WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

or

Why Did The Chickens Cross The Road?

 

Luke 10:25-37 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered and said, "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." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied and said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."

Parable With A Punch!

In the church world today, few narrators can tell a story like Max Lucado, or R. L. Cornwall. Many are held spellbound by their oratorical skills. But there is no doubt they would quickly take a seat if Jesus were to stand up in the midst of the congregation with a tale to tell. The art of posing a parable is as old as man himself and none was more skilled at it than the Master. Our only problem is that all too often we miss the power of the punch. Our familiarity with the story line or our ignorance of the times and cultures causes us to hear the account without the impact intended. We may often get the "moral of the story" while never brushing its heights or depths.

God only knows how many times I’ve read or heard the story of The Good Samaritan. But it wasn’t until I was sitting in church and my pastor, Jim Dube` briefly brought it up in his message that my mind switched tracks and I began to see it on a different plane. The narrative would not let go and so I went home and began to dig to see what hidden treasures were lying beneath the surface. And oh, the gems I found!!!!!!

Technique For Turning The Tables

In the Japanese arts of self-defense there is a technique called Aikido. It is a non-resistant form of defense that employs holds and moves causing one’s opponent to sap his own strength. Jesus, also known as "The Word", masterfully managed words in such a way that his contenders often weave their own web. His expertise at verbal Aikido had a way of showing the listeners His authority while revealing the nature of His opponents.

Jesus’ account of The Good Samaritan all began when "a certain lawyer", or "one learned in the Law" stood up to put Jesus to the test. The fact that he was a lawyer gives us a clear indication he had combed through every jot and tittle of the law. That was no small feat. The Jews had a way of taking God’s Law and scrutinizing it in such a way that it was difficult to recognize the heart of what was said due to all their man-made attachments. The performance of their synthetic statutes became more important than understanding the heart of it.

A good example of the Jewish leaders’ capacity to create superficial keeping of the law while maintaining a form of it can be seen in the wearing of the tsitsith, better known as "the prayer shawl." God had commanded the Sabbath to be a day of rest. In Numbers 15:32-41 we read the account of the man who was discovered gathering wood on the Sabbath and breaking God’s command. To remind them of the importance of fulfilling His Word, He told them they were to make tassels on the corners of their garments.

Numb 15:37-40 (NASB) The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. "And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, in order that you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God. (Emphasis mine)

This was to serve as a reminder to examine their hearts. The blue cord was to bring to their recollection that these commandments were of heavenly origin and not man-made concoctions. Today you will see the tassels hanging from under the garments of religious Jewish men. These tassels are carefully made by taking four threads, one that was to be blue. They are drawn through a small hole and double-knotted close to the edge of the prayer shawl or robe. One thread, referred to as "the minister" is then wound tightly seven times around the remaining seven threads, double-knotted, wound eight times, double-knotted, then wound eleven times, double-knotted, and finally thirteen times and double-knotted for the last time.

Why must the tassel be made so precisely? Hebrew letters not only have sound values; they also have numerical values. You have four portions of the tassel that are created by being wound making a declaration in Hebrew. 7 + 8 = 15. This is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter y and h. Eleven is the numerical value of the letters w and h. Thirteen equals the word dja, or "one." Together they make the phrase dja hwhy, "Jehovah One!" or as it is more commonly said, "The Lord is One!" It doesn’t stop there. When we look at the Hebrew word for "tassel" or "fringe" (tyxyx) we find its numerical value is 600. Adding the eight threads and five knots you come to the grand total of 613 which equals the number of commands in the Torah or Old Testament. These 613 commands are made up of the 248 positive commands ("thou shalt") and the 365 negative commands ("thou shalt not"). (I find it interesting that there is a negative command for every day of the year!) The concept is that all of Judaism is found in the formation of the tassel; Its belief that Jehovah is the only true God and that His word must be obeyed. The only problem is they also believe that the wearing of the prayer shawl is equal in merit to the keeping of the entire Word of God!

It is also interesting to note that after the children of Israel had been dispersed in 70 AD the art of dying thread sky blue had been lost and they discontinued the use of the blue thread even to this day. Amazing how we can elevate man’s fabrications and work the heart of God’s commands right out of the picture. God’s instructions were to make tassels on the corners of their garments and to be sure it had a blue thread in it. Although the turns and knots are very creative, it was an invention of man. Is it any wonder there is no blue cord found in it today? God’s purpose was to give them a reminder to examine their hearts. Today the wearing of the prayer shawl has become an end in itself. Wear it, and you’re keeping the whole Law.

Unfortunately, we Christians have been just as guilty. We hear teachings that encourage us to get up in the morning and quote Ephesians 6:13-17 and - PRESTO! - You’ve got on the whole armor of God. If we are not strengthening our minds in the truth and following He who is Truth, our loins are not girded. If we do not desire to be like Christ who is our righteousness and allow that goal to enfold our hearts, we do not have on the breastplate of righteousness. If our walk is not following His steps and we are not pursuing the peace with His Father that His sacrifice affords us, we do not have our feet shod. If we do not trust Him in the midst of enemy attack, we do not have our shield of faith lifted. If we are not taking our thoughts into captivity and casting down temptations and improper thoughts, we are without the helmet of salvation. If the Word of God is not actively dividing our thoughts from our true motives and is merely something we can quote, we are not wielding the sword of the Spirit. Words alone will not endow us with God’s armor anymore than wearing a prayer shawl merits the keeping of the entire Law of God. Walking a life hidden in Christ and actively pursuing His ways will clothe us with God’s defensive covering, for the armor is Christ!

This lawyer had to have felt pretty confident about his knowledge of the law, as well as his reputation as a law-abiding Jew, to pose His question in the midst of the religious leaders of that day. No doubt, he stood with his tassels dangling, his head and hand-phylacteries well worn from use, his jots and tittles carefully placed. He was sure his question would reveal his great piousness and Jesus’ inferiority.

A Loaded Question

Luke 6:45 (NASB) "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

It is not always the answers we give that reveal our heart, but often it’s our questions. This whole discourse was initiated by the lawyer asking, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" The question was not the problem, for the question in itself was quite noble when asked with humility and sincerity. But his inquisition was not a sincere search for truth, but to scrutinize.

By beginning his question with, "What shall I do…" he placed himself in a special category and separated himself from common man. No doubt, this cunning lawyer was aware of the message of repentance Jesus preached. We can also rest assured that he felt common man should repent and change their ways, but what about a devout, religious person like himself. He never missed a Sabbath service, daily said his prescribed prayers, had never killed anyone, could justify any lie he ever told, had never put any of his lustful thoughts into action. He was a pretty good guy, so what does someone as "good" as he do to inherit eternal life?

Each of us has a system of beliefs, standards, and ethics through which we evaluate life. If we ever get in touch with our filter of ideas and ideals we will perceive our actions in a greater magnitude. Knowing this, Jesus began to reveal the man’s heart.

In typical Jewish fashion, Jesus turned the question back to the lawyer. "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" Jesus asked the man to reveal his interpretation of the Law. Jesus already knew what the man would answer. A man as steeped in the Law as this lawyer would be able to spout the letter of it without thinking twice. Jesus also knew what was in his heart, so it was important to shed light on what those words meant to the lawyer when they were passed through his legalistic filtering system.

"And he answered and said, ‘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.’"

The Lawyer answered with the letter of the Law. Who could possibly argue with that?

"And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’"

This would seem like the lawyer’s cue for a safe exit. Take a bow and leave! But obviously there was something in this short dialogue that had hooked him. Certainly the snare could not have been in the words, "You have answered correctly". That only leaves us with, "…do this, and you will live." The Master’s answer gave the subtle indication that his actions didn’t quite meet up with his answer. The lawyer’s quick response reveals the area of entanglement in his heart. He does not struggle with the first part of his own answer, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, …" but quickly tried to justify his actions on the second portion by asking the question, "And who is my neighbor?" It is extremely important for one who is governed by legalism to appear "not guilty".

The focus of Jesus’ discourse takes on greater meaning when we understand the times and the Jewish definition of the word "neighbor". To the Jews a neighbor was any member of the Hebrew race and commonwealth. It would be easy for us to look with disdain at the prejudice of this pompous professional and miss our own guilt. Whether we will admit it or not, we all have prejudices that could use an enlightening encounter with the Spirit of Truth. The word prejudice is a compound word made up of "pre" and "judge" and means to come to a conclusion or judgment prematurely. Legalism and prejudicial ness are a devious duo. Neither takes time to ask questions and if they do, they listen to the answers with their head and not their heart. More people have been run off from the church by prejudice and legalism than we’d care to count. There are still denominations today that will call you "sister" or "brother" if you sign their little card stating, "I will not go to the movies. I will not drink alcohol. I will pay my tithes. …" Yet many of them still gossip, they are still dishonest in their business, and they still turn up their noses and close their wallets to some down-and-outer on the street. Racial, occupational, and denominational prejudice, along with countless others remain a powerful force in the church world today. Unfortunately, our legalism justifies our prejudices and our sanctimonious status is kept in tact.

Knowing the lawyer’s legalistic interpretation of "neighbor" as well as his prejudices, Jesus began to redefine the term. Hopefully, His words will redefine ours as well.

On The Jericho Road

Jesus began his eye-opening exposition with the account of "a certain man" who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jesus gave no indication who this man was. His race, occupation and financial status are a mystery. He is merely a man, any man! All too often, we have a tendency to determine another’s importance by what he does or has rather than who he is. Jesus left each of these out of the equation. He could have been any man, who did anything, from any place.

The road he was traveling is of exceptional importance. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a steep road that descended 3,300 feet. When the Bible speaks about people going from Jerusalem to Jericho it says, "they went down." And when talking about the journey from Jericho to Jerusalem it tells us, "they went up." This was not merely a figure of speech. The Jericho road was one of ascent or descent depending on which direction you were headed. It was a two-way street that had been paved with prejudice. The Jews would travel the Jericho road during their pilgrimages rather than take the shorter route through the unfriendly territories of Samaria. The Jews hated the Samaritans as much as the Samaritans hated the Jews. We will examine the root of their prejudice as we get farther down the road.

The Word gives us two specific accounts of Jesus’ journeys from Galilee to Jerusalem. In both instances it tells us that Jesus traveled directly through the heart of Samaria. You may remember the account found in Luke 11 when He came upon the ten lepers who cried out for mercy. Jesus sent them to show themselves to the priests. As they walked in faith towards their designated destination, healing came. Only one returned to say thank you. The Word makes it clear that this one was a Samaritan. You may also recollect the time Jesus was sitting by a well in Sychar, a city in the heart of Samaria. He engaged in a conversation with a woman who was searching for peace in all the wrong places. As a result of their discussion, the woman believed and reported all that she had experienced to the men in her village. They came to the well to check Jesus out for themselves and brought him back to their city for two days. The Word declares that many believed and accepted Him as the Savior and Messiah. Jesus knew how to walk above prejudice breaking its strongholds.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was also extremely important to those in the priestly order. Jericho was the resort town of the priests when they were not on Temple duty. Today Jericho is still an oasis for the inhabitants of busy Jerusalem. Could this certain man have been another priest making his journey to find some rest? Possibly. Any ideas we may come up with would be purely speculation, but there are some things we do know about this man as well as those who attacked him.

bullet The man had a goal and a destination.
bullet The man was actively pursuing his goal.
bullet He started off with all he personally needed to obtain his goal.
bullet He was attacked by those who wanted what he had, but had no care about who he was or where he was going.
bullet Their attack was incited by their greed and jealousy.
bullet They attacked in a manner that left the man exposed and their guilt concealed.
bullet Their attack stripped the man of anything that gave him dignity or identity.
bullet Their attack made them look richer in the eyes of those who held the same perverted values.
bullet The attackers were careful to conceal their actions from those who would find fault in them.
bullet Their attack left the man unable to go on.
bullet Their attack left the man in great pain.
bullet Their attack left the man without any resource in himself. He was totally bankrupt.
bullet Their attack left the man without hope.
bullet Their attack left the man vulnerable to further attack from beasts who loved the taste of flesh and would devour him until all life was gone.
bullet Their attack left the man with nothing to do but wait.
bullet Their attack left the man vulnerable to the elements. He was without covering and had no protection.
bullet Their attack left the man destined to die without help.

As I meditate on the points mentioned, I can look back at times in my life when I’ve experienced attacks while traveling the Jericho road. Jealousy and paranoia can cause people, even Christians, to do some mighty cruel things. Psalm 84:5 tells us that the highways to Zion are found in a man’s heart. What has been our experience on this journey of the heart? Greater still is the question, "Do I help or a hinder the journey of others as they attempt to traverse the road to their God-given destination? Do we covet their gifts or anointing, or fear they are making greater progress than we are? Can we be content if another’s portion is greater than our own?

The Pitiless Priest

The story goes on to say, "And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side."

Another rendering would be, "And it just so happened … ." The Greek word is from the root that means to come together. This was not just Mr. Average coming on this dismal scene. This was a priest from the "upper class" of priests. He was of the priesthood that was distinguished from the Levitical priesthood. This class of priests was supposed to be from the line of Aaron. As an Aaronic priest, he was God’s representative to man as well as man’s representative to God. He was directly involved with man’s sin, the atonement of it, and the invoking of forgiveness. He was an integral part of man’s worship, and God’s chosen source to give knowledge, spiritual life, and blessing.

For a priest to be equipped to fulfill these functions, what heart attributes would he need to possess?

bullet He should have a deep desire for mankind to know the God he served.
bullet He should have a desire to bring to mankind the provisions that God had made.
bullet He should have a desire to see mankind fulfill God’s plan and purpose for his life.
bullet He should be filled with mercy and compassion rather than judgment and criticism if he is going to invoke God’s forgiveness.
bullet He should have a heart of humility and not haughtiness.

As we examine the priest’s action, we have to ask ourselves if he cared about mankind at all! The dying man had nothing that would distinguish his status in life. He had been stripped of identity. Do you think the story might have read differently if the wounded man wore some type of garment that distinguished him as a priest or a man of wealth?

We can be safe in our assumption that a certain law governing the priest had taken precedence over the law of love and compassion. In Leviticus 22:4-7 we learn that an Aaronic priest who touched a dead corpse became unclean until evening and was unable to eat of the sacrifices. He would have to bathe and then after the sun had set he would once again be considered clean and able to partake. Priests guarded their ritualistic purity. God forbid that a "holy" man should be considered unclean! It is this law that makes the passage concerning Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones so amazing. Ezekiel was a priest and God set him smack dab in the middle of a whole valley of corpses. We never hear Ezekiel complain that God had brought him ritual uncleanness or that his ministry was in the midst of death. Ezekiel just went about obeying God’s directions and bringing life in the midst of death.

One might say, "But the man wasn’t dead!" First of all, the priest never stopped long enough to find out. Secondly, even if the priest knew the man was alive, what promise did he have that he wouldn’t die on the way?

Once again, the narrative gives us enough insight to ascertain the heart of this priest.

bullet The priest had the same goal and destination as the man who was attacked. It says, "he went down".
bullet The priest had a reputation of helping mankind and gave that appearance when he was around others.
bullet The priest had a reputation of representing God when he ministered in the Temple.
bullet The sight of the man’s condition stirred no compassion for his situation.
bullet The priest walked in such a way that the man’s needs or pain would not affect him. He kept himself at a safe distance.
bullet The priest was more concerned with his own destination then the man’s well being.
bullet The priest was more concerned with legalistic purity, than true piety. (piety – religious devotion and reverence to God. "Love God first and foremost and love your neighbor as yourself!" This is true religion!!!)
bullet The priest was more concerned with getting to his place of comfort than with getting the man to a place of care.
bullet The priest didn’t care if the man EVER got to his destination.
bullet The priest felt his duties to mankind were fulfilled when he left the Temple.

Our ministry within the walls of the church does not determine true fulfillment of God’s desires and purposes. The way we react to our neighbors, the store clerk, our fellow-employees, and the beggar on the street will reveal the genuineness of our religion.

The Legalistic Levite

The lawyer may have had some sense of security at this moment. The class of priests Jesus had just referred to was most likely of the higher order than he was. Jesus then went on to say, "And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side." Now Jesus was hitting his division. Levites were Temple workers and servants to the Aaronic priesthood. Their duties included overseeing the table of shewbread and doing the baking. They aided the higher priesthood in preparing the sacrifices, flaying the burnt offering, killed the Passover lamb, took care of the ashes, and a multitude of other jobs. They were the singers, teachers, scribes, judges, and lawyers. They policed the Temple mount; guarding the gates to make sure no one who was ritually unclean entered. It was the Levites’ duty to be certain no woman entered a forbidden area.

These men were bathed in rigid study of the Law and were overseers of it. As judges of the people, they interpreted the Law. This was the group that Jesus said strained gnats and swallowed camels. Here was legalism to its highest degree.

Knowing this, what can we learn about this loveless Levite who withheld a helping hand?

bullet He preached the law better than he practiced it.
bullet Constant scrutiny of mankind and looking for their faults and flaws replaced a heart of compassion with a heart of callousness.
bullet The loftiness of his position kept him from identifying with the man’s condition.
bullet The Levite felt there were enough loopholes in the Law to exempt him from any responsibility.
bullet The Levite had learned to walk in the same manner and steps as the priest who had walked the road before him.
bullet The Levite knew enough about his duties to fulfill his job in the Temple, but not enough about the God of the Temple to fulfill His Law.
bullet The Levite knew how to impart knowledge, but not hope or help.
bullet The Levite’s time was more valuable to him than the wounded man’s eternity.
bullet The Levite’s safety was more important to him than the wounded man’s salvation.
bullet Out of sight, out of mind!

As his priestly predecessor, this "man-of-the-cloth" found a way to conveniently separate himself from the crisis at hand. With his sense of spiritual well being in tact he plodded along his path as though the only two on the road were he and God.

A Sympathetic Saint

Jesus continued, "But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him, and when he saw him, he felt compassion, …."

Jesus could not have picked a more apropos hero. The great prejudice between the Jews and Samaritans was long-standing going clear back to the time of the divided kingdom. Although the Jews and Samaritans lived side-by-side, they were worlds apart and certainly not considered "neighbors" by any Jewish standard!

To understand the deep-rooted hatred between the Jews and Samaritans we have to go back to the time of the separation of the kingdom. When the Northern Kingdom of Israel broke away from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, they set up a corrupted form of Judaism to keep the people from going down to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals throughout the year. During the reign of king Omri the father of king Ahab the kingdom continued to deviate from its roots. After a time of great upheaval, king Omri moved the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from Tirzah to Samaria. Omri was a godless king who encouraged acceptance of pagan gods. He aligned himself with the king of Sidon by taking his daughter Jezebel as a wife for his son Ahab. Jezebel was a catalyst for the rise of baalism in the land. Nauseating, isn’t it!!!

God could no longer tolerate the heathen conditions of His people and in the twelfth year of Ahaz, king of Judah, and the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel, Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria captured Samaria. After exiling the inhabitants of Samaria to Assyria, the king sent people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sephar-viam (each of these being a territory under the Assyrian rule) and settled them in the cities of Samaria. The new inhabitants found themselves plagued with attacks of lions that God sent into the land. The people had enough sense to know these were divine attacks and sent word to the Assyrian king. They informed the king that they were not familiar with the "god of the land" or his customs. The king sent them one of the priests who had been taken captive. His job was to teach the inhabitants to fear Jehovah God. The priest came and set up residence in Bethel and began schooling the people. They established a form of Jehovah worship and appointed themselves priests who joined the ranks of the other religions represented in the houses on the high places. They continued to worship their gods alongside Jehovah and sacrificed their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of the Sepharviam. As a result, the religion of Samaria became a sick mixture of pagan ritual and Jehovah worship. Is it any wonder they were flatly turned down and referred to as "enemies of Judah" when they requested to take part in the restoration of the Temple during Ezra and Nehemiah’s time? The native Israelites that had been left at the time of deportation eventually mingled with the foreigners who had been brought to replace the exiles. (See II Kings 17)

By the time of Christ, the Samaritans had adopted a form of Judaism that was based solely on the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible. They rejected the oral traditions handed down by the Jewish sages as well as the writings of the prophets. They viewed themselves as the continuation of the Northern Kingdom and were constant political rivals with the Judeans. In 332 BC they built a temple on the top of Mt. Gerizim. From this mountain God had designated the proclamation of blessings to be spoken over the nation; while Mt. Ebal was the platform for the curses. The woman at the well referred to this mountain in her conversation with Jesus.

The Samaritans were a fickle group. When the Jews experienced prosperity, they claimed to be blood relatives. When the Jews went through difficulties, they declared their Assyrian roots and claimed they were no relations to them at all.

There are still a small number of Samaritans in existence today. They are found in Nablus, Jordan as well as in the State of Israel. They still hold to their ancient beliefs and rituals. The major differences between Samaritanism and Judaism are:

  1. The Jews believe in the sanctity of the entire Old Testament. Samaritans believe in only the books of Moses and an altered book of Joshua.
  2. The Jews believe in the holiness of Jerusalem and the sacredness of the Temple Mount area. The Samaritans believe Mount Gerizim is the holy mountain where worship is to be established.
  3. The Jews believe in the future advent of the Messiah and that He will be a descendant of David. The Samaritans believe they are the descendants of the Ephraimites who declared, "We have no part in David; we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse," (I Kings 12:16) and still hold a grudge against the house of David.
  4. The Samaritans hold to a stricter dietary code today than the Jews.
  5. During Succoth the Samaritans build their booths inside the house by attaching a net against the ceiling and placing a variety of fruits and plants in it and adding to it daily. This way they are sure to dwell in the booth no matter what the weather conditions. The Jews build theirs outdoors.

Jesus’ words, "a certain Samaritan," were assuredly a tripwire for this devout, self-justifying Jewish lawyer. By showing the compassion of the Samaritan, He pointed out in no uncertain terms that the lawyer, like the priests who had been mentioned previously, knew the letter of the Law, but did not have the heart of it. All this sympathetic Samaritan had to go on was the first five books of the Bible. He didn’t have the oral traditions that had been conjured up and handed down through the ages. He was not encumbered by the exhaustive, overbearing legalistic rules man had added to God’s Law. He had no pedigree that afforded him the right to regulate or rule. All he had was God’s word that said, "Love God first and foremost, and love your neighbor as yourself" and enough love and compassion to fulfil it.

Jesus blasted the religious system of that day demonstrating its failure to turn out individuals who truly understood the very basic heart of the Law which was love and compassion and not rules and regulations.

The Samaritan, like his religious counterparts, SAW the man. His eyes didn’t behold anything different than the indifferent duo who had trodden the same track. The only difference was that he saw THE MAN and it moved his heart instead of his feet.

A Man of Ministry

One sight of the wounded man’s condition stirred this man of ministry’s heart with compassion and in turn exploded him into action. Those who evaluated life through religiosity and prejudice immediately went into logic and excuse.

Jesus went on to say, "and he came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’"

While the priestly pair made fast tracks across the road to stay as far from the situation as they could get, this true man of God went directly to the man. He didn’t sit on the roadside and wait to see if the man would make any attempt to come to him. He was a man who knew how to put hands and feet to his convictions. We can learn much about fulfilling God’s heart of ministry as we observe the sympathetic Samaritan’s actions.

bullet The Samaritan was moved to compassion and not contempt by the man’s unsightly condition.
bullet The Samaritan didn’t need an interview with the man to decipher the cause or blame before he was willing to help.
bullet The Samaritan was not moved by the man’s social status, but by the man’s need.
bullet The Samaritan was prepared for whatever he would meet on his journey.
bullet The Samaritan knew how to use what he had available.
bullet The Samaritan knew how to start the healing process and didn’t leave the work for "professionals".
bullet The Samaritan saw that his provisions were sufficient to meet any needs he met on his journey and not merely his own. His possessions didn’t own him.
bullet The Samaritan was willing to give out of his own substance without thought of repayment or personal gain.
bullet The Samaritan was not only concerned with an immediate fix, but with the man’s ongoing progress.
bullet The Samaritan didn’t allow his own agenda to dictate his actions. He knew he would reach his destination in spite of delays.
bullet The Samaritan was a man who had gained a reputation of trust. Even the innkeeper knew he was a man of his word.
bullet The Samaritan involved others in the man’s healing process.

The Samaritan proved to be a man of integrity. He had a system of beliefs and his actions were true to that system.

A Correct Connection!

As Jesus wrapped up the story He asked, "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?"

To the lawyer’s credit, he made the proper connection and answered, "The one who showed mercy toward him."

We have a tendency to think of mercy merely as an act of withholding deserved punishment. Although mercy can result in this action, in itself, that is not the true definition of the word in the Greek. I’ve seen situations when one didn’t give an individual what he deserved, knowing in doing so, it would increase the person’s misery or sense of guilt. It was a form or cruel punishment rather than any act of mercy.

The Greek word "eleos" or "mercy" identifies an emotion that is roused by seeing someone in an afflicted, miserable state which was through no fault of their own. This emotion is coupled with a desire to help.

Jesus consistently showed mercy to the ignorant and oppressed, but when He dealt with the ruthless religious system of His day, His words were harsh and filled with judgment. Recognized religion in Christ’s time had become tainted with man’s ideas and prejudices. It had become a religion of do’s and don’ts. It was exclusive and extremely political. The Word tells us the religious leaders killed Jesus out of their envy and jealousy.

In light of all that we have heard, we need to put our principles to the test. If we were to be asked the following questions, how would we fair?

bullet Do we esteem others more highly than ourselves or see our position as the most important?
bullet Do we shun the responsibility of sharing the Oil of the Spirit and the wine of Christ’s life when we see the sad state of those who are facing eternity without hope, or do we hoard it all to ourselves?
bullet Do we walk life’s road in such a way that we don’t have to get involved?
bullet Is our pursuit of comfort and leisure more important than helping others when a true need arises?
bullet Do we have a desire to see people reach their greatest potential, even if that means they will surpass us?
bullet Do we know how to use the gifts God has given us to benefit others?
bullet Do we look at a certain race or social status as undeserving of gain, success, or ability to become great?
bullet Do we feel that adherence to a certain religious code is more important than the sacrifice Jesus made?
bullet Have we gained a reputation of one who is trustworthy?
bullet Does God’s heart of sympathy that caused Him to give His Son also flow through us?
bullet Are we a person of integrity who lives what he believes?

Hopefully, our look at this serious story will cause us to look deeper into our own hearts and examine our own legalism and prejudices. If our desire is to truly be like the God we serve, may we allow His heart of mercy and compassion to be formed in us. God extends His mercy to us and says, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)

God’s love is color-blind. His mercy is non-denominational. His compassion flows richly to the poor as well as the man of wealth. God saw all of mankind as His neighbor and stretched out His hands to bring help, health, and wholeness. May we heed God’s message to the enlightened lawyer when Jesus said, "Go and do the same."