We're looking at the life of Jesus in the gospel of Luke and here in chapter 10 the question is being answered - what does it mean to follow Jesus, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus.
Last week we saw that it is to be a messenger. Every Disciple is sent out to publicly communicate the world changing message of Jesus and urge everyone to believe it.
This week we learn that Every disciple is a neighbour. We are called to take the gospel to everyone and urge them to believe it but also we have a mandate to meet the needs of all the people around us whether they believe the message or not. We are called to be great neighbours in Hackney, in our communities, in our workplaces.
Jesus gives us 3 things here
a Mandate for gospel neighbouring
he spells out the Magnitude of the task
finally he tells us the Motivation – the only thing that will enable us to do this
WARNING If you begin to feel guilty – don’t be. Guilt is not the motivation Jesus gives us. Be challenged but wait for the great motivation.
1. Mandate – it’s required. ‘Go and do likewise.’
the call to be radical neighbours comes in the context of this dialogue with an expert in the Law. We’ll call him ‘The Lawyer.’ Sadly, he’s not genuine, he stands up v25– to test Jesus, to trap him into saying something that will discredit him. And so he asks ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ What does God require? He’s seen the way Jesus welcomes bad characters; people who are disobedient to the law, people the law calls ‘sinners.’ When Jesus says ‘God accepts everyone’ - he’ll be exposed as someone who does not really respect the moral law. He’s trying to trap Jesus. But Jesus also has a trap (except Jesus’ trap is a trap of love – it’s alright to be trapped by Jesus). Jesus answers the Q with a Q: ‘What is written in the Law how do you read it?’ Now at this point the expert could begin to list the 700 or so Laws or he could – and this is what he does - give the classic summary of the law – ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly.’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ Look who’s trapped now. You want to inherit eternal life by the law – that’s what the law requires. Jesus says do all that and you will live.
But, v29, the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
Again the crowd would have gone silent all eyes on Jesus. See it was common knowledge that your neighbour was only your fellow Israelite. That’s who you should love – not Pagan sinners. But what would Jesus say – he who eats with Gentiles?
You see underlying all this was the attempt by the Jews of Jesus’ day to tame the law inorder to make it do-able. If my neighbour is my Israelite brother – that’s achievable - If I care for my Israelite brother I keep the law.
And now here Jesus explodes all their limitations of God’s Law with one of the greatest stories ever told. The parable of the Good Samaritan. To the Question – who is my neighbour? Jesus answers You must become a neighbour to everyone and anyone in need, and you must love with radical self sacrificial love. That is what God requires. That is what it will mean to follow me.
Go and do likewise..
See Jesus says don’t you dare limit God’s Law! Jesus asks for nothing less of his followers than to be radical neighbours to all in need. It’s required. – says Jesus It’s fundamental to following me.
You know Jesus tells that other parable in Matthew’s gospel (chpt 25) – the shepherd dividing the sheep and the goats, sheep and goats actually look quite similar but the shepherd knows - he divides them – Jesus says that is what it will be like when I come to divide my followers from those who say they are my followers but are not.
But how does he know sheep and goats? Jesus says to his true followers – Come take your inheritance prepared for you since the creation of the world for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' And Jesus says "Then the righteous will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
You see? It’s required - the mandate – It will be the evidence that we have followed Jesus. You must become a neighbour to everyone and anyone in need, and you love with radical self sacrificial love.
That’s the mandate.
loosen your collar - it gets worse
2. the magnitude
what are the limits? Who should I love and How much should I love?
First who should I love
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road (almost certainly riding an animal) when he saw the man – he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, (probably not riding on an animal, but could stop to administer first aid) when he came to the place and saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And now Jesus delivers the first shockwave.
If I begin a joke there was an Englishman, an Irishman .. you know how I’m going to continue …
If an Israelite tells a story: so there’s a Priest and a Levite – you know what comes next – and a jew. a regular Jew
But Jesus says a Priest a Levite and a Samaritan
Samaritan?! You probably know Jews and Samaritans hated one another. They were enemies, oppressing one another throughout their history. ‘he that eats the bread of the Samaritans is like to one that eats the flesh of swine” declared the Jewish Mishna. Daily prayers were offered in the synagogues that the Samaritans wouldn’t receive eternal life. If this was a Samaritan lying bleeding on the ground the Jewish audience would be saying he deserves everything he’s getting. But this is a Jew lying half dead on the ground and its a Samaritan standing over him.
But Jesus’ Samaritan, v33 ,came where the man was; and when he saw him he.. took.. pity.. on him and, where the Levite had failed to do so the Samaritan treated and bandaged his wounds , and where the Priest had failed to do so the Samaritan put the man on his donkey and carried him to safety, and where the robbers had taken from him and left him, the Samaritan gave to him, stayed with him and promised to return.
Jesus is frankly doing something personally dangerous – making a Samaritan the hero of the story… morally superior to the religious leadership of the audience. It’s like sitting down with a group of Palestinians and telling a story of the noble Israeli or telling the story of the good Turk to a group of Armenians.
and yet Jesus is making a devastating point.
v36 Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied ‘the… (he cannot speak the name) …the one who had mercy on him’ Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Who should I love? Who must I become a neighbour to?
I am not just to love my own. Jesus says that Love and care and help is to be extended to the person who is different, to the least deserving, my worst enemy – in a word – anybody, everybody wherever there is need.
There’s a famous letter from aniquity written by the Roman emperor Julian who was frustrated by the way that Christianity was growing and flourishing and the Pagan religions were dying. He writes, ‘the religion of the Greeks does not prosper. Why do we not observe how the charity of Christians to strangers does the most to advance their cause. it is disgraceful that these Christians support our poor in addition to their own, so that everyone is able to see that our co-religionists lack aid from us.’ You see the Christians then were promiscuous in caring for the poor – whoever they were!
OK i can see who i am to love. everyone and anyone in need - underserving or enemy
But then how much then should I love? How far should I go?
It’s interesting that Jesus uses a real life location for his parable. the road from Jerusalem to Jericho – everyone knew that road – one place on that road was called the pass of blood. If Jesus had set the parable in Hackney it would be on Murder Mile on a Friday night in the early 2000s – the man gets mugged badly – that’s no surprise – people raise their eyebrows sadly – that’s what happens on the pass of blood. And the Priest and Levite they don’t stop. You know why they don’t stop? Because they are smart. If somebody’s lying half dead in the road that means the muggers are still nearby. To stop is stupid, to stop is fatal. How much should I love? How far should I go? The point is the Samaritan does stop on murder mile in the middle of the night. In compassion for the man’s life the Samaritan risks his own. He pours on costly oil and wine – he bandages tearing his own clothes. he climbs down from his animal and like a servant leads the injured man presumably into Jericho to take him to an inn. He pays money, stays the night and promises to return to pay whatever costs are incurred – so that the man will not be left indebted and enslaved to an unscrupulous innkeeper.
Actually, entering Jewish Jericho is probably the most risky thing the Samaritan does in a violent revenge culture. An American cultural equivalent would be a Plains Indian in 1875 walking into Dodge City with a scalped cowboy on his horse, checking into a room over the local saloon, and staying the night to take care of him. Is that Indian going to get out of Dodge alive – even if he is the one who saved the cowboys life?
From first to last the Samaritan’s love is incredibly costly.
And this is Jesus’ point. How much should I love? How much should I give?
Jesus says Go and do likewise.
How much should I love? Jesus says Don’t you dare limit it. my followers love with radical costly self giving service. Who do you Help? – even the people you can’t stand the sight of, even the undeserving who have brought their problems on themselves. how do you help? to the place where their burdens, their sufferings fall in part on you.
Extraordinary isn’t it? Radical neighbourliness is what we’re called to.
But how? How do you do this? I mean is there anyone who does this? What is the Motivation.. what is the dynamic that enabled the church at the time of Julian and at other times in church history to love and care for the poor? What power will enable us to begin to love like this?
The only dynamic in the world that can motivate this kind of living and loving is Grace.
In other words - You will never show radical mercy until you have received radical mercy. This is what Jesus is trying to teach the Lawyer here. And it’s what he would teach us. The power to show radical mercy springs from the heart understanding that you, yes you, have been shown radical mercy. You have been the recipient of radical grace, love, help.
See, Look at where Jesus places the Lawyer in the story and where he places himself in the story.
- The lawyer. Imagine Jesus had told the story like this – A Samaritan was traveling on the road to Jericho and he fell among thieves and a Priest came and left; and a Levite came and left; and finally a Jew came – a man just like you and he took pity and healed his enemy’s wounds and put him on his donkey and helped him. Now Go and Do likewise. What would Jesus’ message have been? it would have been Morality– you’ve got to be the hero, try harder, save the world. Do this and you will live, you’ll have worked your way to eternal life. But that isn’t where Jesus places his listener in the story. No, where is the Jew in the story? half dead on the floor – in desperate need of help and needing mercy. This is very deliberate. Because the Bible says that is where we all are by nature – spiritually – we’ve rejected God and made him our enemy and we are lost in our sin and deserve only God’s judgement. First and foremost we all need mercy. That’s the Lawyer
- Jesus – where is Jesus in the story? From the very earliest years of Christian history the church has said that the Good Samaritan is Jesus. Jesus is the good Samaritan. The Samaritan comes from outside. He is seem as the enemy. In his eyes the injured man is undeserving of help and yet he ‘takes pity’ on the man – very specific word – deep compassion – a word used only of Jesus in the gospels. The Samaritan binds the man’s wounds and then pours on oil and wine. Again Jesus uses strange experssions here - OT language of the God who binds up the wounds of his people. At great personal risk the Samaritan climbed down from his donkey and taking the part of a servant leads the man to safety. Jesus Christ who was in very nature God climbed down from his throne, taking the very nature of a servant and humbled himself to death even death on a cross. The Samaritan risked all for his enemies. JC came into a world that had rejected him and laid down his life for us in radical mercy and grace.
We were lying in the gutter, half dead, undeserving – but Jesus in astonishing costly love and mercy has come down to take our burdens upon himself in his death on the Cross. Have you received that grace, that mercy, that forgiveness?
If you have then it is in grasping what we have been given that we are then able to give to others. It is in grasping the mercy we have been shown that we are empowered to show mercy. It is in seeing how deeply we are loved that we are given radical power to love others.
ill Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables - Jean Valjean isa hard and bitter man. Just out of prison he spends the night at the house of a priest and is caught by the police in the middle of the night leaving the house with stolen silver. Instead of consigning him to prison – the priest gives him the stolen goods and lets him go. That one act of mercy completely alters the direction of Valjean’s life. The one act shapes his future and transforms his attitudes towards others.
Since he has been shown such mercy how can he not now show mercy to others.
But you see that’s not just Jean Valjean’s story. That’s your story if you’re a Christian.
when I see a person lying in the street, I remember that’s where I was when Jesus took pity on me.
when I see that the person in need is my enemy, I remember that’s who I was when Jesus bent down and bandaged my wounds
when that person is the least deserving of help and care, I remember that’s who I was and yet Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that I could be lifted up.
since I have been shown such mercy – how can I not now show such mercy?
It is as we grow in our grasp of the grace that we have received that we will go and do likewise.