Summary: This sermon is about loving your neighbor and treating them with compassion and mercy. It also tells about the Good Samaritan in an updated version.
Luke 10:25-37 reads, “And behold a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your should, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered and said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.
“So which of these three do you think was the neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “God and do likewise.”
The last sermon in the three-part series on being a welcoming church is titled, “Open Doors.” The Scripture read this morning has so many things to draw from it but I want to focus on one thing that Jesus said in this conversation, “Go and do likewise.”
In this Scripture we see a lawyer, not unlike today, stand up and test or literally, try to trap Jesus in a matter concerning the law. He was looking to debunk Jesus Christ. The lawyer wanted people to watch him get Jesus in trouble with the law while at the same time looking like a good student of the law. It was pride that motivated the lawyer. Jesus knew that it wasn’t just pride in being a lawyer, but pride in being a religious law-abiding Jew.
What is surprising is the parable that Jesus uses. The crowd along with the lawyer probably expected to hear how a Jew should show love to anybody, even to a Samaritan, but in fact Jesus shows how even a Samaritan – who didn’t believe that Jerusalem was the holy capitol – could be nearer to heaven than a pious, holier-than-thou Jew.
Jesus doesn’t come out and say exactly whom one should help as a neighbor. Not being able to keep the commandment of love your neighbor as yourself doesn’t come from a lack of information or precise answers, like the lawyer asks. But rather failure to keep the commandment comes from a lack of love. It wasn’t new information the lawyer needed but a new heart.
Jesus answers the lawyer’s question by asking a counter question. I tell you if you want to frustrate people who want a quick answer ask them a question right back. Jesus was getting the lawyer to answer his own question and avoid the legal trap that he was trying to put Jesus in. Jesus asks the lawyer, “What does the law say? How do you read it?”
Now the lawyer has got to feel pretty foolish. Jesus asked him a question that would make the lawyer quote the easy answer – law, chapter, and verse. The lawyer responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and will all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Te lawyer could probably hear the audience in his head snickering at him.
Jesus gives him his doggy treat by telling him that he has answered correctly and if he would do this he would live. Now the lawyer feels he’s lost some face, some pride. He doesn’t want to be dismissed by Jesus just yet. He probably feels like he can get some pride back by asking Jesus another more pointed question. A question that calls for an exact answer. The lawyer might have been wanting to get Jesus on that detail. You know there’s the saying, “The Devil’s in the details.”
Not only was the lawyer still wanting to trap Jesus but maybe he was feeling a little guilt over being challenged to love his neighbor. So in order to remove the guilt that he’s feeling, Scripture says, “he wanted to justify himself,” he asks Jesus specifically who is his neighbor. This time Jesus doesn’t ask him a question or give him an easy answer, instead he gives him a story to think about. You and I know this story. The story of the Good Samaritan.