Grace For The Journey
We are studying our way through the Book of Luke. It is my practice to preach and study through Books of the Bible. I believe this is the best way to get at what the Bible calls, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Therefore, as we study the Gospel of Luke we are study verse-by-verse through this great Book of the Bible.
I do not want to overwork an illustration, but last time we were in Luke’s Gospel I shared with you about my accidentally putting a new pair of contacts directly on top of an old pair of contacts resulting in my inability to see. I had everything in place, but I was blind. When we were last in Luke’s Gospel, we heard Jesus say back in verse 21, “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” We talked about how it is that some “see” and understand spiritual truth and some to do not see. It is hidden from them, and the irony is that very frequently those who do not “see” are the very ones you would expect to see. They are the so-called “wise and prudent.” They have everything in place, but they are blind.
If we needed a real-life example of a man who was spiritually blind, a man who had “everything in place,” but still could not see, then we have such a man in the passage we will look at this morning. He approaches Jesus to ask Him a very important question. I want to walk with you through this passage we and the more familiar passage that follows, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and let’s listen and learn from this dialogue between this “wise man” and Jesus.
First, we need to . . .
1. Consider The Question Of Eternity: Verses 25-29.
Verse 25 tells us that a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It is a question of eternity. What must I do to enter to the kingdom of God? Again, context is helpful here. In the previous verse Jesus had just told His disciples that many prophets and kings had desired to see what they had seen, but did not see it. Here is a man who joins the many prophets and kings in the quest for spiritual truth as he asks, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
It is a good question. Maybe some of you find yourselves standing next to this man and, with him, looking to Jesus awaiting His response. It is a good question, this question of eternity. A problem, however, is that this man is asking it, verse 25 tells us, in order to “test Him.” It is the same word used earlier by Luke where Jesus says one should never “put the Lord thy God to the test” (Luke 4:12). The certain lawyer of verse 25 “tested Him.” This suggests the man does not have the purest of motives. He is testing Jesus. Will Jesus pass the test?
This “certain lawyer” is literally translated as “an expert” of the Jewish Law. He is the sort of man who made a life of studying the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. He would have had memorized large portions of Genesis through Deuteronomy. He knew the finest details of Jewish law and could quote passages at will. He is the kind of man who, as one person says, would have been something of “a bore at parties,” because often when one specializes in a particular field of study, he cannot help but share the great depth of his knowledge with all who come within a few steps of him.
He asks Jesus the question and Jesus responds as He often does with sneaky people like this; He answers the question with a question of His own. Verse 26 tells us, “He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’” He may as well have said, “You are the expert, are not you? Tell Me!”
By the way, it is worth noting that Jesus answers this important life question with an answer that points His questioner to the Scriptures, “What is written in the law?” This prompts one commentator, J. C. Ryle to remind us, “It matters nothing who says a thing in religion, whether an ancient father, or a modern Bishop, or a learned (preacher). Is it in the Bible? Can it be proved by the Bible? If not, it is not to be believed. It matters nothing how beautiful and clear sermons or religious books may appear. Are they in the smallest degree contrary to Scripture? If they are, they are rubbish and poison, and guides of no value.”
The man answers. The expert in the law replies to Jesus in verse 27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” His reply should sound relatively familiar to those of who a familiar with the Scriptures. It is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:4, the passage recited twice a day by the faithful Jew in his morning and evening prayers. The man says, “I enter into heaven by loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself.” That is his answer.
Some of us may not be prepared for Jesus’ answer. Some of us who were trained to share the Gospel using a particular outline or method are surprised by what Jesus says next. After all, we believe this man just gave something of a “works” answer. We probably were prepared to hear Jesus say, “No. Wrong answer. You cannot be saved by what you do.” But what do we read? Jesus says in verse 28, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” It is true, isn’t it? Is not the way to eternal life attained by loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves? Is not the very essence of faith bound up in a whole-hearted loving trust in God as King of our lives? This is what faith is. It is an expression of trust in the One who is the love of our lives.
The problem is, of course, that none of us actually loves the Lord perfectly. The grammar here, present tense, imperative mood, suggests a translation like, “Keep doing this forever and you shall live.” The opposite is: “Don’t keep doing this and you shall die.” Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Is there a person reading this who has the audacity to say he or she always, consistently, and perfectly loves the Lord with every fiber of his or her being, totally devoted at every moment to the One True God. The expert in the law, however, is blind to this. He is blind to it because He did not come to Jesus trusting Him but testing Him. In fact, he apparently assumes his doing just fine in these two matters, loving the Lord and loving his neighbor as himself, but he wants to be sure, especially on this matter of loving his neighbor. He might have thought, “Every Jew knows who the One True God is, but not everyone may know who their neighbor is,” and so, verse 29 tells us, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
The very question illustrates that the man is clearly missing something here. His question implies that, to him, some people qualified as neighbors, and some did not. The prevailing opinion among the scribes and Pharisees was that there were certain ones to whom they were expected to show mercy and others to whom they were not expected to show mercy. Compassion was required in some cases and optional in other cases. It is as if the expert in the law asked Jesus, “Look, Jesus, I do not want to be wasting my time showing compassion to people who are not my neighbor. Clearly compassion is optional in some cases, so what are – or who are – those cases? Who is my neighbor?”
Remember . . .
The man did not
Come trusting Jesus,
But testing Jesus.
Therefore . . .
The man does not require instruction
As much as he requires humility.
The same may be said for many of us. It is not that we need more information to trust God. We need to humble ourselves with the information we already possess. As the hymn-writer puts it, “What more can He say than to you He hath said?”
We do not need instruction as
Much as we need humility.
We must see ourselves in our sin
And bow before the One true, holy,
And infinitely wise God.
But the man wants to justify himself and so he asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers in verse 30 and following. He answers by painting a picture of what compassion and mercy looks like. He illustrates what it looks like to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Having considered the question of eternity we now consider the illustration of mercy.
2. Consider The Illustration Of Mercy – Verses 30-37.
Verse 30 says , “Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’” The road to Jericho is still visible today. It is an 18 mile stretch downhill some 3,000 feet from Jericho to Jerusalem. The terrain is rocky and in Jesus’ day thieves were notorious for hiding along the Jericho road, known then as the “red and bloody way,” as these thieves frequently burglarized unsuspecting travelers. This man walks along the Jericho road and falls among thieves. They strip him of his clothing, they beat him, and they leave him half dead.
Jesus continues the story in verses 31 and 32, “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.” These two, the priest and the Levite, pass by the man without stopping to help him. The question that is immediately raised is, “Why didn’t they at least stop.” Maybe because they were involved in spiritual duties in the Jewish synagogue, they feared becoming spiritually and ceremonially unclean. We do not know. The point is that they did not stop to show mercy and compassion. We would have expected such mercy to come from these two, they are after all the “spiritual people,” not unlike the expert in the law who was asking Jesus about eternity, but they both pass by.
Where does the man’s help come from? Verse 33 tells us, “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” Maybe there was a gasp in the crowd at this point in Jesus’ story. A Samaritan! Who would have expected help to come from a Samaritan? Some of you will remember John’s editorial comment in John 4:9, where he writes, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” Most Jews considered the Samaritans as “half-breeds,” and unworthy of any attention at all. In John 8:48 some Jews use the term contemptuously in expression their hatred of Jesus. They say, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?!” Who would have expected this man to be helped by a Samaritan?
Verses 34 and 35 tells us, “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’” The kind Samaritan, the “Good Samaritan,” rubs soothing oil upon the man’s beaten body and pours wine as an antiseptic into the man’s wounds and he cares for him. He interrupts his own schedule and takes the beaten man to a nearby inn where he cares for him through the evening, perhaps making sure he lives through the night. The next day the Good Samaritan takes two denarii – the equivalent of two days wages – and gives the money to the innkeeper in case the man has any other needs. And if this money is not enough the Good Samaritan will repay all at a future date.
Then, in verses 36 and 37, Jesus takes the position of the questioner. He asks the expert in the law, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Strictly speaking, Jesus never answers the man’s question. Have you ever noticed that? The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus does not answer that question. He answers a different question. He answers the question, “How can I be a loving neighbor?” In essence Jesus says, “You did not ask me this, but you should have. You really should have asked, ‘How can I be a neighbor?’ That is the kind of question My true followers ask Me.” The man wanted to know when compassion is optional and Jesus, in essence, says “Never.”
Let us remember that Jesus is not teaching a sort of salvation by works: Do your best to love God and love your neighbor and you will get into heaven. None of us can love God and neighbor perfectly. Remember that this man needed to be humbled. He came not to Jesus trusting Him, but testing Him. He did not need instruction, he needed humility.
The moral demands of the Old Testament are not set aside by the New Testament. The moral demands of the Old Testament are fulfilled perfectly in Jesus Christ who said in Matthew 5:17, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” As our substitute, Christ fulfills the law perfectly for us. He takes our sin upon Himself so that our sin is paid for, and He fulfills the righteous demands of the law for us so that we may receive His righteousness. Then, we who are Christians are saved from the penalty of sin and we live new lives in Christ, new lives that endeavor to live out the moral commands of the law – not because the law saves us, but because the law is good for us. We live it out as an evidence that we are truly born again.
Acts of kindness flow from the Gospel; but
Acts of kindness are not themselves the Gospel.
Acts of kindness are not the way to life but,
For the Christian, they are the way of life.
Put another way: showing mercy to one’s neighbor is evidence of having received mercy. With that in mind, let me share with you about five ways we can show mercy this week . . .
1) Allowing For Divine Interruptions.
This Samaritan no doubt had his own schedule as he was making his way down the Jericho Road. If he were us today, he would have carried a day-timer or a smart phone with his calendar in it and he periodically pulled it out of his pocket the way so many of us do, checking to see whether we have received another email, text, or tweet. But he was open to interruptions. We need to allow for Divine interruptions. Allow God to change your schedule one day this week and marvel at how God brings people into your lives that you may bless them.
The priest and the Levite missed their opportunity. Whereas the priest and the Levite passed by the wounded man, verse 33 says that this certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, “came where he was.” The problem with many of us is that “we are not where the man is.” We are not where the man is because we are caught up in our own little worlds, and our own “Christian causes,” complete with petitions we pass out and signs we stick in our yards and stickers we put on our cars, but “we are not where the man is.” We do not open our eyes to the needs all around us.
2) Taking Time To Really Listen To Others.
Husbands listening to wives, children listening to parents, co-workers listening to one another—really listening. Listen like Jesus. Take time to do that this week. Really listen to others.
3) Meeting Needs Of Others (Physical, Economic, Social).
Does someone need money or help? Are we too quick to explain away our need to give to that person or is our first inclination to go and help? Do we really love all persons regardless of race, color, culture, social status, and education?
4) Sharing The Gospel.
What greater way to show compassion and mercy than by caring for the soul of a person?
5) Being Missional (Pray/Give/Go to the 4Cs)
Every Christian is a missionary. We show mercy by being missional, taking the Gospel to the 4Cs of our Community, the Commonwealth, the Country, and the Continents. Every one of us is called by Jesus to pray, give, or go.
May God help us beware of thinking we can love Him whom we have not seen when we do not love our brother whom we see at every opportunity. Thank God for showing the greatest mercy and compassion one could show by coming to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, coming to us “where we were,” like a beaten man on the side of the road, naked, wretched, and poor. Thank Him for coming to us as the compassionate Good Shepherd who took care of us and paid the debt we owed, dying for our sins upon the cross that we might be healed, saved, and forgiven.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”