The True Good SamaritanPosted: May 6, 2012
This sermon was preached at Temple Baptist Church, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada!
If you could ask Jesus one question, what would it be? Would you ask Him where was He during a difficult time? Would you ask Him a theological question such as to explain why He lets Satan continue to have power when He defeated Satan at the Cross? Or would you ask Jesus the simple question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In Luke 10:25 we find an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus with that same question. The man is not so much inquisitive as an Inquisitor. He doesn’t want to know the answer in order to gain knowledge from Jesus but prove His knowledge above Jesus. The lawyer is trying to test Jesus not trust in Him. It begs the question: What are our motives when we come to Jesus?
In this famous passage of Luke 10:25-37, the story of the Good Samaritan, we find people’s true motives are exposed. Leighton Ford describes three philosophies that are discovered in the story: 1) The Robbers who convey what’s yours is mine and I’ll take it! 2) The Priests who convey what’s mine is mine and I’ll keep it! 3) The Samaritan who conveys what’s mine is yours and I’ll share it! Which of these three philosophies are you following?
To discover which philosophy we are following, we need to ask which of the four questions in the story is most important: a) “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 25) b) “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (v. 26) c) “Who is my neighbour?” (v. 29) d) “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the robber’s hands?” (v. 36) Two of the questions come from the Inquisitor and the other two come from the lips of Jesus. The first question sounds great. Do you want to know how to get to heaven? But notice that the lawyer is asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. In other words, the lawyer is asking how do I become God’s heir? The lawyer would know the law and understood that to gain an inheritance one must either be a biological or adopted child. This is not something one does but something one is. So why would the lawyer ask this question? I believe he was attempting to undermine the Sonship of Jesus. Only a legitimate heir could speak on behalf of the family and so asking Jesus this question was paramount to inquiring whether Jesus had the audacity to speak for God regarding eternal inheritance. Notice Jesus answers with the Word of God by asking His own question. Jesus uses God’s Own Word to answer the Inquisitor, which is always a good strategy. (v 26) This is not only because “the lawyer can’t raise an objection” but also because Jesus wants to point the man back to what a true child of God is – somebody who loves the Father with their whole being and somebody who loves people, those who the Father loves (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). Jesus even commends the lawyer for getting an A on his own open book test – “You have answered correctly, do this and live.” (Luke 10:28) Children of God love their Father and those He loves, which is often the people who others despise and pass on by.
There are people like this lawyer who wanted to justify himself by asking the third question – “who is my neighbor?” (v. 29). ” In effect the law expert was saying to Jesus, ‘Come on, now. Be reasonable! You don’t mean we have to love everyone like this, do you? Who is my neighbor?’” He wants to emphasize the doing part of inheriting eternal life. He wants to work for eternal life which is the common human m.o. And when people live by the law in order to get eternal life they have to know the limits to the love we’re required to show to others! We want to deserve eternal life. This is why the lawyer conveys the heart of both the robbers and priests in the story and also our hearts. The test is always how we treat others. When we act unrighteously, we try to grab all we can like the robbers and when we act self-righteously, we try to deserve what we have and try to keep it all like the priests. “The Temple officials thought it better to preserve their purity at the cost of their obedience to God’s law of love.” And Jesus’ story is “intended to show him his fatal mistake regarding the law as a means of securing life.” Instead, we think “it is much easier to maintain a religious system than it is to improve the neighbourhood.” Improving the neighborhood is what Jesus is about. In order to do this, we must interrupt what we are doing and get dirty. The priests “feared being rendered unclean” as Leviticus 21:1-3; Numbers 5:2; 14:2-13; Ez. 44:25-27). I find this very convicting because as a pastor the priests were the vocational ministers at that time – the pastors of our day. What is even more convicting is that the word “take care” used in verse 34 and 35 is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3:5 describing the qualification of an elder. Elders must “take care of the church of God” in the same way – sacrificing reputation and resources for the sake of those in need. Leaders in God’s church are to be like the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan who was despised, stopped what he was doing; risked the rules for the recovery of the man on life support and made the great personal sacrifice of reputation and resources to love the man; to love his neighbor and demonstrate his love for God. We know this as he gave the innkeeper “two denarii which was worth two weeks lodging.”  (Luke 10:35) So Jesus’ answer to the law expert is “clear and devastating because it demolishes any limitations put on our mercy.” As one theologian says, “One cannot define one’s neighbour; one can only be a neighbour.”
Isn’t this what Jesus did? Was there any limitation that he put on showing mercy to you? Wasn’t he moved with compassion when he saw you lying in the mess of your own sinful choices? Didn’t He become dirty and pick you up when you were on life support spiritually maybe even physically? Didn’t He risk reputation and resources for your sake? Didn’t Jesus do this for the poor, people from a different race, even the lawyer? And isn’t this why the last question is the most important that Jesus asks? “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man...?” Answer: “The one who showed mercy to him.” The key word is mercy. Sadly, the lawyer would have known this in his mind because the Lord already had said in Micah 6:8 what was required of him and to us: “To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” The lawyer; the tester; the Inquisitor didn’t know it in his heart. He couldn’t even say that the just man was a Samaritan. (v. 37) The tester had the right answers like many of us do; but did he have the right ACTIONS? Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” We are now full circle. The lawyer wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life and now Jesus tells him – act with mercy. Does this mean that we can earn our salvation through compassionate acts? No! But acts of mercy convey what has already happened in your life. When you have received mercy it usually translates into showing mercy to others. Remember Jesus’ words: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
We don’t know if the lawyer, the rule-keeper, followed Jesus’ command to act with mercy but we can know if we will. However, we won’t unless we embrace the beauty of the lawyer’s original question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Think about that question one more time: how does one receive an inheritance? Somebody has to die. And that is exactly what happened. Ironically, the lawyer was unknowingly testing the one person who could give him an eternal inheritance and Jesus passed the test by acting like the Good Samaritan. In fact, in John 8:48 Jesus is disparagingly called a Samaritan. Samaritans were considered heretics, illegitimate children of Abraham and had a strong interest in sorcery (Acts 8:9). Jesus was considered a heretic, illegitimate and demonized. He was rejected to the point of death. And yet, He was the True and Ultimate Samaritan because He died for the man and for you and for me. The man on the road could have been the lawyer or he could have been you and me. If we place ourselves in the story and understand this truth that we can’t do anything to inherit eternal life but there was the true Heir and Son who did it for us, this will motivate us beyond a personal salvation question to a true love for God and neighbor. No longer will we try to put limits on our mercy towards others because we enjoy God’s boundless mercy towards us. We will be like Jesus who loved His neighbour (John 1:14 from The Message – The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood). Imagine what would happen in our lives, our church and our neighborhood if we embraced God’s mercy and showed it to anyone we find one the road of life. Will you go and do likewise? Are you a neighbour like Jesus was and is to you?