NEIGHBORS – Believers demonstrate their love for God by extending grace to others.
MEMORY VERSE: LUKE 10:27 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.’”
One of the most difficult demands of Jesus is to love our enemies. Now consider Jesus’ command to love our neighbors, which seems more doable. This is especially true if our concept of love is nothing more than social politeness. Yet Jesus’ command to love our neighbors goes beyond the social norms. The type of love Jesus requires involves sacrifice and willingness to treat others with the same amount of attention we would typically reserve for ourselves. This is the Christian mandate of love. Believers demonstrate their love for God by extending grace to others.
THE CONTEXT (LUKE 10:1-13:21)
Jesus’ encounter with a lawyer occurred as He journeyed toward Jerusalem for the completion of His earthly ministry. He always knew what would happen and tried to prepare the disciples as they traveled south from Galilee, through Samaria, and into Judea. Each of the incidents in this passage builds toward the climax in Jerusalem.
Just as Jesus sent out the Twelve at the beginning of Chapter 9, Chapter 10 opens with His sending seventy-two disciples to prepare the way for Him. Like the Twelve, they exercised power given by Jesus and were amazed by the results.
While Jesus increasingly confronted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes, He continued to prepare His followers for the future. His description of His approaching death was a prelude to prophecy that was veiled as a parable about His resurrection and future return. Jesus’ disciples should not worry about opposition, but be prepared for a day of accountability in which rewards and punishment will follow.
Jesus urged the unbelieving Jews to repent in view of the coming judgment. Like a loving gardener whose fig tree had not produced fruit, God delayed bringing final punishment on their nation to give them time to repent. Unless they recognized the value of the kingdom of God and repented, they would perish. Jesus offered examples of people who died tragically and warned that whoever did not turn to God would suffer a similar fate.
In a series of “woe” statements, Jesus spoke against people whose idea of religious fidelity was wrapped up in ritual rather than a right relationship with God. He specifically pointed out ways they claimed religious privilege but at the same time treated other people cruelly and deceitfully. The parable of the Good Samaritan exemplifies these various conflicts. Jesus contrasted people who make a show of religion and believers who express godly love. This story emphasizes the kind of sacrificial compassion God desires of His people.
THE EXCHANGE (LUKE 10:25-29)
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?”
Jesus’ opponents were always trying to put Him in difficult situations. The setting should have been a joyous occasion as the seventy-two missionaries returned with exciting news about their experiences. Jesus privately spoke to His disciples about how blessed they were to see God work in these ways. But then, an “expert in the law” tried to trap Him in his words.
The man’s intention was not to offer a sincere question but to test Jesus with the intent of trapping him. The term inherit reflects receiving something as opposed to earning it. He wanted Jesus to offer a direct answer that would validate his preconception.
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.”
Jesus knew what was in the man’s heart, so He responded by returning the question to the lawyer. Jesus forced the man to disclose what any expert of the law should know asking his opinion. He not only wanted the man to say what the law said, but also to reveal how he interpreted that law.
The lawyer demonstrated his expertise by paraphrasing Deuteronomy 6:5. The quotation from Deuteronomy was part of the Shema – the declaration by faithful Jews that “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Israel was God’s missionary nation tasked with proclaiming that the one true God is the Lord, invoking the covenant name of Yahweh. The faith response focuses on loving God with all of one’s being. Obedient action results from loving God completely.
From the last half of Leviticus 19:18, the second quotation defined godly love as caring for your neighbor as yourself. This relationship goes beyond simply not harming someone. It required loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:38-39). He declared that these two statements summarized all of the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus did not come to eliminate the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17). Jesus knew that the lawyer could not fully do this.
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The man quickly understood he had just condemned himself. He was well aware that to break the law at any point meant he was a transgressor who deserved death rather than life (Deut. 27:26). Quickly, he tried to justify himself. Seeking a loophole, the lawyer focused on the second of the Great Commandments. He asked, “And who is my neighbor?” He was not offering a legitimate question but again was trying to put Jesus on the spot and also trying to vindicate himself.
Jesus exposes our attempts to justify ourselves. We can rationalize, explain, or offer excuses, but our failure cannot be hidden from God. We may think we fare well in comparison to other people who commit what we consider to be more terrible sins. In light of the perfect holiness of God, we must acknowledge our desperate condition as sinners who have not kept His commands.
THE STORY (LUKE 10:30-35)
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of 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.
The Jews believed their responsibility was limited to fellow Jews. Jesus wanted them to understand the larger requirements of God. Jesus did not avoid the question posed by the lawyer but took it up by responding with a story. Jesus often used parables to disarm listeners and to get them to understand spiritual lessons that might make them uncomfortable.
Jesus described a man who was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho. He did not identify the ethnicity of the traveler. Since the listeners were Jews, they assumed the man was also a Jew. Someone departing Jerusalem for Jericho was described as going down. Jerusalem was built on an elevated mountainous area. While Jericho was northeast of Jerusalem, it was about 800 feet below sea level.
At this point Jesus introduced three people who came upon this tragic scene. The first was a priest. Instead of helping the injured man, the priest passed widely around him. He did not want to defile himself by touching someone or something and thus be unable to carry out his priestly duties.
The next part of the story introduces a Levite. Levites assisted in other duties related to the maintenance of the temple. Both groups were intensely interested in preserving ceremonial purity necessary for the performance of their task. Thus, the priest and the Levite were more concerned with keeping themselves ceremonially clean in order to serve at the temple. Both men refused to help the victim.
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, took him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’
Contrasted with the previous two persons who were religious, on the scene comes a Samaritan. Samaritans lived between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south. These were descendants of intermarriage between Jews and pagans who immigrated to this area during the period of the Babylonian exile. The Samaritans were looked down on and even despised by some of the Jews.
This Samaritan was traveling on a journey while the priest and Levite were casually walking along the road. The first two should have had plenty of time to see about the injured man. However, it was the Samaritan who came closer, saw the condition of the injured man, and then had compassion on him. He cleaned his wounds with oil and wine and then bandaged him up.
He then put him on his own donkey and took him to an innkeeper. The Samaritan did not simply turn the man over to others but personally took care of him. So far, the Samaritan interrupted his journey, risked his safety, provided aid, and continued to minister to the injured man. This description portrays a man who stayed up all night tending the injured man. Since the man was still not well, the Samaritan used his personal resources to ensure ongoing care as he continued on his journey. He gave two denari to the innkeeper. This amount of money amounted to about two day’s wages. Asking the innkeeper to take over care of the man, he wanted to make sure he was receiving care until he returned from his trip.
Jesus’ simple but profound short parable forced his listeners to identify with one of these four people: the victim, the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan.
THE CHALLENGE (LUKE 10:36-37)
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.”
Two religious people and a Samaritan had the opportunity to help the man who fell into the hands of robbers, but only one showed compassion. Jesus asked a simple question the lawyer could not evade: Which one of these proved to be a neighbor? People cannot simply claim to be a neighbor. A true neighbor takes action and demonstrates love and care. Mercy is not mere sympathy but requires manifestation of compassion – action. Being a neighbor requires acting out genuine care for another person.
Jesus expects His followers to extend grace to all people. We don’t minister to others in order to earn some merit that gains eternal life. A lifetime of good works cannot outweigh our sin. Only faith in Jesus and acceptance of His death and resurrection can bring us into life eternal. Loving God and loving people are two prime evidences that we have entered that new life by faith.