Summary: Jesus tells a timeless tale of a man traveling a trecherous trail. Three hearts are found in this story: the hateful heart, hurried heart, and helpful heart.
The Loving Neighbor
Robert Frost once wrote one of America’s most beloved poems. Since Mr. Frost left it untitled, some have called it The Road Not Taken, others call it The Road Less Traveled—I guess it’s a matter of perspective.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
All of us, at different times in our lives, come to a crossroads. We might try to look down each path as far as we can see, but eventually we have to make a decision; and that decision, whether for good or bad, can make all the difference. We all travel different roads in life. We choose different paths on different occasions. But I think the point of Robert Frost’s poem is not so much which road we choose, but the attitude of our hearts—our outlook on life—as we travel that road.
In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of an unfortunate man traveling a lonely and dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. But before we get to the story itself, let’s find out why Jesus tells this story in the first place. Here’s what the Bible says:
Then an expert on the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to get life forever?”
Jesus said, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” Also, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus said to him, “Your answer is right. Do this and you will live.”
But the man, wanting to show the importance of his question, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29 NCV)
Now here’s an interesting encounter. This “expert in the law” may not have been sincere, but he’s certainly asking all the right questions. He wants to know how to receive eternal life. And he’s apparently been listening to Jesus—either that, or he’s smart enough to figure it out for himself—because, when Jesus answers his question with a question, he has the right answers.
When Jesus turns the question back at the “expert,” he answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus commends him, saying emphatically, “Your answer is right. Do this and you will live!” That’s been the message of Jesus since he first stepped out of the cobalt colored water onto Jordan’s muddy shores. And that’s been the message of this books since I first sat down at the keyboard. But not everyone is ready to accept what Jesus has been teaching.
Although he knew the right answers, he didn’t have the right attitude. Another translation says, “The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”(NLT). Remember that most Rabbis during Jesus’ day defined a neighbor as a Jewish person who kept the Law of Moses. Jesus sought to expand the people’s understanding of what it means to love your neighbor, so here he tells a timeless tale of an anonymous man traveling a treacherous trail.
Jesus answered, “As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, some robbers attacked him. They tore off his clothes, beat him, and left him lying there, almost dead.
It happened that a Jewish priest was going down that road. When he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. Next, a Levite came there, and after he went over and looked at the man, he walked by on the other side of the road. Then a Samaritan traveling down the road came to where the hurt man was. When he saw the man, he felt very sorry for him. The Samaritan went to him, poured olive oil and wine on his wounds, and bandaged them. Then he put the hurt man on his own donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him. The next day, the Samaritan brought out two coins, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come again.’” (Luke 10:30-35 NCV)