Remember that in Chapter 10 of Luke Jesus teaches us some of the traits of His followers, the behaviors that naturally result from true faith in Him.
A. Disciples Labor
B. Disciples Love God
C. Disciples Love People
D. Disciples Learn
We have now seen that true followers of Jesus labor and love God. We ended last week with the discussion that we love God with all we are, with every aspect of who we are. Now it is time to turn to the fact that we love people. I argued last week that we need God's help to do that, which is why Jesus taught his followers to love God and then he taught them to love people.
We also made the point last week that the ultimate summary of the whole Bible, Old and New Testament is wrapped up in the two commands, love God and love your neighbors. That is the bottom line. However, the how-to part is the gospel of Jesus as our Savior, enabling us to do that.
This part of the teaching was in the form of the parable of the Good Samaritan, which I am sure we are all familiar with.
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 wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." Luke 10:27-37Remember that this command is from the Old Testament, just like the "Love your God" is.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18The importance of this command ("love your neighbor as yourself") is shown by the number of times it's quoted in the New Testament...
The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Matthew 22:39And by Paul:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, "You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Romans 13:8-9And by James:
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. James 2:8Let's see what we can learn from the story of the good Samaritan that Jesus told.
But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29As we have discussed, the law expert wasn't interested in learning the truth. Now he tries to shift attention off himself and get into a legalistic, religious discussion of semantics. The Pharisees had all kinds of rules related to the Sabbath you can only walk so far, you can't do this or that, etc. Maybe he expected that kind of answer from Jesus, a technical answer.
Jesus starts the story of the Good Samaritan by saying: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho...
We aren't told whether this story actually occurred or whether it is a parable. It certainly could have happened. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was about 17 miles long, a winding road that dropped 3,000 feet in elevation, a dangerous route with frequent danger from thieves. The Romans considered this road so dangerous that they built a fort along it. Pat and I have ridden on that road on a bus and it is a little scary even today. In runs along the steep hills and has lots of steep drop-offs along it.
So let's see what we need to learn, by the bad and good examples.
And by chance a priest... v.31 Likewise a Levite... v.32The priests were descendants of Levi (son of Jacob) and Aaron (brother of Moses). They were responsible for handling the sacrifices at the temple and leading the people in worship.
The Levites were descendants of Levi but were not descendants of Aaron. The Levites assisted the priests in their ministries in the temple.
So the Priests were like we think of priests today, the officials who performed the ceremonies. The Levites were like the elders or officials but not the empowered officials.
Why do you think the priest and the Levite didn't stop to help the man?
We aren't really told why these two religious leaders chose not to help this poor man. Some scholars speculate that they may have been concerned about being "defiled" by contact with the man, according to instructions from Leviticus and Ezekiel:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: 'No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his people' ". Leviticus 21:1According to verse 30, the man was "half-dead" already, indicating badly injured and possibly near death. But God never intended these instructions to keep us from helping another person in need.
They shall not go to a dead person to defile themselves; however, for father, for mother, for son, for daughter, for brother, or for a sister who has not had a husband, they may defile themselves. Ezekiel 44:25
Verses 31-32 indicate that they not only didn't stop, but they moved to the other side of the road to avoid this person altogether.
Jesus chose two people the Levite and the priest who would be expected to be godly men, obedient to the Lord.
Today we might say, "a pastor and a deacon". Notice how these verses emphasize that these two religious leaders not only didn't help the man, they "passed by on the other side". They moved to the other side of the road, staying as far away from him as possible. Maybe they were avoiding any kind contact that might make them "unclean" and unable to perform their religious duties. These two men are a great illustration of what Jesus said elsewhere:
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." Mark 7:8-9You've probably read stories in the paper similar to the one that Jesus told.
It is no wonder that in 15 years of asking high school students throughout America whether, in an emergency situation, they would save their dog or a stranger first, most students have answered that they would not save the stranger. "I love my dog, I don't love the stranger," they always say. (Christianity Today)What are some reasons we might use for not helping people?
But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him... v.33Now Jesus contrasts the behavior of the two religious professionals with that of a Samaritan. Remember that the Samaritans were scorned by the Jews because of their mixed Jewish and Gentile ancestry. There was great mutual hostility between Jews and Samaritans. For example:
...and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. Luke 9:52-53These Samaritans wouldn't let Jesus pass through their town on His way to Jerusalem. A Samaritan would be the least likely person to help an injured Jew.
What do you notice about the Samaritan's response to the injured person? Notice all that this Samaritan does to help:
Jesus really set a high standard for us, not just in who we help but also in how much help we give.
The Jews of Jesus' time were familiar with this command ("love your neighbor as yourself"). Their mistake was in so narrowly defining who qualified as their "neighbor". In fact, they excluded most people from this designation Gentiles (all non-Jews), sinners (the irreligious).
Then Jesus told this story and gave us a proper understanding of who our neighbors are: they are anyone we come near! In fact, the Greek word for "neighbor" is πλεσιας [plesias] from πελας [pelas] meaning "near" (Our English word has the same root meaning). Religious and irreligious, friends and enemies, family and strangers our responsibility is to love everyone as Jesus does.
Then after telling the story, Jesus tells his followers and the expert in the law: "Go and do the same." v.37
Based on Jesus' story, what would you say is the answer to the scribe's question, "Who is my neighbor?"
Remember the command is: [love] your neighbor as yourself. v.27
Jesus teaches "Love your neighbor," not just "Be polite to your neighbor" or "Be nice to your neighbor". Jesus' expectation of us is much higher. And the word for love here is αγαπαο "agapao". So we're to love them with God's love.
As yourself Over the past 20 years, a popular interpretation of this verse has gone something like this, "You can't really love your neighbor until you learn to love yourself". Have you ever heard something like that taught? Well, that is not the intended meaning of this verse! In fact, this interpretation turns the meaning of the verse from godly to worldly. It's classic ungodly thinking to turn the selfless teaching of this verse into something selfish and self-centered.
Paul's teaching in Ephesians 5 can help us understand the meaning of this verse when he tells husbands to love their wives the way they love their own bodies:
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. Ephesians 5:28-29That's what it means to love your neighbor as yourself to give your neighbor's welfare the same time and attention that you would give your own.
Paul also taught this command. Chuck Swindoll wrote:
"In Paul's exhortation to love our neighbors, he used the Greek word 'ετερος [heteros] which means 'another of a different kind' [e.g. "heterosexual"]. In short, we are to demonstrate an unselfish love toward those who have different beliefs, tastes, values, and mannerisms than we do. God wants believers to reach out to everyone, regardless of any differences that may exist.That is the example Jesus leaves us with concerning what it means to "love your neighbor". Christians who love people in this manner (the way Jesus loved people) will have a very powerful witness in their community. Unfortunately, Christians tend to be more like the world than we are like Jesus in the way we love people. We look for the least we can do; Jesus looked for the most He could do.
John tells us
But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him--how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. 1 John 3:17-18 (Living Bible)Jesus re-defines "neighbor" to include anyone we come in contact with. His instructions are clear we need to do all that we can to help others. We need to develop a reputation for love that goes far beyond what the world expects.
What are some specific things we can do to follow Jesus' teaching in this passage?
I have a hand-out [last page] of some of the Scripture references that deal with Loving our Neighbors:
A. Disciples Labor
B. Disciples Love God
C. Disciples Love People
D. Disciple Learn
We have learned to Labor, Love God and Love our Neighbors. Next week we will learn to learn. To prepare, read through Luke Chapter 10 again.
God has a lot to say in the Scriptures about how we are to treat our neighbors. Here is a list of verses that includes some "do's" and "don'ts" which help us better understand what it means to "love your neighbor".
Exodus 20:16-17 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. sYou shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Proverbs 3:29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.
Proverbs 11:12 A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
Proverbs 14:21 He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.
Proverbs 25:17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house--too much of you, and he will hate you.
Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 15:2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Galatians 5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
James 2:8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.