Luke 10:25-37 Who is my Neighbor? (Romans Tie-In)

Good Samaritan Sermon
Luke 10: 25-37

Good Morning. Please grab your Bible and open on up to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 10. If you do not have a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you. So, I know this seems to be a change from our regular series through Romans, and it is, but only just a bit.
The next passage we are going to go through in Romans is chapter 13, verses 8-14, and in that Paul talks about love being the fulfillment of the law. As I was starting to work on that sermon, I kept getting drawn to this passage in Luke, this famous Bible story and I decided that this would be a good primer, it would be laying some groundwork for us to continue into that passage in Romans. So, my next sermon will be on those verses in Romans and it will pick up off some of the themes we look at today.

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, he 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.
Let take a look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is in Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version, I highly encourage you to follow along in whichever translation you have with you.
Luke writes:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 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.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 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. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

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?
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.
Now this is at first a simplistic easy to follow answer. “What must I do?” Love God and Love your neighbor. The whole Law is summed up in these two commands. This is the Great Commandment. But this is also a very easy answer to dismiss. Because, in some ways, the lawyer asks a very human and valid question. “Who is my neighbor?”
The lawyers 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 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 any one 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 Gods 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 through out 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.
This is where Jesus throws the curve ball in the parable. Starting in verse 33,
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
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.
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 mans 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.
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 lawyers 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…”
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. exactly what Paul has been talking about in Romans.
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, everyday. But we shouldnt. 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. The question was not Who is my neighbor? But should have been, Am I loving my neighbor?
The Greek word used in the New Testament for neighbor is the word, plesion {play-see’-on}� One concordance defines it like this:
1) a neighbor
1a) a friend
1b) according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth
1c) according to Christ, 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. We are to love them. It’s not a choice available to us to not love them.
What is required of our love? What do we need to give and sacrifice to love people? Time,mostly, is one biggest ways we show others love.
The priest in this story did not have time, in his mind, to stop and help the man. The subjects in the experiment that did not stop were in a time crunch, trying to get to the studio. But it takes time to love people. It takes building relationships with them.
It takes times to identify needs and opportunities to show love. What about your neighbor? The one that you don’t get along with, maybe you argue over your property line. But you know that your neighbor is not doing great physically. Maybe they are getting older, maybe they just had surgery, whatever it is, you know that they have needs in their home. Their faucet is leaking, the lawn needs mowing. And you know that you can help.
Peter and John once encountered a crippled man begging outside the gate of Jerusalem. Instead of giving him money, they recognized that the man’s need was that he couldn’t walk. So, working in the Holy Spirit, Peter healed him instead.
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” 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.
Time is the most precious commodity we have. I costs us more to give someone our time that to give any thing else. It means more too. Visiting people and spending time with them, taking the time to talk to them and get to know them, is one of the most loving things we can do.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 how important this is.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:24-40
The other way that Jesus’ commandment is not easy is that it will be messy. Not just physically messy,as it would be with the beaten, bloody man. But getting involved with people is messy. Hearing about people’s problems, telling them about ours. Showing them that we love them, that we care. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun. But its important and it’s how we show the love of Christ to those around us.
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.
The thing here is that Jesus has already done this for us. Sin has left us beaten up, dying on the side of the road. It has robbed us of our right standing with God. Jesus came down and sacrificed everything, including his life for us, to save us from the death of sin. When Jesus affirms that loving God is the first and foremost commandment, he does so by also having told us that if we love the Father, we will love the Son. And here Jesus is showing us that if we love the Son, we will love our neighbors, we will love the least of these. Paul is going to tell us that love is the fulfillment of the law.
Jesus is showing us that he all have opportunities to help those around us. We all have neighbors in our community that could use a helping hand in some way. We all have people that we just don’t like, that could use our help. But Jesus loves them and Jesus wants us to show them love on his behalf.
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 some one 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 prest 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.
Lets Pray

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