Summary: Jesus confronts our prejudices and comfort levels by exposing how we treat those who are disadvantaged. Our actions speak louder than our professions of faith and faithfulness.
Throughout my ministry, people have come to me with situations that need resolution in the third person. These people have said to me, “Pastor, I sure wish my friend could have been here today to hear that sermon. He really needed that one.” Often it’s a wife, or a husband. “I wish my husband had been here, he needs that. I wish my wife could have heard that.” “Pastor, I have a friend who is struggling with believing in God. What would you say to him?” “Pastor, I know someone who is close to having an affair with her neighbor. What should I say?” I’ve noticed through the years that some questions can be too close to us; we have to ask them for someone else, someone being our own selves.
Then there are lawyers. Lawyer stories will be with us forever. I’m sure Jesus had a few good ones he told. I personally never tell lawyer stories … Like the one about the difference between a dead possum and a dead lawyer in the middle of the road?
The skid marks in front of the possum. My apologies to all the attorneys or families of attorneys.
Jesus had His way and His day with lawyers. Some say our Lord was a lawyer, that he was trained in the legal arts. There is no doubt that He knew the Scriptures better than any one of His day. He could quote them with ease, allude to them with deft precision, summon them from His memory to silence His opponents. If he was not a lawyer, Jesus knew the law. He knew it from beginning to end and was able to quote it and bring it to His mind to express truth.
One day a lawyer asked Him the question of questions: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus immediately employed the Socratic question and turned the question back to the questioner. He said, “You tell Me, what does the law say?” And the lawyer quoted bedrock Scripture from Deut. 6:4-5. It is the Confession of Faith for the Hebrew people. “Hear, O Israel? The Lord is our God, the Lord is One! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” But the lawyer kept quoting. He dropped the wonderful little conjunction “and,” and skipped over a couple of books to Leviticus 19:18, and he quoted just a line from that verse, “And, your neighbor as yourself.” He didn’t have to do that. Jesus looked at him and He said, “You have answered correctly. You have passed the bar once again.” Then He said, “Do this and you will live.” And here is the cryptic genius in our Lord’s response. “Do this” (singular).
Now there are two parts to the lawyer’s answer. “You love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus didn’t say what “this” was. He said, “Do this, and you will live,” so the lawyer then took the reference for “this” to mean the neighbor part. Do “this” and you will live.
Dr. Luke says, “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Jesus proceeds to tell one of his most famous and most remembered parables, the parable of The Good Samaritan, and in that culture they are neither neighbors nor good to the Jews. READ Luke 10:30-36 The lawyer couldn’t bring his Jewish lips to speak the word “Samaritan.” So he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
This is a very haunting story but a story for the lawyer and for all of us that come too close for comfort because in that day Samaritans were the despised next door folk.
They were a nation of half-breeds. It was a nation created when people were returning from exile expelled the non-pure Jews. The Samaritans became their own little group. The two groups formed a mutual hate society. The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. It was the worst kind of hatred. So, when Jesus tells the story and the hero in the story is the Samaritan, it defies all propriety, and the lawyer can’t bring himself to deal with his own lack of being a neighbor because he sees his own fault and guilt, his sin and shortcomings. He is in the story and yet he is not in the story.
What happens when the Gospel gets too close for us, when the Bible gets too close to us? O, we want the Gospel; we want the preacher to preach the Gospel. We want good news. We may want good news more for the approval of God … as long it rests neatly in our own comfort zone. Give me the Gospel that I can comfortably hear in a comfortable room around comfortable people who are just like me, who are deserving just like I am, so that at the end of the hour I can get up and get on about my so-called life. We want the Bible but only certain parts of it. We want the Bible that we “like,” that we are comfortable with, but please don’t give us “all” the Bible. We want God to meet our needs on our terms, to answer our questions, to satisfy our desires. We become so self-absorbed in our own little agenda and we’ve got plenty of Bible to run to to satisfy our itch. There are all kinds of Bible here that we would rather not read and we surely would wish it were not in the Bible.