Summary: A great start to obeying the Great Commandment is right where we live.
We have taken the past three Sundays to think together about how we need to obey the Great Commission. Now today, I want us to think together about how we need to also take the Great Commandment seriously by taking it literally. What is the Great Commandment?
Basically, to sum up what Jesus says, the great Commandment is simply “Love God supremely and love others selflessly.”
It’s interesting when this scribe asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him what was written in the law, and when said, “How do you read it?” Strict orthodox Jews wore around their wrists little leather boxes called phylacteries, which contained
certain passages of Scripture - Exodus 13:1-10; 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21. What Jesus was saying to this scribe was, “Look at the phylactery on your own wrist and it will answer your question.”
To these Scriptures, the scribes had added Leviticus 19:18, which bids a man to love his neighbor as himself; but with their passion for
definition, the Rabbis had determined that one’s neighbor was his fellow Jew. This scribe, in an effort to “justify himself,” that is, to make sure he was following this teaching correctly, asked for Jesus’ interpretation. In response, Jesus related a story which we have come to refer to as “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”
The Scene of this Story - v. 30
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a very dangerous road. Jerusalem is 2300 feet above sea level; the Dead Sea, near which Jericho stood is 1300 feet below sea level. In somewhat less than 20 miles, this road dropped 3,600 feet. It was a road of narrow, rocky cliffs, and of sudden turns, which made it a favorite of thieves. The 5th century historian Jerome called it “the red or bloody way.” when Jesus told this story, He was telling about the kind of thing that was constantly happening on the Jerusalem to Jericho road.
2. The Characters of this Story - vs. 31-35
A) The Traveler - He was obviously a reckless and fool hearty person. People seldom traveled this road alone if they were carrying goods or valuables. They often sought safety in numbers. This man had no one to blame but himself for this situation.
B) The Priest - He hurried past. No doubt he remembered that he who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11). He could not be sure if the man was dead, but he was unwilling to risk losing his turn of duty in the temple. He set the claims of ceremony above those of charity.
C) The Levite - He seems to have gone nearer to the man before going on. Bandits were in the habit of using decoys. How could he be sure this wasn’t a trick? His motto was “safety first.” He too, was unwilling to risk in order to help this man.
D) The Samaritan - Unlike the others, he was willing to risk in order to help this man. He may not have been correct in his understanding of of temple worship, etc., but the love of God was in his heart. It is no new thing to find the orthodox more interested in dogma than is doing something. In the end we will be judged not by the creed we held; but by the life we lived.
3) The Teachings of this Story - vs. 36-37
A) We must be willing to help others, even if they may have brought their trouble on themselves.
B) Any one of any race who is in need is our neighbor. The ground is level at the foot of the cross and our love must be as wide as the love of God.
C) To obey God and love our neighbor as ourselves involves risk. But that risk is especially worth it if someone’s life is saved.
D) Life is dangerous when we go it alone. That’s what the traveler found out; and that’s what too many people in this world learn as they go it alone. Sadly, that’s how too many people are living - alone. We live in a society where we can easily cut ourselves off from others and often do. This is why Christian community is so important. Our commitment to living life in community as the people of God is to be a distinguishing mark of our being followers of Jesus.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34–35 (NIV)
Now, as we take this truth and put it along-side the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, what do we conclude? We’ve got to take the love of God we share together as a church family and share it with our neighbors.