"What does it mean to truly love our neighbor?"
Over the past few months we have taken a look at the parables Jesus used to teach some very significant lessons. There are some parables that we have been familiar with and others not so much. Today’s parable is one of the most famous parables of Christ. I want us to look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10, so turn with me there. When the Apostle Paul was writing to the Galatians he tells us this.
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The title of our message today is, “What does it mean to truly love our neighbor?” Over the years we have seen that it has become a compliment to call someone a Good Samaritan and to show sacrificial kindness or good deeds to others. But, there are many people who misunderstand what this parable is really all about, and what it is intended to convey. This parable is much more than showing kindness to others. In fact, Jesus told this story to help us see just how short we all fall from what God’s law demands of us. In other words, Jesus is showing us that all of our good works and religious deeds never gain us a perfect favor with God. We should desire to do good works, but even those good works do not allow us to attain salvation. If a religious lawyer thinks that he can merit eternal life by his own good deeds and Jewish traditions and not truly love God, than he has missed the main point of this lesson. When we truly love God the natural outpouring is that we love others including our enemies. So, let us look at our passage today. Let’s begin in Luke 10 verse 25.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Luke here records a conversation between Jesus and a certain lawyer. The lawyer here has several questions for the Lord. The first question here concerns salvation and the second concerns how we should live in order to please the Lord.
Notice here that the lawyer asks two questions.
1. The first question this lawyer asks is “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (vs. 25) It is important for us to know that clearly this was not a sincere question. Why? Because the lawyer was trying to trick the Lord and catch him off guard. He was trying to test Jesus and show how religious he was. So, despite the testing and trickery behind the question it is actually a very great question. There were some other people that wanted to know the answer to this same question. Nicodemus had this same question for Jesus and other religious leaders as well. People today ask the same question. What does it mean to be saved? Jesus himself came to seek and save those who are lost and this was the central theme of his many messages. We see this in the Gospel of John.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
So, notice here how the Lord responds to this lawyers question. Verse 26 says, what is written in the law? How do you read this? Jesus answers the question with a question of His own. The lawyer responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which is the Jewish Shema and also adds on Leviticus 19:18 as well. This is what we see in verse 27. This was the perfect summary of the laws moral demands. Jesus even said in Matthew 22:40 on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. What is so interesting about all of this is that when we read the 10 commandments we see that the first 4 commandments have everything to do with our love for God and the last 6 commandments have everything to do with our love for our neighbor. So, Jesus tells this lawyer that he got it exactly right. First we are to love God with all our heart, and then we are also to love our neighbor as ourself. Notice the Lord’s response in verse 28.
28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Do this and you will live. If you want eternal life, obey the law. What this shows us is that the law condemned this lawyer. This man’s heart was hardened by sin and he should have immediately confessed that he did not love God as he should, and he did not love his neighbor as he loved himself. Because of his pride and wanting to justify himself he tries to skirt around the part of loving God by asking this second question.
2. The Second Question this lawyer asks is, “Who is my neighbor?” (vs. 29) This man was very desperate to make himself look good to others around him but he did not care about what God thought of him. This lawyer just wants to try and discuss a technical issue about the identity of our neighbor. So, let us address this issue by turning to Matthew chapter 5.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
The lawyer here would have defined “neighbor” as a member of his own people and race, but never anyone else. (Only Jewish people) So, this text in Matthew helps us to see we are to love even those who are our enemy. Jesus is going to help this lawyer understand the question, do you act as a neighbor to those who need your help? Jesus is asking, do you love? And He is doing everything he can to show this man kindness and gentleness in his responses. Jesus is actually modeling the same principle he is about to show us in this parable. Jesus does not give a harsh rebuke to this man, he responds by telling him this parable.
John MacArthur says, “This is not a lesson for us to look at today by teaching our children to share their toys and be kind to other little boys and girls. This was a story told to a religious nonbeliever, to bring him to see his true sense of sinfulness and his need for mercy. Jesus was urging this man to wake up and see how lost he truly was.”
Four Groups of People that I want us to look at.
1. There was the victim.
1. There was the victim.
The victim and the attackers are not as important as the other characters here, but I do want to take time and mention these briefly so we can understand some background here. The victim here was a Jewish man. The would have been really clear to all of the listeners that Jesus was speaking too.
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
We see that this was the road heading out of Jerusalem and going toward Jericho. Typically it was Jewish people leaving Jerusalem heading out of town.
2. There were the attackers.
2. There were the attackers.
Our text tells us that this was a very dangerous road that went from Jerusalem to Jericho. This road is about 17 miles long and would drop about four thousand feet in elevation. So, this road was mountainous and dealt with a very tough terrain. There were huge boulders and caves along the way were robbers and bandits would hang out looking for innocent by standards. Here in this parable the man was traveling alone so this did not bid well for him. We know that these robbers did not just rob him, but they stripped him and beat him and left him for dead. This man was left alone to die. It might have been a very long time before any kind of help would come along, so there was no guarantee that he would find help.
3. There were those who were indifferent.
3. There were those who were indifferent.
The Priest and the Levite. In verse 31 the parable gives us some hope that this man who was robbed, beaten and left for dead would be rescued. Let’s start with the Priest first. The Priest of course was known as a servant of God. This man would be the one who would offer sacrifices for the people at the temple, and he was a spiritual man as well. The Priest would have been very familiar with the Mosaic law and would have understood Leviticus 19:18 that says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But the hope we had for this injured man comes crashing down in verse 31 when we see that this priest passes this man by on the other side. The Priest on purpose avoids this man who has been injured and robbed. What this shows us is that the Priest had no compassion for people. Genuine love and compassion should cause us to stop and be a neighbor to strangers and aliens. We should love even our enemies and be able to do good to them and pray for them. The priest here represents someone who knows what God’s Word says and who is expected to help, but does not. May we not be indifferent church. May we not turn a blind eye to our neighbor who is in need.
The next verse shows us another character. Verse 32 now introduces a Levite. All the priests were from the tribe of Levi. These priests came from the family line of Aaron who was Moses’s brother. Levites were devoted to religious service, so they too like the priests would have known what the Hebrew Scriptures would have said. What happens here is the same thing. When the Levite comes to the place where this man was, he too walks to the opposite side of the road. Again the Levite was someone who had no compassion or kindness. The Levite here represents someone who was the most educated of his time and who was considered by his people very religious, but he did not really know God. These men were just religious hypocrites because they claimed to know God and love God, but they didn’t care to keep His commandments. They both had an opportunity to show care and compassion to their neighbor but they choose not too and were indifferent. Again may we not be like this church. Watch out for this type of heart. There are many times where we think, I don’t want to get involved in a certain situation, I don’t know this person, the person may not even like me, so it is easy to do nothing. We must confess our indifferent heart and ask the Lord to help us see those around us who are in need.
4. There was the concerned.
4. There was the concerned.
The Samaritan man is the only one who was concerned here. Church, the Word of God still remains true and valid today. It still shows us how we are to act and respond. Those who truly love God will also love their neighbor. Think back to the question that the Lawyer asks Jesus. Who is my neighbor? Jesus now drops the bombshell on this mans question as we come to verse 33. Jesus tells us that a Samaritan arrives on the scene. Remember that the victim here was a Jewish man who was traveling out of Jerusalem heading to Jericho. The Jews of course hated the Samaritans and likewise. The Samaritans were actually descendants of the Israelites who had at one time intermarried with pagans after the Assyrians forced most of the population of Israel’s Northern Kingdom into exile around 722 B.C. You can read about this in 2 Kings 17. Some of the Israelite people remained or returned to their land after being in exile and began to marry with others who were in their land. The true faithful Jews saw the Samaritans as corrupt, unclean and unholy. The Samaritans went as far to build another temple on Mt. Gerizim which really angered the Jews because their temple was in Jerusalem. Jesus shows us all of this to help us see the relationship between Jews and Samaritans. So, how does this Samaritan respond when he sees the Jewish man who has been left for dead? Notice verses 33-35. This is the main point of the parable church. The Samaritan man loved his neighbor. He sees him and stops to care for him. He has compassion on him and bounds up his wounds. He uses some of his own resources to care for this man. He was not stingy with his oil and wine to treat this man. Then he takes time to place this man on his animal and take him to get help. The Samaritan was generous and was making a big sacrifice for someone he didn’t even know. He takes this man to an inn to take care of him until the next morning. Then pays the inn keeper to care for him until he returns. The Samaritan’s heart was full of love for this desperate man who was in need. There was never a question about what to do. The Samaritan here never had to stop and ask the same question that this lawyer had to ask to Jesus. Hey Jesus, who is my neighbor? The Samaritan understood the big question here was whose neighbor am I, it was anyone who is in need. So, let me ask you today, have you seen those around you in need? Have you ever done something for someone who was a neighbor, a compete stranger, or even harder your enemy? Would you stop to take care of them, provide help for them, pay for their hotel bill or medical bill, and then leave them with extra assistance as this Samaritan did? You see church this Good Samaritan cared for this traveler the way God cares for sinners. Just as this Samaritan man sacrificed his time and money for this wounded enemy, God gave us his one and only Son Jesus who came and died for us as sinners.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Conclusion: So, who is our neighbor? Of all those who passed by only the Samaritan showed himself to be the neighbor to this injured man. Yes, we should show compassion to those who are in need, but even more importantly this parable shows us who is our neighbor by allowing us to see that it could be someone from a different ethnic group or a different religion or an enemy. Does this mean we are to be a neighbor to a non Christian, Homosexual, Transgender, Republican Democrat? Yes. Of course, God’s Word is clear that not all will come to salvation (this belief is called Universalism which affirms that every human being will be saved), but Scripture does affirm to love our neighbor. What this means is that every human being has been created in the image of God and they are our neighbors. Even if a person is not part of the body of Christ, that person is still a Christian’s neighbor and we are called to love them as much as we love ourselves. Are job is not to condemn those who have fallen into sin, but to help them out of the despair that they are in. After showing this amazing picture of mercy, Jesus went and tells his listeners, “Go and do likewise.” For those of us who call ourselves Christians, will you today through faith in the finished work of Christ, live like the Samaritan lived? Will you go and do likewise?
(Pray and lead into Communion)