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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 4, 2016
Who is My Neighbor?
I would venture to say that most people in nations with any substantial Christian heritage have some idea about the story of the Good Samaritan. In fact, the term “Good Samaritan” is used so freely in English communication that is has taken on meanings far beyond a literal definition of the adjective noun combination which would be, “a person of Samaritan origin who has favorable characteristics.” Some dictionaries give it a very broad definition: Oxford Dictionary – “A charitable or helpful person.” The Urban Dictionary – “someone who selflessly helps others. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms: “A compassionate person who unselfishly helps others.” Other dictionaries add in additional elements: Dictionary.com –“A person who gratuitously gives help or sympathy to those in distress.” MacMillian Dictionary –“a person who helps someone they do not know who is in trouble.” Merriam-Webster – “a person who helps other people and especially strangers when they have trouble.” There are also legal definitions that are part of Good Samaritan laws that exempt a person from legal liability who voluntarily attempt to render reasonable aid to another in emergency situations or distress.
This morning we are going to examine Luke 10:25-37 and the story that promoted the development of the idiom. However, as we shall see as we study this passage, there is a more important lesson than just being compassionate to people in distress.
The Setting – Luke 10:25-37
Please follow along as I read through this passage, then we will go back and examine it in detail. As you are turning there, let me briefly remind you of the context Luke puts this in. Chapter 9 ended with people coming to Jesus saying they wanted to follow Him, but finding excuses for why they could not do so at that time. Chapter 10 begins with Jesus sending the seventy disciples out who were ready and willing to immediately serve Him however He directed. When they returned, they were joyful that even the demons were subject to them. Jesus immediately cautioned them not to become proud about the power He gave to them to carry out their ministries, but to instead rejoice that their names were recorded in heaven. Receiving God’s grace in salvation is much more important than the ability to do supernatural things.
Jesus then went on to express before these disciples His own great joy that the Father, Lord of heaven and earth, had revealed the gospel to these “babes,” mere common people, while hiding these great truths from the wise and intelligent. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The Father is revealed by the Son to whomever the Son desires. Jesus then told these disciples they were blessed because they had seen what the prophets and kings of old had desired to see and hear and had not. (See: The Ministry of the Seventy (two)
25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “you shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
The Lawyer’s Question – Luke 10:25
Luke calls attention to what happens next by adding an interjection to the conjunction connecting – “And behold.” He wants his readers to pay attention. While it is not clear in the text whether this lawyer stood up at the time Jesus was talking to the seventy disciples or at a later time soon thereafter, Luke calls specific attention to the actions of this lawyer. There is a great contrast between this man who as a lawyer would have been considered wise and intelligent and the seventy disciples. It becomes an example of why Jesus praised the Father for hiding the gospel from such proud people while revealing it to the humble. This lawyer had the gospel hidden from him.
The term lawyer in this context is referring to an expert in the Law of Moses and not to someone trained in civil law, though there was a great overlap between the two in ancient Israel since the Romans generally allowed conquered territories follow their own local laws. Lawyers had seats in the Sanhedrin. The function of the lawyer and the scribe were about the same, so the terms are often used synonymously. As with any profession, differences in individual lawyers could be great, but in general their concentration was on the Torah, the five books of Moses, with the rest of the Scriptures being secondary to them. Many of them took liberal views of the Scriptures and denied miracles, angels and the promised resurrection of the dead. This was in contrast to the Pharisees who were more conservative in their view of the Scriptures, but gave greater priority to Rabbinic traditions.
Noting that this particular lawyer stood up, it appears everyone had been seated while Jesus had been teaching. He then asks a question designed to put Jesus to the test. While such an action could be from an evil motive to challenge in the effort to find something by which accuse Jesus, (such as Matthew 16:1; 19:3; Luke 11:16), it would appear from the man’s courtesy and interaction with Jesus that he wanted to know Jesus’ answer to an important question to him to see if he should continue to listen to Jesus or not.
He respectfully addresses Jesus as “teacher,” and asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the same question the rich young ruler would ask Jesus (Matthew 19:16; Luke 18:18). There really is no more important question that anyone can ask than how to secure a blessed eternal future. It is a question that should be at the forethought of every human, but it is a question that is seldom vocalized and is usually suppressed when it does arise. People are not comfortable thinking about death and what lies beyond it. What to eat? What to drink? What to wear? What to purchase? What to do for entertainment? What to do in the pursuit of happiness? Those are the personal questions that fill up the minds of most people most of the time. Much more important is the question of what will happen to you after you die. That is why Ecclesiastes 7:2 states, It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart, and 7:4 adds, “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.”
This lawyer’s question was significant in that it was very personal in recognizing that eternal life was individual and not corporate. As we saw in our study of John 8 a short time ago, there was a common idea among many of the Jews that they would go to heaven because they were descendants of Abraham. This man understood that having the right genealogy was not enough to inherit eternal life. He apparently knew the Torah well enough to know that God judged His people and wicked Jews could expect God’s curse, not blessing, in both this world and the next. A common theological topic that was debated at the time, and is still debated in religious circles today, is what laws had to be kept to gain God’s favor and which ones must be kept to avoid being judged and excluded from heaven. In between were all the laws that were good ideas, but were not considered critical in either direction. But this kind of debate presupposed that eternal life could be earned.
The Legal Answer – Luke 10:26-29
Jesus’ answers the lawyer’s question as He often did. He asks a question back to expose what the person was thinking. The lawyer’s question, What must I do? was more generic than the rich young ruler’s question, What good thing must I do to obtain eternal life? Jesus points the lawyer back to the law in verse 26, What is written in the Law? Jesus wants to know how this lawyer understood what is taught in the Law about obtaining righteousness. Did he understand the law’s condemnation and therefore the need to “circumcise his heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16) and seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness as David describes in Psalm 51, or was he looking for a list of what to do to earn righteousness and a list of what sins to avoid to keep from being condemned. (The later are referred to as mortal and venial sins in Roman Catholicism).
The lawyer’s answer is amazing in many ways. It is apparent he has thought about this question a lot for he summarizes the entire law in the same way that Jesus would when asked what is the great commandment in the Law (Matthew 22:25-40). It would not have been that unusual if he only had recited from the shema (to hear) in Deuteronomy 6:5 – You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might – for Jews were constantly reminded of it since it was written and placed in the mezuahs on their door posts and the phylacteries worn on their wrist or forehead. It was at least somewhat unusual for him to add the command from Leviticus 19:18 to love your neighbor as yourself. Leon Morris points out that the particular phrase used here for neighbor (to;n plhsvion / ton pl sion) implies a larger community than just those living nearby (which would have been to; perioikoV / to perioikos).
Jesus commended the man for his answer, but also challenged him with it saying, “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.” The man understood the essence of the Law for all the laws ultimately came down to loving God with all that you are and other people as yourself. If you will do this, then you will also end up keeping all the other laws. However, do not think for a moment that Jesus is commending works as a means to gain righteousness. It is rather a challenge to the man to do what he correctly understands is necessary.
The lawyer’s answer indicated he understood the demand obeying these two laws made on him. Our text states he wished or desired to justify himself, so he answered back with another question, “who is my neighbor?” A humble man would have confessed his failure to keep these laws and made a more desperate plea to know how to be made right with God. This man is not as proud and obnoxious as some of the other religious leaders Jesus encountered, but he is not humble. He tries to find a way to justify himself by seeking a qualification or limitation on how far the command to love your neighbor would extend.
The first question that comes to mind in this response is why does he feel he needs to justify himself ? Since he is testing Jesus by his question, it would seem unlikely that he really felt he needed to gain Jesus approval. Perhaps it was a quest driven by pride to gain, or at least not lose, the approval of everyone present. But I think it is more of an admission of his guilt that his love for others was deficient.
My second question about his answer is why he only seeks a qualification concerning loving his neighbor? Why does he not seek some sort of qualification for loving God? That is more difficult. But then, what qualification could there be when the command demands all that you are. How would you limit the law’s demand to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind?
As we look at Jesus’ response to this question, it must be kept in mind that it is an answer that is really part of the larger question of how can a human be made right with God so as to gain eternal life with Him and avoid the death of eternal condemnation. Keep in mind as well that Jesus could have taken the lawyer to task concerning loving God. Instead, He exposes the man’s failure to keep the easier command to love other people.
Jesus’ Story – Luke 10:30-36
The first thing to note about this story is that despite this being commonly known as the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus presents it as narrative. In other words, this may well be a true story which Jesus tells to illustrate what it means to love your neighbor, and not a fabricated story that could be true but was not necessarily something that actually happened.
The Situation – Luke 10:30. The story begins with a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. This was not unusual since the main road from Jerusalem to the Jordan valley and points north or east went through Jericho. The distance from the temple mount to Jericho was just over 20 miles, so it was also a full day’s journey by foot. The road is steep and winding descending about 3,300 feet from nearly 2,500 feet elevation in Jerusalem to 846 feet below sea level in Jericho. There are many caves and side canyons along that road that provided places for robbers to hide, so it was not uncommon for those traveling alone to be robbed. In this case, they also physically assaulted the man, stripped him of his clothing and left him half dead. The man is in a very desperate situation. He was in need of immediate medical care and help to get to a safe place where he could recover. Having been robbed, he has no means to pay anyone to help, and if he was unconscious or barely conscious as was likely, he had no means to communicate about any relatives or friends that could either be summoned to help or taken to for care. Because his clothes were stolen, there is no way to quickly identify either his nationality or position which could either attract or repel help depending on who happened to come by. He appeared simply as an unknown and unidentifiable man who had been badly beaten. He was at the mercy of the elements and the compassion of anyone that found him.
The Priest – Luke 10:31. As it happened, the first person that came down the road to discover the half dead man was a priest. That should have been just what was needed since priests were to be mediators between God and man. Priests were to be familiar with God’s laws and to carry them out as living examples of righteousness to the people. This would include not only loving their neighbor, but also showing compassion to even strangers and sinners. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 records that a special tithe was to be collected to help those in need so that the blessings of God would be upon them. Priests, who were well respected and easily identified, would be able to access such help or at least easily get others to also help. Who could have been better than a priest to help and see to the care of this man? In this case, almost anyone.
The text does not tell us why, but when the priest saw the man, not only did not help the man, he went to the opposite side of the road as he passed by. Since the man was half dead, perhaps the priest could not tell from a distance if he was alive or not and he did not want to risk ceremonial defilement by touching a dead body (Leviticus 21:1, 11). That would not be that surprising since Jesus had already had several conflicts with the scribes and Pharisees over healing on the Sabbath because they placed more value on their religious traditions than on compassion which is just the opposite of the requirements of the Lord listed in Micah 6:8. Or perhaps he was afraid the robbers were still around and would attack him if he did not hurry on his way. Or perhaps he thought he was already too busy doing God’s work to take the time to help a desperate man. Whatever his reasons, the priest proved to be a poor example of a representative of God. He showed no compassion and left the man in his desperate condition without even checking to find out if he was alive.
The Levite – Luke 10:32. The next person that happened to come along was a Levite. The Levites were a tribe dedicated to serving the Lord and assisting their cousins, the priests. In addition, they were dependent upon the tithe I already mentioned, so a Levite would know how to access what had already been collected to help those in need. Surely the man would be helped by this man of God. In this case, no.
The text does not tell us why, but the Levite did the same thing as the Priest and perhaps for the same reasons. When he came to the place where the man was lying half dead and saw him, he also went to the other side of the road and passed on. He also proved himself to be without compassionate and a shame to his privileged position as a Levite. He also proved He did not really love God because he did not keep God’s command to show love for his neighbor.
The Samaritan – Luke 10:33-35. The next person to come down the road and find the man was one of the last people that would be expected to help for he was a Samaritan. The Jews and Samaritans had a general disdain for each other. John 4:9 comments, “for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” and Samaritans treated Jews likewise. The historical reasons are that the Samaritans were a mixed race descended from Gentiles brought into Israel after the Assyria captivity and the poor Jews that had remained in the land. They had developed a hybrid religion of Judaism. Jewish and Samaritan traditions competed against each other in claims of lineage and the proper place of worship (John 4).
The Samaritan’s reaction was an extreme contrast to that of the Priest and Levite. First, he felt compassion when he saw the man. There is no indication the Priest or Levite had any feelings of sympathy or pity for the man, and their actions showed the opposite.
Second, the Samaritan acted upon his feelings of compassion. He was on a journey, but he stops and goes to the man. The opposite of the Priest and Levite who distanced themselves from him. He then began to give him first aid treatment for his injuries. He used wine and oil to treat the wounds and then he bound or bandaged them up. Although he probably had no idea of how they worked, the alcohol in the wine would serve as an antiseptic to cleanse the wounds. The oil would seal the wound from the air which would both ease the pain and help reduce infection. Oil and wine were commonly used among both the Jews and Greeks in this manner, and both were commonly carried when traveling (wine – Joshua 9:3. Oil – Genesis 28:18).
This Samaritan went much father than just giving the man first aid. The man was in bad shape. He could not walk and was in need of extended care, so the Samaritan put the man on his own beast – probably a donkey – and brought the man to an inn and took care of him. Whatever plans the Samaritan had originally had for traveling were put on hold while he cared for this injured man. The next day he paid the innkeeper two denarii to care for the man with a promise to pay more if needed when he came back. A denarius was the average wage for a day’s labor by a workman. Depending on the inn’s daily rate, this would be enough for between three weeks and two months. More important was the Samaritan’s promise to return and pay more if needed. That not only expressed his compassionate generosity, but inns were not safe places in those days, and the promise to return meant he would keep the innkeeper accountable for the welfare of the wounded man. This Samaritan man voluntarily took on the responsibility to provide for the care of this injured stranger.
This Samaritan’s acts of compassionate kindness to a stranger were in stark contrast to the callous indifference of the Priest and Levite. Since the man’s clothes were stolen, none of these men would have been able to discern the man’s ethnicity, and especially whether he was a Jew or a Samaritan. That left the question open of whether he was a neighbor or not even under definitions restricted to being of the same ethnicity. This road was a main trade route people from many different countries would have used, but in that area at that time it would have been mostly Jews traveling on it. Both the priest and the Levite lacked compassion even for someone that could easily have been and most likely was a fellow countryman.
Fulfilling the Law’s Requirements – Luke 10:36-37
Jesus concludes by asking the lawyer the obvious question to make sure he understood its point. “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
The lawyer easily recognizes the obvious truth that it was “the one who showed mercy toward him.” It is interesting that the lawyer identifies the man by his actions instead of the term Jesus used to identify him. It is almost like it was too much for him to say, the Samaritan, and perhaps it was.
The priest and Levite are the scoundrels in the story, but this was not specifically anti-clerical. The point was to show this lawyer the true meaning of the Lord’s command in Leviticus 19:28 to love your neighbor as yourself which the lawyer had already said was necessary for gaining eternal life. The contrast between the actions of the priest and the Levite with that of the Samaritan toward an unidentifiable stranger in severe distress showed that anyone can be your neighbor. The priest and Levite may have been very careful to fulfill aspects of the Mosaic Law, but they were in fact law breakers since they did not love their neighbor, they showed no compassion on a stranger, they did not love justice or mercy or walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). The lawyer could not avoid the application of the law in his own life by manipulating the law by limiting the definition of neighbor.
Jesus’ command to the lawyer to “Go and do the same” was condemning and not a commendation of earning salvation by the law. The lawyer stood guilty of violating God’s standards and unless he humbly sought God’s mercy to forgive him for his sin, he would remain as condemned as the priest and Levite in the story. There is no indication in the text that he did so. His bondage to the Law kept the gospel hidden from him.
This passage gives a wonderful example of what it means to love your neighbor, but that is not the point of the passage. The point of the passage is that there is nothing you can do in your own power to inherit eternal life. The law’s standards are too high for man to be able to keep. This lawyer recognized that to inherit eternal life he would have to love the Lord God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and love his neighbor as himself. He was not able to do the latter, and he certainly was not able to do the former. No man is able for there are none that do good, not even one (Psalm 14:3) and all our righteous deeds are filthy rags before our holy God (Isaiah 64:6).
The sacrificial system was developed to show man that the cost of sin is death and that his sin is continual. The only hope in the sacrifice was for God to accept it as a substitute, but the hope was in God and not the sacrifice for it would never be sufficient (Psalm 51:16; Hebrews 10:4). In the Old Testament godly people were saved by faith in God that He would provide the needed perfect sacrifice in the future. In the New Testament godly people are saved by faith in God for providing the perfect sacrifice in Jesus Christ. The just live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17), not works of the law. What about you? Will you inherit eternal life?
Sermon Notes – 12/04/2016
Who is My Neighbor? – Luke 10:25-37
Definitions of “Good Samaritan” _____________________________________________________
The Setting – Luke 10:25-37
The seventy disciples were joyful the demons were subject to them, but Jesus cautions them about ________
Receiving God’s grace in ______________is much more important than the ability to do supernatural things
God opposes the proud, but gives ___________to the humble
The Lawyer’s Question – Luke 10:25
“And behold” – Luke calls attention to this proud lawyer who is a _____________to the humble disciples
This lawyer is an expert in the Law of ______________
His question is designed to put Jesus to the test – not necessarily from an ______motive, but to evaluate Him
He is respectful asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? A most _____________question
What will happen to you after you __________is more important than how you live now – Eccl. 7:2, 4
This is a personal question recognizing eternal life is ______________, not universal to all Jews
The Legal Answer – Luke 10:26-29
The lawyer’s question is somewhat generic & Jesus points him back to the ____to discover what he believes
Jesus commended his answer, but __________________him to fulfill it
The lawyer understood the demands of the law and sought a _______________on loving his neighbor
Was his desire to justify himself pride to keep the approval of others or _______that his love was deficient?
He does not seek a limitation on keeping the commandment to love God which is much more ___________
Jesus’ answer is part of the larger question of how a human can be _________with God and gain eternal life
Jesus’ Story – Luke 10:30-36
Jesus presents the story as a ______________- something that really happened
The Situation – Luke 10:30. An ___________man is robbed, beaten and left half dead on the way to Jericho
The man is in a very _______________situation – he may not have even been conscious
The Priest – Luke 10:31. He should have helped as a ______________of God to man
He avoids the man – possibly to keep from being made ceremonially ________? Fear of robbers? Too busy?
The Levite – Luke 10:32. He should have helped as part of a tribe dedicated so _____________God
He does the same as the priest possibly for the same reasons – he was _______________compassion
The Samaritan – Luke 10:33-35. The __________between Jews & Samaritans made him unlikely to help
The Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews & Gentiles with a ___________religion of Judaism
His actions were the opposite of the priest and Levite starting with feeling ____________for the injured man
He acted on his compassion by stopping his journey and attending to the man with _______________
He went further by carrying the man to an __________and caring for him
He went even further by ______________the innkeeper to care for the man and promising to return
The Samaritan’s acts of compassion were in stark contrast to the _______indifference of the priest & Levite
Without clothes, the man’s ethnicity was __________which leaves open the question of if he was a neighbor
Fulfilling the Law’s Requirements – Luke 10:36-37
The lawyer does not use the term “_____________,” but recognizes the truth that he proved to be a neighbor
The story shows the true meaning of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” -______is a neighbor
Jesus’ command for him to do the same was condemning because it was _________for him to keep the Law
The point of the passage is that God’s standards are too high for man to inherit eternal life by his _________
The sacrificial system pointed to the _________________of sin and its continued recurrence
Hope is found in ______________in God to provide forgiveness – through the sacrifice of Messiah
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “law” is said. 2) Discuss with your parents what it means to love your neighbor and how you can inherit eternal life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Define “Good Samaritan.” How does Luke end chapter 9? How does Luke begin chapter 10? Why does Jesus caution the seventy disciples about their joy over the demons being subjected to them? What did Jesus say they should rejoice over? What caused Jesus to rejoice? What is the connection between that and the story of the lawyer that follows it? In what was this lawyer an expert? In what possible ways was the lawyer seeking to put Jesus to the test? Why is the lawyer’s question such an important one for all people to ask? What usually takes up the time and attention of people? How is the lawyer’s question very personal? How does it show he did not believe being a descendant of Abraham was enough to inherit eternal life? Why does Jesus point him back to the Law? Why is the lawyer’s answer unusual? Jesus commends his answer, but why does He tell him to “do this and you will live”? Why would the lawyer seek to justify himself with his question? Why doesn’t he also seek some qualification about loving God? Why does Jesus tell the story about the Good Samaritan. Describe the condition of the man who was robbed and why each detail is important in the story. Why would the priest be expected to help? What possible reasons would cause the priest to avoid the man instead of helping him? Why would the Levite be expected to help? What possible reasons would cause the Levite to avoid the man instead of helping him? Who were the Samaritans? What was their origin? What were their beliefs? Why was his helping the injured man be considered to be so unexpected? What did the Samaritan have to give up to help the man? Why did he help? What is the contrast between the priest and the Levite with the Samaritan about keeping the law and it relationship to inheriting eternal life? Why doesn’t the lawyer use the term “Samaritan” to identify the one who showed mercy and proved to be a neighbor? Why is Jesus command for the lawyer to go and do likewise a condemnation and not a commendation of earning eternal life through keeping the law? Can a man justify himself before God? Explain. How were people saved in the Old Testament? How were people saved in the New Testament? Are you saved?
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