In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus is asked a question: 'who is my neighbor?' He answers with a parable about a Good Samaritan that is so widely known in our culture we sometimes miss its shocking implications. In this sermon, we explore how Jesus not only expands our understanding of our neighbor, but also calls us to deeper compassion for those God puts on our path. As we delve deeper into this sermon and explore the metaphors, we see how Jesus promises to equip us for the beautiful, yet challenging work of love and justice.

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    Of all the stories that Jesus ever told during his earthly ministry, I can't think of another one that has made its way further into the conscience and vocabulary of our culture than the story, or as we know it as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It's likely that even if you're relatively new to church, or even if you don't know a lot of stories in the Bible, you have heard, at least in part, the story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In fact, oftentimes when there's a natural disaster, or some egregious act here in the city, or around the world, we look for hope and wait for a story of a good Samaritan, a person who does a heroic feat of selflessness in a moment's notice to rescue someone who is in need of help. Extraordinary kindness, by extraordinary people, under extraordinary circumstances—that's a good Samaritan. Or another way to think of it is someone who has pursued justice for another person motivated by love. We have good Samaritan laws that describe and even encourage these kinds of selfless acts. Of course, they get this title “good Samaritan” from this parable that, we're going to look at in a moment, Jesus gives to a Jewish legal expert, or what we call a lawyer. But I want to suggest to you that while those people that I just described to you are no doubt, good Samaritans, the notion that a good Samaritan is only someone who does something extraordinary, in a special time, in a special place was not Jesus’ intention for this parable. That actually makes this message all the more daunting. 

    There are two words or phrases that reveal this reality. First, it's the fact that Jesus uses the word “neighbor.” According to Jesus, your neighbor is whoever he puts in your path. Then these final words, which we're going to look at in a moment, “Go, and do likewise.” Jesus says, go and love your neighbor like this, and so we are talking about extraordinary kindness, justice, motivated by love, but no longer, extraordinary people under extraordinary circumstances. What Jesus is going to talk about, what we're going to look at in just a moment, is that Jesus is talking about a posture of love that seeks to live out and pursue justice—the justice that we've been talking about over the past several weeks—not as an extraordinary circumstance, but as a way of life. How do we do that? That's what I want to look at this morning. How do we become a people who pursue justice on behalf of our neighbors, justice, motivated by love, and I believe that the parable, the parable of the Good Samaritan, will be our guide, and can be our guide. I want us to read this text, Luke 10:25-37. Let's give our attention to God's word. 

    25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And 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.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

    29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He 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. 35And 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.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

    This is the Word of God. It's absolutely true, and it's given to us in love. 

    Would you pray with me? 

    We do ask O God that you would awaken us and stir our hearts to your word. This parable, God, if we are honest, can strike us as oftentimes overwhelming. The grace that was extended by the Samaritan to this man, and these words “Go, and do likewise,” they can be haunting and overwhelming. We pray O God, that you would direct us and guide us. Stir our hearts. Establish our feet and our hands so that we would be people who pursue this kind of justice and this kind of love of our neighbor all for your glory. We pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.

    The broad cultural familiarity with this story is helpful, and that it's likely you know at least part of it. You can get the gist of the story. The parable of the Good Samaritan, what does it mean you should do? You should help your neighbor out. Pull them out of a ditch when he's in trouble. Do good to others. But the familiarity with this parable also presents a challenge. Because we're so used to it, we might miss some of the deeper implications that Jesus is making. What I want you to see from the outset, is that the lawyer wants to limit the definition of neighbor and Jesus is expanding it, and that provides the background for this parable. I want to look at three things from this passage that will help us. First, Jesus widens our vision. Then he gives us courage to cross. Then he extends our mercy. He widens our vision. He gives us courage to cross. He extends our mercy. 

    Jesus Widens Our Vision

    First, Jesus widens/expands our vision. The first thing I want you to notice is the Samaritans willingness to see this man. You have this guy, this certain man who's not identified, but he's no doubt Jewish, because he's on this road between Jerusalem and Jericho, which was a well traveled road by the people of Israel. He's left for dead, and after that he falls into the hands of robbers. The Samaritan isn't the first one to see him. First, the Levite sees him and passes by, then the priest sees him and passes by. Finally, the Samaritan sees him, and in v.33, we read that when he saw them, he had compassion on him. This is one of the startling parts of this parable. It's not that the Levite and the priests don't see him. They do see him. They see the guys half dead. They do see him, but they don't see him through eyes of compassion. As temple officials, it was important for both the priest and the Levite to not touch a corpse. They had to remain pure. After all, they didn't know if he was dead or alive when they saw him on the road. It was better for them to obey the purity laws than to obey the second commandment, the second greatest commandment to love their neighbor as themselves. But the Samaritan, he sees him with eyes of compassion. The first point is simply this—you and I, we are not seeing our neighbor. You're not seeing the people until you see them with compassion. Especially people who are sick, those who are vulnerable, those who you might think you see, but until you seeing them leads you to compassion, you haven't really seen them. The challenge here is that it's easy to see people when they need just a little bit of help. It's easy to see people when they don't require so much compassion. It's easy to see people when they're in good shape. That's not the point here. That's not the story that Jesus is telling. In this parable, the man has been left for dead. He has nothing. It's gonna take a lot of effort to bring him back to health and to life, but it's the Samaritan who actually sees him. 

    Jesus Gives Us The Courage To Cross

    First, Jesus extends our vision—expands our vision of who our neighbor is—and then, in this parable, he gives us the courage to cross over. Notice in v.34, after the Samaritan sees the man and has compassion, we get this beautiful verse, “He went to him.” He went to him. The Samaritan is willing to cross all sorts of boundaries and barriers in order to love his neighbor. Within this parable, Jesus goes out of his way to say that both the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side, meaning they crossed over on the other side away from the pain, away from this man, and they just kept walking. It’s the priest and the Levite who should see. They're the ones who should crossover. They're the ones who should care for this man, but they don't. And they won't. They're far more concerned about their purity laws than they are about loving their neighbor. The Samaritan here is showing great courage to cross because he doesn't know if he's going to be in danger. Who knows where the people are who did this, but he's also showing great courage because for a Samaritan to approach a Jew was unheard of. These are bitter, bitter enemies at this point in the history of the Scriptures. This has been a long road of animosity and fighting. Jews and Samaritans hated each other. You can think of modern day Israel and Palestine, and here is this Samaritan crossing social boundaries and crossing physical boundaries. 

    This is where this parable gets, honestly, difficult to live out and to follow because what Jesus is teaching is that the call to love your neighbor means crossing all sorts of boundaries, and loving all sorts of people who quite simply you just can't stand. People you might even despise. The people who scare you. The people who drive you crazy. The people who did that to themselves. Why are they deserving of your help? Remember, Jesus is expanding our definition of neighbor. The lawyer wants it nice and clearly defined and easy to do, and so do I. I want to be called to love and serve people who I love, naturally. People who look like me, and act like me, and think like me, and believe like me. It feels good to serve them, and it's kind of manageable. That’s not what Jesus is calling us to. Jesus in having a Samaritan crossover and care for a Jew is throwing all conventions of neighbor out the window. 

    One of the questions you have to ask yourself is what boundaries won't you cross to take up this call and love your neighbor? Who will you not serve? What is a bridge too far for you? It's likely, when you can, if you're willing to think about the person or those kinds of people, it's likely that's probably the neighbor that Jesus is calling you to love. Think about the barriers of race, ethnicity, economic status, political agenda, barriers of competency, the people who keep making the same foolish decision after foolish decision. Jesus says, there's your neighbor. They are your neighbor, and we are called to see them with eyes of compassion and then to cross over and go to them. 

    Jesus Extends Our Mercy

    Jesus expands our vision. He gives us the courage to cross over, and he also extends our mercy. Finally, in v.34-36, we see the acts of mercy, and justice, and service that the Samaritan offers. It's the lawyer in v.37, who finally admits that the one who showed mercy is the Samaritan. It's the one who showed mercy to his neighbor. It was the Samaritan who did this, and now even the lawyer can see it. 

    Let's highlight a few of the ways that he does this. Firstly, he binds up his wounds. The Samaritan binds up the man's wounds, so he meets him in his immediate needs. He's bleeding and naked, and so he needs bandages and clothing. Then he moves from immediate care, sort of triage, to long term care because he takes him to an inn, but notice how they got to the inn. The Samaritan sets him on his own animal, most likely a donkey, and takes him to the inn. This is a sign of sacrificial service. In the New Testament time, it's the servant who leads the master on the donkey. The Samaritan is taking a position of servitude towards this man. There's no condescension here. There's no, well, you have to pull your own weight. He's serving him, and he's giving him dignity in the midst of this man's humiliation. But even as a Samaritan does this, it's still costing him something. He's being impacted deeply by serving this man. He offers two days wages and is committing to giving even more. He's giving him oil and wine as well. But then I love this part. They get to the inn. The Samaritan sets him with the innkeeper, and then look what happens—the Samaritan leaves. He leaves. This is the Samaritan here in the story, embracing his limits, even as he shows him mercy. It's clear the Samaritan has other stuff to do. He's got a job. He has to do other things. In taking him to the inn, he's enlarging his circles. He's enlarging the circle of care for this man. He's entrusting the care now to the innkeeper. The Samaritan leaves because he knows he just can't do it all. He's not over promising. He's not over committing, and he's not completely wearing himself out as he loves his neighbor. The Samaritan is setting himself up to be able to care long term and setting the man up to be cared for long term as well. 

    For Jesus, to love neighbor means showing and extending mercy. This is an act of service. It is an act of compassion: Living generous lives, and enlarging the circle of care even as we acknowledge our own limits, to take on other people's needs. Most definitely Jesus in calling us and commanding us to “Go and do likewise” is calling us to see with eyes of compassion, to have the courage to cross, and to offer sacrificial justice and mercy through generous living. That's what it means. That's what Jesus means when he calls us to love our neighbor. 

    That's the parable of the Good Samaritan. At least on the surface of this parable, it's challenging because while the lawyer wants to limit who his neighbor is, Jesus is expanding it. Then this phrase, I find it completely daunting when Jesus tells this lawyer, “You go, and do likewise.” After hearing this entire parable of the Good Samaritan, “Go, and do likewise.” Jesus does not let us off the hook in what he's calling us to do. Oftentimes, we can have one or two reactions to this parable. The first reaction is guilt. You read this, you sit with it for a while, and you just feel guilty. You can't help but read this and think, I should love like this, but I don't. Or we at Central, we should do more. We should do more of this, but we don't. I want to suggest to you that that is not the proper reaction or response to this passage. I don't think Jesus wants the lawyer—and I don't think Jesus, to be honest, wants you—to feel guilty as he tells us this parable because if this is our motivation, to love our neighbor and to serve our city, if our motivation in pursuing justice is born and comes from guilt, then we're in trouble because guilt as motivation will not last. Guilt doesn't lead to love and sacrifice. Guilt doesn't have you out loving your neighbor. Guilt doesn't create love, guilt creates more guilt. 

    Often, the title of the parable shapes how you view it, this is famously known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which puts your focus on the central character being the Samaritan. This is well and good, but this is where we get in trouble with our familiarity of this passage of this text. Because if all you hear is Jesus saying, “Go, and do likewise,” and you see yourself in the story as the Good Samaritan, and that's all you see, then you're gonna miss the point. You're gonna miss the whole point of the parable, and you're gonna be left with a whole bunch of guilt. But this could have just as easily been called the Parable of the Desperate Israelite Religious Leader. This could have been called the Parable of the Near Dead Lawyer, or this could have been called the Parable of the Kindness of God. You see what Jesus is doing in this parable in using this trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and giving all sorts of details,—which quite honestly, you can kind of read over and just kind of skip over—because why are all these details in here? It’s because Jesus is trying to get the lawyer who's questioning him to see himself not first and foremost as the Good Samaritan, but first and foremost as the guy that's been left for dead, which means that Jesus should be taking the place of the Good Samaritan because Jesus is about to be on this very same road that he's speaking about. This road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Jesus wants the lawyer to see Jesus as the Samaritan. Jesus is the hated one despised who traveled this very road, but was always considered an outsider, the outcast, the despised, the despised one, even to his own people. He comes to his own people, and they don't want to have anything to do with him, yet he is the one—Jesus is the one—who sees. He's willing to see you at your worst. He's willing to see you when you've been left for dead—death always in front of you, your sins and your brokenness. You can't get away from it, but he sees it. And he's not disgusted by it. He doesn't cross the street. He comes to you. He sees you for who you really are, and he's filled not with scorn. He's filled not with loathing. He doesn't try to skirt around you because he doesn't want to get dirty. No, he comes to you with compassion. He sees you with love. Jesus is the one with the courage to cross every barrier in order to bind up your wounds. He left Heaven to come to earth for that very sake, and he doesn't come for his friends. He comes and lays down his life for his enemies. 

    I often wonder if the Apostle Paul had this parable in mind when he said this in Romans 5,

    “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

    There is no boundary that he will not cross. There's no barrier he will not break in order to rescue you. He gave himself up on a Roman cross for the sake of the world, and he will not be stopped by whatever barriers you decide to put up because his love knows no boundaries. Jesus is the one who always shows mercy. He meets our needs, He binds up the brokenhearted. He comes as a servant, and provides for us our every need, and he puts us into a community where we can find healing, which is the church. His church and he does it all out of love. Jesus is the one who loves neighbor. 

    Our hope and intention for Central is that we would be a church that would serve our neighbors as we are called to do. That we would take seriously this call to, “Go, and do likewise,” and there are so many opportunities to do that. There's a tutoring program that's just getting underway in partnership with some of our wonderful neighbors over at the Stanley Isaac Center, here on the east side. There was a call that went forth from Jason about a year and a half ago where we wanted to establish a tutoring program as a way to live this out to “Go, and do likewise,” and it's just now getting started. There are so many opportunities for you to tutor on Monday afternoons. That is a great way to love and serve your neighbor. If there was ever any time to do it, now's the time. In a few weeks, our friends at Don't Walk By, our ministry partners will be leading a city wide outreach to our homeless neighbors. If there ever was a time, if there ever was a need to do that, and participate in it, This is it. Now's the time. The same can be said for partnering with the Bowery Mission, serving there, or serving alongside Safe Families. There is so much need, and there's so many opportunities to serve. Now's the time. Now's the time to “Go, and do likewise,” but if we go out and serve out of any notion, out of some sort of notion of guilt, it'll never last because it's going to get too hard. It'll get too frustrating, and it won't be worth it. It won't be worth what it's going to cost you because to love like this costs a lot. It costs time, and money, and energy, restructuring our priorities, and guilt just doesn't get you very far. But if we do this, if we take up this call out of a response to the way that we've been loved by God, we actually will then find the strength, and the joy, and the courage to love our neighbor. But only when we see Jesus as the Good Samaritan will our guilt fade, and the call to love will be filled with love and joy out of response to the way we've been loved. That's one reaction—to be filled with guilt. 

    The other reaction to this parable can be feeling overwhelmed—just the sense of being overwhelmed. The Good Samaritan did all this for this man that was left half dead, and to do this kind of holistic justice and mercy to love like this, is a completely overwhelming endeavor. So in the same way, we need to see ourselves as the man left for half dead, who's been rescued by the Good Samaritan. We also need to see ourselves as the innkeeper who's partnering with the Good Samaritan. It's the Good Samaritan and the innkeeper, working together to care for this man. Throughout the centuries, theologians and Bible expositors and commentators have often seen the connection between the innkeeper and the church. Jesus gives the responsibilities and the gifts to the church to us, in order that we might continue and might carry out Jesus' act of mercy. “Go, and do likewise,” is really go and take up the role of the innkeeper. Go and take the money, the resources, the gifts, the talents that you've been given by your generous God and continue his acts of justice and mercy in the world. When Jesus says “Go, and do likewise,” the message to us isn't OK, now you're on your own. Go figure it out. There's a lot of need out here in the city. You guys can do it. No, that's not what Jesus is saying at all. Jesus is at work even now, binding up the brokenhearted healing, restoring, renewing, and he enlists us to participate in his work in the world. 

    I'm sure in this story, had this happened, the innkeeper in that moment would have had lots of questions about this man. How was he to take care of him? What was he supposed to do next? When the Samaritan was going to come back? Was he really going to come through on all his promises? When we go out and serve, I wonder if we have the same questions about Jesus/ But the innkeeper trusted the Good Samaritan, that he would provide and that one day he would return and come through on all his promises. So it is with us, Jesus now entrusts us with his mission and so we seek to love our neighbor the way the Samaritan does, but also the way the innkeeper does, knowing that we are equipped with everything we need in order to, “Go, and do likewise.” We don't need to be overwhelmed. We don't need to be overcome with the tasks that are before us, and if we are honest with ourselves, the tasks, the needs are infinite. We look at ourselves and we see that our resources are rather finite, so we can be completely overwhelmed by the task to “go, and do likewise,” and to love our neighbors like this. The promise that Jesus gives us and the promise that comes before us here at this table, is that we've been rescued by Jesus, our good Samaritan, and now we are equipped by Jesus, our good Samaritan. That is the hope that we carry with us. There's no need for guilt. There's no need to be overwhelmed because Jesus extends our vision. He gives us courage to cross, and he extends our mercy, all by his grace and mercy, all by his death and resurrection. 

    Now friends, we gather at this table, let's take this call, to “Go, and do likewise,” to go love our neighbors as ourselves with the courage and the hope that Jesus gives us, that he has rescued us, and he is with us in all that we do and in all that we say. 

    Let's pray. 

    Our great God and Heavenly Father, we thank you that even as you call us to "Go, and do likewise," even as you send us out into the world to extend your justice and mercy, you remind us and you show us here at this table and by your word that you have loved us that you are the one who rescues us. You are the one who sustains us so may we as we consider the words and your parable of the Good Samaritan also see us as the ones who have been rescued and see us as the innkeeper, the ones who are equipped with everything we need to take up this call. Now as we come to this table, may this bread and this cup be nourishment for us as we take up this call. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.