Lets discuss from Luke 10 about who is our neighbor. Jesus came into this world to seek and save the lost. Throughout his life he was going from village to village, place to place seeking and saving the lost. When he baptized disciples he asked them to go and make disciples everywhere. He said, 'Come, follow me and I'll make you fishers of men'. Amazingly, even when you open Luke 10 it starts by Jesus sending the seventy two into different homes and different places to tell the good news of why Jesus came to the earth.
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Jesus says to the seventy-two, 'Go. The harvest is plentiful and pray to God for harvesters are very less. Pray to send many harvesters into the world'. Today's message is going to be an outward focussed message about what we can do to others. Who is my neighbor - we'll learn from Luke 10. The call today is for us to reach out to our neighbors who are in need.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27 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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Here in v25, a man who is an expert in the law, an expert in the Bible (what God has given as law) comes to Jesus and wants to test Jesus. He asks a very interesting question which we all ask at one time or the other in our lives. 'What must I do to inherit eternal life'? 'Jesus tell me what I should do to go to heaven'. Jesus, instead of giving him an answer, asks him a question, 'What is written in the Bible'? Knowing the Bible very well, this man answered very quickly, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself'. Jesus told him that he had answered very correctly and now that he knows the Bible very well, if he practiced it he would get eternal life. Sometimes, even though we know many things in the Bible, we find it hard to practice them.
Jesus says we must practice these things that we read. It is very easy to read and understand but today we need to think about practicing the scriptures. In v29 after listening to this answer from Jesus he wanted to justify himself and he asked Jesus, 'Who is my neighbor? You ask me to love my neighbor but tell me, Jesus, who my neighbor is'. This man probably knew the scriptures by heart but Jesus knew his heart. So again, instead of answering this expert of the law, who was so well-versed in the Bible and the Old Testament laws and Moses' laws , Jesus did not answer him directly. Instead Jesus tells him a parable - a story with a spiritual meaning. This is the parable we all call 'The Parable of the Good Samaritan'.
A parable is very simple and we may all know this story but what is amazing about Jesus' parables is that the more we read them, more is the focus on our heart (about what we can learn from the parable), the more we get convicted about our lives and the more we change. God's word is amazing. The deeper you go the more it makes you think differently and more the insights you get. So we need to go deep into the word.
Sometimes when we read the Bible we don't want to go deeper, we don't want to think differently and we don't draw enough meat from the Bible. We need to start thinking differently - it's called 'lateral thinking'. Thinking differently will give us new focus in our lives.
1. Are you a neighbor?
Jesus talked to the man through this parable.
30 In reply Jesus said: "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.
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
34 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.
35 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.'
36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
This man asked who is my neighbor and Jesus told this simple story. A man, travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, was attacked by robbers and was left on the side of the road half dead. Two religious people - a priest and a Levite - passed on that road, saw him but walked on the other side of the road and went by.
A Samaritan, an ordinary man - Jews hated Samaritans - had compassion on this dying man and he took him and helped him and took care of him. 'Who do you think was neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers?', Jesus asked the expert in the law. The man replied that it was the man who had mercy on the dying man. Jesus asked him to go and do likewise.
The most important lesson we can learn is to imitate the work of the Samaritan in our own lives by reaching out to those who are in need around us. The interesting thing is that two religious people came who were supposed to help (they knew everything about the Bible) but didn't. They made excuses and didn't reach out to this man. Let us think which role we would fit today. There are so many people who, if seen spiritually, are hurt in their lives today.
We read that this man is bleeding to death and these two religious people walk by. Today we make excuses about why we cannot reach out to somebody else who is in need spiritually. Jesus doesn't talk here about why they made excuses but we can imagine many excuses they could have made. When they saw this man they felt pity but didn't go the extra mile to help him.
They may have thought that the road was so dangerous that if they went to help him they could very well become the next victims. Or, that if they go close to the man, passers by may suspect them to be the robbers. Or, that since they did not have bandages or medicines there was nothing they could do to help the man. After all they were only a priest and a Levite and not doctors. Or, that their families would be waiting. Or, that it was the wounded man's fault - after all he should have known better than to come alone. Or, that anyway he would die so there was no point in helping him. Or, maybe the priest looked back, saw the Levite and thought that, since he himself was late and had to hurry, maybe the Levite would help the man. These excuses all look familiar to us for why we don't want to reach out to others. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and we see many people, spiritually hurt around us, in our own homes, our own families, near our homes, at our work places. But we don't go the extra mile to reach out to them.
Sometimes we can see ourselves dying spiritually but our hearts are so hardened we don't want to deal with our hearts and we just walk by. Probably he was groaning or waving his hands to show he needed help. Somehow he was shouting for help. Some of us know we are not doing well spiritually, we know we need help in our lives, we know our children are not at all doing well in their lives but we don't take help. We say things will change and that we can take care of our lives and so we don't shout for help. In our church, we can encourage one another, love one another, advise one another and lift each other up. We need to ask for help and God is ready to provide that help.
We read the Bible a lot and we know lot of things as Christians what we are expected to do. We have received a lot of teaching. Even before we became Christians someone drilled the scriptures into our heads and we know exactly what we need to do as Christians. So we dig that which are easy and start compromising on those that are difficult. We walk around things that are challenging.
Let us go head on, deal with things, and ask for help, go into the Bible and search for answers and life will change. If we compromise, our heart will get hardened and one day Satan will take us over completely.
2. Do you want to be a neighbor?
We all want to fit into the Samaritan's role because he's the hero - the ending is so good. If you want to fit in that's good but there are no short cuts, no going around. It takes risk, it takes sacrifice, it takes our time, it calls us to reschedule ourselves so that we can fit into the role of the Samaritan. What did he do differently?
a. He was willing to cross the social barriers
To reach out to somebody we cannot make excuses of social barriers. He was a Samaritan but he didn't think that the wounded man was a Jew and that he shouldn't touch him. He could have made so many excuses. People may catch him if he tried to reach out to someone who was Jewish - he didn't look at all that. He saw the need of the person. If you want to reach out to someone spiritually, which we can, we cannot look at all the social barriers that we can see and make excuses. Just like the Samaritan we also need to reach out to people based on their need to be saved. When we want to reach out someone rich, we cannot say, 'How can I do that? Look at me, I don't have any money. Look at my dress - how poor I am'. We can't make those excuses. What God has given us the rich man doesn't have. Maybe God has chosen you to reach out to that man. 'Look at her, she's so educated'. 'Look at her, she's so sharp'. 'Look at me. She's so rich and I'm so poor'. We cannot make all those distinctions to love somebody and reach out to them spiritually.
b. He was willing to take risks
He did not make excuses or become fearful. His attitude was that if he is to help the wounded man then he must take the risk. He was willing to set aside his busy schedule. Looking at the Samaritan he must have been a busy man - travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho but he was willing to take a day off and take this man to an inn and he served him the whole night. The next day he had to go back to his own business and yet he tells the innkeeper that he'd be back. He was a very busy man but he was willing to change his schedule because he knew his priorities. He knew that if he didn't help when God had put him in that place to help, nobody else would. He had that conviction and he wanted to reach out even to the extent of changing his schedule. He was willing to make sacrifices.
When he saw the blood and saw that the man was half dead he thought about what he should use. He had some wine and some clothes. He used the wine to clean the wounds and stopped the bleeding by bandaging the wounds. He gave him first aid. He gave his own money to the innkeeper and asked the innkeeper to take care of the man, promising to pay the balance if the charges were more than he had paid for. If I want to be a Samaritan in this world, I need to have a sacrificial life. If I want to reach out to someone, I need to sacrifice my time, money and energy. Willing to give first aid all the time. God has given us salvation. Sharing our lives itself is a first aid for those who are dying spiritually. It's not difficult to share. People will be amazed to listen and they will want to come and know more about Jesus.
You are most precious in God's eyes and you can reach out to somebody and be a neighbor like this Samaritan in that person's life. Maybe someone in your office, maybe he's already your friend or a family member. You need to go the extra mile. The Samaritan was willing to go the extra mile. That is what Jesus taught his disciples - to go the extra mile. That is what we need to practice in our lives. I just want to close out with a story which will help us to realize how it helps to change other peoples lives.
There was a scientist who wanted to write a book but he was so distracted in his own home that he took up a place near the beach so he could work on his computer and prepare the article on some scientific discovery he had made. Early morning he started work. Through the glass window he could see the beach and saw a man running up and down the beach in what looked like a dance. So he went down to the beach to investigate. The young man was not dancing but was throwing starfish back into the sea. The scientist asked him why he was doing this. The man explained that during high tide the starfish wash up on the beach and get stranded and when the sun rose in the morning they would die. The scientist saw thousands of the fish lying on the beach and said, 'What's the use? You cannot throw all of them back into the sea'. The young man didn't reply immediately but instead picked up another starfish and threw it back into the sea. Then he looked at the scientist and said, 'I made a difference in that one's life, didn't I?' The scientist was speechless and went back to his work saying, 'These young people don't know what they are doing'. He went back to his computer but couldn't concentrate because he kept thinking about what the young man was doing. It started haunting him. The whole night he couldn't sleep thinking about what the man had done. Early next morning he went to the beach and started throwing starfish back into the sea.
This is the story of transformation - how one person can help another person to change. Not by much talking but by their life's example. Jesus said to the disciples, 'You are the salt of the earth and light of the world'. Your life can be first aid to many people. We've got to understand that Christianity is not just a rules book from the Bible where we read and do things. It is much more than that. It is love, compassion and reaching out to others. That is what Jesus did - he reached out to people one by one. That is how Christianity was started. Today he is calling out to us - disciples - to reach out one by one, as he did. If you're visiting with us, thank you for coming. Jesus wants to reach out to you also. Ask the person who brought you to teach you the Bible. Your life will start changing and you'll understand what we are talking about better. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He gave us this focus, this mission in our lives so let's take it higher.