Luke 10: 25-37
Jesus is the Son of Man
(Note: Because of the length of this weeks sermon, the audio will be broken up into two posts, though text will all appear on this post. Sorry for any inconvenience.)
All right! Let’s go ahead and turn to Luke chapter 10. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or if you need a Bible, please see me after the service so we can get the Word of God into your hands.
If you look at and read through Luke’s Gospel, we have actually been building to this passage for a little while. In Luke 9, we saw a Samaritan village reject the Apostles as they went to prepare the way for Jesus on his travelling teaching journeys. Last week, Jesus prayed in verse 21, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.
We are going to see this morning an example on one of the wise and understanding, a lawyer, a man who knew the scriptures inside and out, we are going to see how he gets the law wrong, how he gets to love of and the will of God wrong. And how we often get the law and the gospel and the will of God wrong.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well know stories in the Bible. Unfortunately, as with most of the well-known Bible stories, it is all one of the least understood or most misunderstood stories. When we are too familiar with certain stories, our tendency is to skim by it or to overlook it and not spend enough time reflecting on it and mining the Biblical truths that God has for us in these stories.
Let’s go ahead and read our passage this morning, which includes the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke chapter 10, verses 25 through 37. Ill be reading, as always, out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to follow along as we read, from your preferred translation.
The Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the following Words of Jesus Christ:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
So, in 2008, ABC News did an experiment. Much of what I am sharing with you about this experiment comes directly from the news article.
They placed ads in a newspaper and on Craigslist. The ad said we were looking for people to participate in an “on-camera tryout” for ABC News. Those who responded were interviewed on the phone, and those selected were asked to come to appointments over the course of two days.
When they arrived for those appointments, the volunteers met with an ABC producer who talked to them in general about the audition but did not go into specifics about what they were to do. She explained that each person needed to have a topic to discuss before the cameras, and that she was going to help them select that subject. She then showed each of them a sampling of cards and asked them to pick one.
What appeared to be random was in fact not a choice at all. The topic listed on all those cards was the same: The Good Samaritan story that we are going to look at this morning.
They were given the Sunday school version of the story. A man who is beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious men come by and ignore the victim. But a third man, an outcast from society, a Samaritan, comes along next and not only stops to help the man and care for his wounds, but he also takes him to an inn and pays for him to stay in a room there and have meals. Jesus instructs his followers to follow the lead of the Good Samaritan.
After our producer read the story to each person, they were told they were to give a short speech about it for their “audition.” Thinking that the cameras were set up at a nearby studio, they walked the short distance. They set off with the Good Samaritan story fresh in their minds. Following the directions took the volunteers through a small park. They had no idea what would be awaiting them there: actors hired by ABC News.
Two men took turns playing a person in distress. They were seated on the grass directly alongside the path the volunteers were instructed to use. The actors were told to play men clearly in need of help, and both cried, moaned and rocked back and forth. They seemed to clearly need help. Who better to come to their aid than our volunteers, who approached with the Biblical story of helping one’s fellow man echoing in their ears?
The question: Would these participants stop to help? Carrie Keating, professor of psychology at Colgate University, expected they would. She predicted they would be suspicious of the situation, and likely to do anything to make themselves look good.
But Keating was in for a surprise: many of the 22 volunteers did not stop. They rushed right by the actors, proceeded to the studio, and gave the speech on the Good Samaritan. Their words were the complete opposite of their actions from just minutes before.
They completely missed the point, much like the lawyer in our story, many, many years before this experiment.
Jesus would often teach in parables. Parables are simple, memorable stories that use common examples or imagery from the culture and use them to teach greater truth. Sometimes the greater truth was painfully obvious and sometimes the truth was hidden. Jesus would, at times explain the meaning of some of the parables, not to the public, but to his disciples.
After teaching a parable early on in his ministry, the disciples asked Jesus what it meant. In Mark 4:11 & 12, Jesus tells them,
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.
The parables were used to teach because some people, who were listening to Jesus, were not ready to hear. Sometimes the truth was hidden in these stories. However, sometimes the truth comes through to everyone and, as happens here, is very pointed at the Pharisees, or the religious leaders of the day.
Now, sometimes I think the Pharisees get a bad rap. I don’t mean that they were right when we think they were wrong. But I mean that all the things that we pile on and pick on the pharisees for, we are often guilty of ourselves. I think this parable here is a perfect example of that, whether we want to think of it that way or not.
First, again, as I said at the beginning, we remember the context of this passage. Jesus was rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, praying to God the Father. Things were going well. And part of Jesus prayer was thanking the Father that he had hid from the wise and understanding what the Truth is and exactly who the Father and the Son are. And then this lawyer, this guy full of knowledge, this pharisee stands up and proves Jesus’ point.
We see here that the expert in the law asks a very deep and profound question. Now, he just thought he was trying ask a difficult question to try to trip up Jesus or get Jesus to contradict himself. But he asked a question that people everywhere and, in every time, have been asking and we have here a very clear answer. The lawyer asks in v. 25, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is asking what do I need to do to be saved?
Now this is a common and understandable question, but there are actually two issues with it. First is the lawyer’s motivation. As just mentioned, he wasn’t asking with a pure heart, but asking the question to put Jesus to the test, to trip him up. Secondly, the man asks, “What shall I do?” His focus was on himself, and what he needed to do, instead of what God and his grace and his mercy.
There was an old rabbinical saying, common and famous at the time, that said, “Great is Torah, for it gives to them that practice it, life in this world and in the world to come.”
And in that, we see the focus on obeying the rules, on earning salvation, on being good enough. But the scriptures make it clear that it is not our goodness that grants salvation and life in the world to come, but God and his richness and mercy and love that bestow it upon us.
Jesus, as is the norm for him, answers this question with a question himself. He asks the man, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Good teachers will do this. If you ask a question that you already know the answer to, they will redirect you in a way that has you say the answer and think through it instead of just telling you the answer.
And the man did give the correct answer. He replied to Jesus, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus affirmed this answer as correct.
So, there you go. The lawyer knows what he had to do. Love God and Love your neighbor. This is the summation of the law. And what he will sometimes forget, is that the law does, sort of, offer salvation. If we were able to keep the law, all of it, 100%, outwardly and inwardly, then we would be able to be saved by keeping the law. But as the entire Bible, points out, pretty much the second biggest theme of the Bible, behind pointing to Jesus himself, is that we can’t keep the law.
Jesus is clear in the Sermon on the Mount that, even if we keep it outwardly, we still often and continually sin in our hearts and our minds. Paul points out a couple times that if anyone could make a claim to keeping the law, he would be able to make that claim, and yet, he calls himself the chief of all sinners.
And so, Jesus gives the layer a legal answer. You know what to do. DO it, do it perfectly, do it completely and you will live.
Now, all of us will come to the point where we have a choice to make. If God has changed our heart, opened our eyes, if He has chosen to reveal himself and the truth to us, then we will recognize who we are as sinners, undeserving of eternal life. We will look for God’s mercy and his grace and we throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus.
However, often, before we get to that point, we will refuse to see the truth. WE will entrench our selves in our preconceptions. We will reject grace when it’s offered to us and we will insist on living life ourselves, do it on our own, the American idea of rugged individualism and pulling our selves up by our bootstraps. WE dig in that if we just work harder, try more, get better and shove ahead with brute force and will power, that we can do it. It’s a lie from the devil.
We will do everything we can to justify our views, our opinions, our actions, our beliefs and everything else about us. Just as the lawyer does in verse 29.
The lawyer’s heart was all wrong. The scriptures show us that the lawyer was trying to justify himself when he asked, “who is my neighbor?” Instead of genuinely asking and looking for who his neighbor was and how he could help them, he was looking for loopholes, looking for reasons to not help. He was looking for the least that he could do. The least he could do to not help those around him…To not help those different than him…To not help those he did not like…. To not help those he did not know…
By teaching him this parable, Jesus is showing the lawyer, and us, that the question is not Who is my neighbor? But instead, Am I loving my neighbor?
The lawyer is asking, Who is my neighbor that I have to love? AND underneath, by extension, Who is my non neighbor that I don’t have to love? This is what we often do. I don’t want to love that person, or, as also applicable to this parable, I don’t want to love that group of people…
Jesus twists it, so the question is not Who is my neighbor, but instead, Whose neighbor am I?
Now, Jesus is really going to twist things up as he goes ahead and tells those listening and the lawyer the parable. The details that Jesus uses in this parable are not incidental or accidental. The man was walking from Jerusalem down to Jericho. This was a 15-mile journey and the road here was very treacherous. It was steep, rocky and had a lot of twists and blind turns. It was notorious for having many bandits being a very dangerous journey. This was well known for having these dangers and people knew the risks involved in this journey. Often times people would wait at one end of the journey for a group of them to gather so that they would at least have a little it of safety in numbers.
So, this man got mugged and beaten and was left lying on the side of the road, half dead. Now, even though this was an infamous, dangerous walk, many people did take this journey alone as well. It took 8 hours for the journey, and sometimes, time was of the essence. It was the only way to get between these two cities.
Now, Jesus brings along a Priest. If anyone would see a man in need and stop and help him, to show him mercy and kindness it would be a priest, right? He sees the man, crosses to the other side of the road and just walks on by. He had a job to do, he was ceremonially clean, and he didn’t have time to deal with this situation and then get ceremonially clean again.
The law at the time was looked at as the ‘Be-all, end-all” and it didn’t matter what had to be sacrificed, or what the motivation behind it was. In this case, there would have been no reason, no excuse in the priests’ mind to becoming ceremonially unclean, not even a different Law of God. If the priest had stopped, the best-case scenario for him was that he would be unclean until the next sundown. That’s assuming he had time to get home and go through the cleansing process. If the body was a dead body and the priest came in contact, he would be unclean for a minimum of 1 week. During these times of being unclean, he would not be able to enter the temple or take part in any of the ceremonies.
However, some also speculate that he knew he was making the wrong decision and that’s one of the reasons why he crossed over to the other side of the road, so that the man would not recognize him if he survived, and this story later got out. Either way, the priest was not willing to take time out of his busy schedule doing God’s work, to be a neighbor to this beaten broken man.
After he passes by, Jesus brings along a Levite down the road. Instead of crossing to the other side of the road, the Levite actually looked at the situation before deciding to continue on his way. Levites were of the same family, in the line of Aaron that the priests were. In modern terms, if the priests were the pastors, the Levites were the elders, the deacons, the worship leaders, or other people in the church that work behind the scenes to keep the church running.
Just like the priest, the Levite knew the Law and had it memorized since he was a young man. He knew the laws about loving your neighbor, which are all throughout the Old Testament. But, for whatever reason, he did not want to take the time and effort to stop and help this man. He looked at the situation and it was very likely that he could see the gravity of the situation, that he could see that the man would surely die if he did not get any help, but also that the man could be saved. The Levite saw what was happening and then crossed over to the other side and passed on by. These men thought they had the duty to not stop and help a dying and beaten man.
James 4:17 tells us, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Now, the people listening likely thought they knew where this story was going. They probably expected the next one to come along and help the beaten man was going to be a common, everyman Israelite. They thought it was going to be a critique of the religious establishment. Instead, Jesus throws everybody through a loop and has the next guy walking along the path be a Samaritan.
A Samaritan! What is he going to do? Finish the man off? See if the robbers and muggers missed anything? At best, he will just do what the other two did and just pass on by. I mean, he is just a Samaritan.
This was the mindset of the Jews at the time regarding the Samaritans, and vice versa. There is no putting it mildly, they disdained each other.
The Samaritans were partial Jews who had been living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the Exile in Old Testament times. When the Northern Kingdom was conquered and captured, they intermarried with the culture around them and were often guilty of worshiping false gods and idols.
The Jews looked down on them, mocked them, made jokes at their expense, and this hatred was returned back at the Jews by the Samaritans. When traveling to certain areas of Israel during this time, the quickest, most direct route would be through Samaria, for example from Jerusalem to Nazareth, where Jesus was from, or the Sea of Galilee. Instead of going through Samaria, most Jews went far out of their way, going around the area, adding much time and distance to their journey.
The Jews would say that Samaritans “should be pushed into a ditch and not pulled out.”
So, when a Samaritan comes walking down the path and sees a Jew, beaten and bloody, there is no inclination that he would stop and help.
And yet, he does. He stopped his journey. He bandaged the wounds of this man. Luke, who was a physician, noted that the Samaritan poured oil and wine on the man’s wounds. But he didn’t stop there. He lifted the man up and put him on his own personal donkey and took him to the nearest inn. It was here that he essentially put a down payment and opened up a tab at the inn for whatever the beaten man needed.
The two denarii that the Samaritan gave to the innkeeper would pay for a few weeks of care for the beaten man. Now, we do notice that the Samaritan still had to go about his life. He still had to deal with his own business and take care of his own stuff. But he did that while taken care of and loving this beaten man.
Jesus asks the lawyer in v. 36, “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
And you can almost hear the contempt and defeat coming out of the lawyer’s mouth when he says in v 37 “The one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t even refer to him directly, just, “That one…”
It hurts, doesn’t it? Those times when unbelievers, atheists, pagans, when they outperform us? When they out compassion us? When they out love us? When they outlive us biblically? That hurts. We don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to see it. We see an unbeliever doing biblical things and we will find a way to deny that it is biblical. We will cover our eyes and see things through the wrong point of view.
We see that throughout the parable that Jesus told. See, each group in this story saw the man who was beaten very differently. The lawyer saw the man as a subject to discuss. The robbers saw the man as someone to use and exploit. To the priest and Levite, the man was someone to avoid at all costs. The innkeeper sees the man as a customer. To the Samaritan, the man was a human being, a man worth caring for and helping, a neighbor.
The lawyer in this story was full of head knowledge. But he would not see or admit the truth. He knew what the commandments said about loving God and loving neighbors. He knew who his neighbors were. The priest and the Levite in the story, They Knew! They knew that they were supposed to stop and help the man. And yet, they didn’t. Knowledge without application.
James is quite clear in his letter that faith without works is dead. This if course is not saying that works are necessary for our salvation, but that true faith will produce works. And those good works are a sign of a changed and repentant heart.
Back to the experiment I talked about earlier. They had divided the volunteers into two groups at the start. Everyone heard the Good Samaritan story but only half of the volunteers got something more: time pressure. That group was now facing a dilemma. In order to get their chance at something they really wanted — a chance to be on TV — they would have to hurry. And researchers discovered, that made a big difference in their behavior.
Only about 35 percent of our volunteers in a hurry stopped to help our actors. But almost 80 percent of those who were not rushed stopped to help.
Since the volunteers thought they were rushing in order to do something they thought would be beneficial to them, perhaps it is not surprising that time pressure would influence them. The researchers found that being rushed changed people’s actions. Time pressure was the only significant factor the researchers found that they concluded would determine if a particular volunteer would stop to help a stranger.
Keating says that other research since then has shown that it is possible to make anyone disregard the needs of others if enough pressure is introduced. She concluded that in this experiment, not stopping to help was not an indication at all of whether any particular participant is a good or moral person. She said any of us might act in the same way.
And we do, every day. But we shouldn’t. Every subject in this experiment knew that the right thing to do was stop. But many of them didn’t. Would we? Do we? I said earlier that the lawyer asked the wrong question. Again, to reiterate, the question was not Who is my neighbor? But should have been, Am I loving my neighbor?
Now, I have had church people who have told that my neighbor is the person sitting next to me in the pew at my church. The only conclusion to draw from this is that the person is doing the same thing as the lawyer in this story, justifying themselves as to who they do and do not have to love.
And yet, the definition according to Jesus, of who is my neighbor, is any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.
We need to remember this, “any other person whom we chance to meet.” It doesn’t matter who it is. God put them into our life, into our Day for a reason. It doesn’t matter if it is someone we know and don’t get along with. It doesn’t matter if it is someone of a different religion, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu… It doesn’t matter even if they live by different moral codes than the one that God gives to us. It doesn’t matter if they have different political views than us. In other words, it doesn’t matter if they are Republican, Democrat, capitalist, Communist, socialist, fascist. We are to love them. It’s not a choice available to us to not love them.
But in our minds, we are justifying ourselves, asking, “Do you know how long that would take?” or “But I am on my way to go do this or go do that” “But its inconvenient,” “How much will it cost me?” I know I do this all the time. But when Jesus said, at the end of v.37, “Go and Do Likewise,” he was not just talking to the lawyer, or to the Pharisees, or to the Jews. He was also talking to us. And the commands he gives to us, they are rarely easy.
One of the aspects that the lawyer missed, is that the law the lawyer referenced earlier was to Love your neighbors as yourself. That doubly shows that the question of “Who is my neighbor?” was an invalid question. If we were beaten, robbed and mugged, how would we want to be treated? Which of these three figures would we want to be the ones to come along? Whatever our answer is, and most of us, if not all, would want someone to act like the Samaritan, stopping to help us, that is how we treat the people we come across in our lives.
I mentioned earlier that each character in the story saw the man who was beaten in a different way. One that I did not yet mention was Jesus. To him each and every character in the story, from the lawyer, to the pharisees, to the priest and the Levite, the innkeeper, the Samaritan and the man who was beaten and robbed, he sees them all the same way, as a sinner in need of a savior, as someone in need of forgiveness and someone who by all objective standards is not worth the time to die for and take care of. It doesn’t cost God anything to not save us. It did cost Jesus his human life to die for us. But, as God, being in complete control, he knew the outcome. He knew that, though we were not worth dying for, the act of dying for us was worth it. There was nothing reckless about Jesus’ love for us. God knows the end of the story and all the outcomes because he wrote the end of the story.
Like the Samaritan, he sees us beaten up by sin, by grace through faith, picks us up and put down a down payment on the price of our sins and has an open tab for us, not matter what it costs to win us, for those that are his, he did it. No one else has been able to do that because no one else was God and man. No one else was able to atone for our sins and offer forgiveness. Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, any other religious figure that people follow, they are the lawyer, the priest and the Levite, unable to help us in our sin. Only one can offer forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Jesus said that He is THE way, THE truth, and THE Life. Paul wrote that God showed us what love was, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Love him, trust him, repent and believe, as Jesus says, and let him show us how to love others.