Summary: Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan tells us three things about compassion.
“The Stories that Jesus Told”
Sermon # 2
"What Does Real Compassion Look Like"
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
“There is a funny story about St Peter admitting people at the gates of heaven. St Peter asks one man who appears, ‘Tell me one act of kindness you have committed during your life. The man said, ‘Once saw a rough looking gang of motorcyclist harassing an old lady. I walked right up and punched the gang leader in the nose!’ St Peter said, ‘When did that happen?’ The guy said, ‘About 30 seconds ago.’”
This story really introduces in a humorous way, the relationship between good works and going to heaven, that we find in the story that we are going to consider today in our series “The Stories that Jesus Told.” Today we are going to look at what has come to be known as the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.” We find this very familiar story in Luke chapter ten, beginning in verse twenty-five, and it is told in response to a question asked of Jesus by a Jewish lawyer. The story begins in verse twenty-five where we read, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
We are told that this man is a lawyer; but he is not the kind of lawyer who goes to court in a civil or criminal case. This “lawyer” is an expert in Old Testament Law he is a Old Testament scholar. The question asked of Jesus by this lawyer is: “What do I have to do to have eternal life?” Basically, he is asking, “What must I do to have a place in heaven?”
When he asked Jesus the question about eternal life, he was asking what Jesus saw as the essential requirements of the Law. Much like the rich young ruler of Matthew he seems to be saying, “What good thing must I do in order to have eternal life?” (19:16)
I can just see Jesus smiling as he throws the question back in the lawyer’s lap in verse twenty-six: “He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" Jesus restraints from giving the man an answer and rather says to him, “You know the law, what does it say?”
In verse twenty-seven the lawyer answers Jesus, "… You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and "your neighbor as yourself."’ (28) And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
Jesus answers by saying you have answered “rightly” or “correctly.” The word translated “rightly” is from the word (orthos) from which we get the word orthodox. Jesus was saying, “Okay, your beliefs are orthodox but now try to do what you believe.” And Jesus goes on to say, “Now do it and you will live.” The word translated “live” here is not (bios) which would indicated health or biological life but it is the word (zoa) which means full or meaningful life.
Some are troubled by this answer but we need to understand that Jesus is not saying that that this man could be saved by the law. He is reminding the man what the law says. The law requires not only that one keep the law, but that he keep it perfectly. The law must be kept without omissions or failures. To be justified under the law one must be perfect. Jesus wants the lawyer to see that law cannot save anyone because no one can keep the law perfectly.
Some of you still believe deep down that there is something you can do to gain eternal life. I want to take a little survey. I want everyone in this room to raise their hand if you have never broken one of the Ten Commandments.” Anybody? Okay so all of us have already forfeited that chance. We need some help.
The good news is that you and I can’t do anything to gain eternal life. Jesus has already done it all. You don’t do anything to inherit something; that happens because you are a member of the family.
Now the Old Testament lawyer did what lawyers do so well he looked for a loophole in the law. In verse twenty-nine it says, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" He is using an evasive tactic that is still being used today he said, “Define what you mean by neighbor.” Why did the lawyer ask this question? Luke says that he wanted to “justify himself,” that is he wanted to make himself seem right in his relationship with God. The lawyer measured himself against both commands and he figured that he met the first one well enough, but his keeping of the second one depending on how you defined “neighbor.” He was asking, “Who and how much do I have to love?” We are often like the lawyer in that we try to reduce God’s commands to something we can live with. We would like to believe that loving my neighbor means loving people who love me, or at least loving people who are lovable. Loving my neighbor thereby comes to mean; doing nice things for people who will probably do nice things back to me. That is probably what he lawyer thought too.