Jesus, the Professor, the Good Samaritan,
and Showing Mercy
(Luke chapter 10, verses 22-37)
Last week when we concluded the first part of chapter 10, Jesus had just prayed to his Father about the great success the Seventy-two had had in proclaiming the Gospel and bringing the good news to the poor. He then compared them to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of that time, as being like a bunch of unruly children, an apt description if ever there was one. Sadly, much the same is true today for the church leadership of today. The real truth has been hidden from many of them, and revealed only to those who embrace Jesus with the wide-eyed wonder of a little child, being reborn like little babies in the overwhelming soul saving power of the Holy Spirit. Today as we begin this week's study of the apostle Luke, we find Jesus commenting on this very thing as he finishes this train of thought, beginning at verse 22.
“'All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.' Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.' On one occasion a teacher of the Law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher', he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'What is written in the Law?', he replied. 'How do you read it?' He answered, '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, to 'love your neighbor as your self'. 'You have answered correctly', Jesus answered. 'Do this and you will live'. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'” (Luke 10, verses 22-29)
The first two sentences were uttered to the crowd that was gathered all around, which had become routine stuff to our Lord and Savior and his disciples by now. Jesus told the crowd, 'I am the heir to the entire universe. As such, nobody can ever approach the Father except for myself, and that's just the way it is.' But then, right at that moment, Jesus turned to the apostles and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” The apostles and other followers didn't know how good they had it. Try to imagine, if you'll bear with me for a moment, what it would be like to be right there watching and hearing Jesus preach and listening to him teach. I honestly am not sure whether I would be able to keep my emotions under control, or whether I would break down and cry like a little kid. You know, like one of “these little children” that Jesus prayed about just a few minutes before?
“On one occasion a teacher of the Law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher', he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'What is written in the Law?', he replied. 'How do you read it'?” This is the modern-day equivalent of a theology professor at a major university or a college professor at a seminary challenging Christ, only to have Jesus deflect the question right back. 'You're a teacher, am I right? What do you think it says?' The professor responded by reciting Leviticus 19:18 perfectly. Notice how Jesus responds: “'You have answered correctly', Jesus answered. 'Do this and you will live'.” Meaning, the flip side of that coin is that if we do not obey those 2 all-encompassing commandments, it will result in our untimely demise, and that's never a good thing. Moreover, that type of demise always happens when we least expect it, and the impact is always the most devastating.
But the Pharisee teacher/professor wanted to justify himself all the more, wrote the apostle Luke. Evidently he was, if nothing else, a rather egotistical individual. One thing you can be sure of – there will be no egomaniacs in heaven! So when the teacher asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor”, this was anther wrong move on the teacher's part, because we can never justify our own selves. No human being has the right to do that because we have no such authority. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ, shed upon the cross, can do that. Trying to justify ourselves would be like having a pathological need for validation coming from others, when in fact we should be finding our validation through Christ. In other words, not only is being egotistical wrong, it is a form of idolatry because it amounts to self-worship. So Jesus, not wanting to publicly humiliate the man even though he could have, answered the man in the form of another of his many parables, beginning at verse 30.
“In reply Jesus said, 'A man was going down the road 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, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him', he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have'. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him'. Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise'.” (Luke 10, verses 30-37)
So here we have Jesus telling his “parable” about this hapless traveler who gets jacked up by some thugs and barely survives his experience. As you can clearly see, crime is nothing new – it's been going on for millennia. The main stream media's coverage of crime here in America is reported in a way that gets more readers, subscribers, and television viewers rather than reporting the news honestly and without bias towards or against one special interest or another. Maybe if the sensationalism about criminal activity that is generated through the media was redirected towards the healing of poor communities and confronting the growing cancer of income inequality across the world, that would go a long way towards making our world a better and more equitable place to live. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he replied to the rabbi, “Go and do likewise”. Show mercy at every opportunity, because you never know when you might need some yourselves.
The next thing we notice as Jesus relates his parable to the crowd around him, and particularly to the Pharisee who had asked him the question, is his continuing contempt for the religious establishment of his time. We can all be sure that the Lord's contempt for man-made religion, which under scrutiny is found to be an attempt to replace or duplicate God, still applies to the religious establishment of the modern world. Not much has changed over the centuries. The only exception is the mushrooming of the true Church in the last 2,000 years or so, the church without boundaries of dogma and creed, the church where there is only One who can be truly called 'Father', and where all are equal under Christ without exception. For those who are unsure about the accuracy of what I'm saying, to find out the ultimate fate of the World Church from the Last Days – a church that is already here and active – go and read Revelation chapter 18. It only takes about 5 minutes, and the answers to all your questions are right there. (hint: “the false prophet” is symbolism for the Vatican)
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” The key word here is 'pity'. This Samaritan, who was from what were considered to be a lower class of people during Jesus' time, had compassion and empathy for the badly injured man, something the world still needs a whole lot more of. Some of us have been physically injured, but many more have been hurt mentally or spiritually by other people and circumstances. If we're going to be followers of Christ, it is vitally important that we all become more attuned to the needs of others rather than that of ourselves.
“I desire mercy”, Jesus said, “not sacrifice.” Luke's narrative makes it quite clear the teacher of the Law understood the meaning of the parable exactly. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him'. Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise'.” That's our task for the rest of the week, people. Go and find someone to be merciful to. Then, don't stop with only one person. Keep doing it until it becomes a habit, which requires various amounts and types of vigorous training. Prepare to make this kind of authentic commitment to yourselves every day going forward. Remember that money is not the solution to every problem. Sometimes it boils down to being there for someone when they are needed. People trump money each and every time.