippantly did. In college, it was a Thursday night ritual that I would call home “collect” from a pay phone in the hallway of my dorm to give them a weekly update. And then, after marriage and moving to Texas for seminary, again, it was a weekly Sunday afternoon event to receive a call from them. With my children there is regular calls, texts, emails … you know the routine – very regularly, almost daily.

That is nice, but it comes also at the cost of less-connected relationships with those who are more physically our neighbors and daily associates. Technology can make us more independent, while at the same time making us more dependent. What brings us closer to people who are even halfway around the world also makes strangers of those next door.

What are some of the reasons why culture changes and how relational distance from physical neighbors happened? Social researchers point to several factors, including …

Transportation – The automobile—that is, the affordable models such as the Tin Lizzie and the Model T—caused the “Sabbath” to evolve to “Sunday.”  In yesteryear, a family would attend church, then visit the grandparents for a front porch meal and time spent with family.  The lack of transportation made regular travel prohibitive, so families would gather together and spend time with one another.

But after the automobile attained popularity, the family was untethered from the front porch.  Now, it was no longer about a “Sabbath rest” but a “Sunday drive.”  Increased mobility gave way to greater consumer choice, and the availability of transportation is taken for granted. Now we can go on extended vacations rather than spend time among our neighbors.

Communication – It was an incredible change in American life when the telephone made it possible for anyone to connect with anyone else without the need to leave their homes. The real-time nature of this technology quickly distinguished itself from prior forms such as the postal service or telegram.  Now, people were available by sheer convenience.

When our office is in our pocket, we can never truly, fully be off the clock—something that has had a profound effect on our psychological view of time, but these interruptions often come at the expense of family dinners.

Occupation – Not long ago, most people essentially lived by a common workday. Go in at 8:00, hour lunch, punch out at 5:00. While this is a generalization, it is only recently that we’ve seen the ascendancy of 24-hour convenience for everything, along with the people it takes to make it happen … or the shifts required to keep production machinery running 24/7.

This has had a profound impact on our psychological view of time. In a former era, we understood the distinction between “workday” and evening. But now there is no distinction—people have individual workdays.

Architecture – In another era, people tended to sit on the porches of their homes where they would have direct—albeit chance—encounters with neighbors and passersby. But since the 1950s, home architecture has shifted from the front porch to homes with a sheer, porch-less facade and backyard patio or deck—perfect for private barbecues or family get-togethers; but one man’s intimacy becomes another man’s isolation.

Privacy soon became an American value, and even privacy fences and hedges are not at all unusual, and for many seem to be the normal thing. I remember being so struck by this when, as a young adult, I moved away from the rural life where I grew up, and the inner-city life I knew in college in downtown Philly, to the suburbs of the more modern city of Dallas – where EVERYBODY had a fenced-in backyard, mostly wooden.

There is no doubt from a myriad of Scriptures that the Lord would have us to be his witnesses to those who don’t know him. The great commission commanding us to do this starts local and goes global – Jerusalem >> Judea >> Samaria >> to the world.

So, for us to do the work we’ve been called to, we need to understand who are our neighbors in this modern age. We will look at the passage itself the next two days, and then on Thursday land with some thoughts about who is our neighbor and how do we be neighborly as Christ’s ambassadors.

Questions for Thought or Discussion:

For those of you who are older, do you agree that there have been huge categorical changes in American culture about neighbors and neighborhoods? Do you have memories that are different than the way things are now?

Have the advances in technology (particularly phones and computers that give us instant access everywhere) served to make life better or worse?  How has it made ministry and outreach better or worse?

Who is my Neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)

If I asked you to take a quiz and list all of your immediate neighbors by name, could you do it? I have to admit that I could not. I just thought it through and will say that, of the five properties that have someone “on the other side of the fence,” I can only name two of them. Two others I can tell you a few things about their lives; and the final neighbors just moved in a few weeks ago and I have not met them yet.

That probably doesn’t speak well of me, though I’ll say that our situation is a bit different due to the size of the properties around us. Three of the five get to their houses by using different roads than do I. So I don’t even see them. And the two that I do see, it is usually related to exchanging lost pets or livestock!

This is very different than it used to be in America. And we’ll be talking about that difference a bit on Sunday as we turn to the sixth parable in our series – that of The Good Samaritan.

You may recall that the story Jesus tells is set up by a question given him by “an expert in the law.” Here is the setting from Luke 10 …

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

One bane of the pastoral and ministry profession is this thing called “the ordination counsel.” To be ordained into the ministry, one must go through a thorough examination wherein you present a detailed doctrinal statement and paper, and then a group of already ordained fellows get to ask you anything they want to.

The only reasonable one of these I’ve ever seen was my own – in 1982 at the church where I was minister of music in Dallas; there were two other fellow seminary grads and myself seeking official ministry credentialing. The church knew all three of us very, very well; and they figured that if you survived Dallas Theological Seminary, you were pretty much theologically okay.

But over the years I have been asked to sit in and participate in a few of these, including for our former staff pastors Tom Savage and Bill Nelson. At every one of these I’ve ever been at, there is some wise guy who asks a ridiculously remote question about which there either is no firm answer, or, the answer is only known by someone who has meticulously studied some detail of theological minutia. Of course, the candidate mumbles through a futile attempt at an answer, while everyone else quietly thinks to themselves, “Good night, I have no idea what that is about.” And finally, the moderator asks the questioner, “Could you explain that to the candidate more clearly?”  And this is the very moment the questioner desired from the beginning – an opportunity to look good in front of everyone … to look smarter than the others.

If you can picture that, you can picture the setting that led to the parable.

But the question is a timeless one to ask in terms of application. Who is our neighbor? It is a somewhat clear and easy thing to love these beautiful people over here, but to love THOSE dirty people over there? That’s a different story. We have categories, just as the Pharisees had categories of people. But Jesus messes with their categories, and he may mess with our own as we enter into this study and think about what it means for life in the Tri-State area in 2015.