Summary: This message was introduced by playing a clip of the popular children’s program Mr. Rogers. It focuses on the question Jesus asked 2000 years ago. Who is our neighbor? Anyone we can be a neighbor to!
“Will you be My Neighbor?”
Many of us can remember him. We may have watched him....or kids or grand kids may have watched him. Plain sweater, white canvass, sneakers, nice smile.....over the years not much changed with the show; it was always the same house-the same puppets and the same opening. And in every episode Mr. Rogers always asked the same question in his song: would you be my neighbor?
This morning I want us to look at a story that asks the same question.
This parable is introduced by a dialogue between Jesus and a scribe....the scripture calls the scribe an expert in the law. In those days there were no printing presses, the scribe would make copies of the scriptures by hand. Unlike most people in those days , these men were educated; they could read and write and because they were exposed to the OT over and over. They became very familiar with it. These men were scholars and teachers. Because of their expertise they were seen as authorities in matters of religious law. They were respected and carried a lot of influence.
This expert in the law comes to question Jesus and he stands up to test Him. Now why would you test Jesus? Perhaps he was hostile toward the teachings of Christ....maybe he wanted to prove a point...the Bible tells us in verse 29 that he wanted to justify himself. And we do the same thing...Jesus gives us the commandments...He tells u what we need to do....but we take it and we want to redefine it ....and we say Jesus didn’t really mean what he said...for instance God says to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. But we don’t do that...we fail, we slip, we fall...we sin and so we redefine the commandments to mean something else like we should just do the best we can.
And that is why the scribe asked the question...who is my neighbor? He wanted to limit the number of people he was required to love? You know...give me a list!!! He wanted a list of his neighbors so that he could love only those people and he could ignore everyone else. And that is just what we do today. As one fellow prayed, God bless me and my wife, my son and his wife, es four and no more! Let’s be honest....we look for the minimum requirement.
Now here is the difference between true Christianity and false Christianity. It is the difference between religion of the heart and a religion of works. Works religion wants to place a box. A fence around what God expects of us. A boundary. If I do these things then I have met my obligation to God. It is very me centered. Heart religion on the other hand is motivated by love and a desire to serve and bless as many people as possible. Now with that in mind let’s look at the parable.
Notice we are not told anything about this man....we don’t know where he was from....we don’t know his occupation...whether he was rich or poor-apparently these details didn’t matter to Jesus because this parable applies to all of us. We then see two men who come by...the first i would call the Passing priest. The 2nd we might call the Looking Levite. Because that is all they do is take a look and pass him right by.
Jesus tells us that the priest saw the man but still he didn’t stop. And since he did see him, he also would know that he was hurt..still he didn’t offer him a thing. And not only did they pass him by they passed by on the other side...that is they got as far away from him as possible. We think this would never happen today. Did you see the news last week? A 27 year old woman was stabbed and she laid dying on the floor of a convenience store...5 shoppers stepped over the woman...all of this caught on video tape...one of the shoppers did stop for a moment to take a picture with her cell phone of the woman. It was horrible. By the time she got to the hospital she was critical and she died shortly thereafter. We say, how could this happen?
In this parable there are some things to consider. (1) this stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho was a dangerous area. Stories still circulate that people would pretend to be hurt and then when you stopped to help they would rob you. The distance was 15-20 miles. In the mountains...a deserted area. The priest was probably on his way home from a temple service in Jerusalem..the Levite also. They may have thought this man deserved what he got. Why should I go out of my way to help just because this man was too foolish to take a safer road.