Summary: Parable of the good Samaritan.
20. Who is Jesus?
January 16th, 2010
Who is your Neighbor?
Well I am back from a little vacation with my wife and we are back to study into our series through the Gospel of Luke. We are in Luke 10:25. This is a story most of you are probably familiar with. It is one of the most powerful stories ever told. You know it as the story of the good Samaritan. Here is what happens: an expert in Mosaic Law comes to test Jesus with a complex question about eternal life. We are getting closer to the end of Jesus ministry and opposition against Him is pretty high at this point.
The religious leaders have viewed Jesus as a threat for awhile. They have tried to catch Him with questions and discredit Him but so far have been unable to do so. Well now Jesus is heading from the boondocks to the big city. What was once a threat on the horizon has now come to their doorstep. Jesus is menacing. He is a revolutionary and He threatens the power the religious leaders are enjoying. The religious leaders get their power from the people. Jesus is popular. If they publicly stand against Jesus they will lose their power. So they take a more devious approach.
Jesus is a teacher. He travels teaching people about the kingdom of God and answering their questions. As genuine followers are honestly asking Jesus questions it would be easy for Him to drop His guard. So the religious leaders send in spies to test Jesus. Amidst all the questions being asked, they toss in their little traps trying to snare Jesus into saying something inaccurate that they can use against Him.
Lk 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Lk 10:26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” Lk 10:27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’” Lk 10:28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Lk 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Now we don’t know that this expert in the law is a spy seeking to catch Jesus off guard but we have good reason to be suspicious of him. There are hundreds of laws in the Old Testament and thousands of oral traditions. How can we know which ones are essential for gaining eternal life? His intention for asking may not be known but the condition of his heart is made apparent by how he responds to Jesus.
It is would be very easy to answer this question incorrectly. Jesus responds very wisely. He has the man answer the question himself. This is not a cope out, Jesus knows the answer. Jesus is merely turning the question around on the man to show him the answer. The man answers his own question very adequately. In fact this guy’s answer to the question is the same answer Jesus gives for the most important command of God: which is to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength. The Jews would have considered this the greatest commandment and it was known as the Shema.
The second greatest commandment, which this legal expert mentions, comes from Leviticus 19. This passage is essential in our understanding how we can love God. What does it mean to show God love? You follow religious rituals? You go to church and read your Bible religiously? Are these really the things we do to show God we love Him? There are plenty of atheists who are well versed in Scripture but hate God in their hearts. Reading the Bible doesn’t mean you love God. The thing about religious practices is that you can complete all of them without having any love for God in your heart. Works don’t require love. So how can we practically demonstrate our genuine love for God? By loving His people. We cannot see God, but we can see the people He loves. Therefore if we do not love the people we can see, how can we love God who we cannot see? Loving people is perhaps the best way in which we can express our love for God.
So our lawyer dude answers his own question correctly revealing that he didn’t ask it because he seeking an answer. He has some other purpose. This is one of the things I love about Jesus. So many times people ask Him trick questions with no discernable right answer and every time Jesus manages not only to answer their question but to turn it around on them. Like the woman caught in adultery in John 8. If Jesus says let her go then He is denying Mosaic law. If He says stone her then He is unmerciful and either way He will lose popularity. It is a question without a right answer. Somehow Jesus manages to throw it back in their face. That is what happens here. Jesus says: yes your answer is correct, now go do it. It is not this man’s understanding that needs to change but his behavior. We often know the right thing to do the problem is we don’t always do it. Jesus says: good you know the answer. You do need to ask me, you need to go do it. If you want life, go live it.