Jesus places the people you can’t stand at the front of your neighbor list!
Opening Thoughts: I want you to be totally honest with yourself on this question. Have you ever hated someone? Or maybe hate would be too strong of a word. So maybe you have strongly disliked someone even to the point that when someone else is talking about that person it makes you feel upset and uncomfortable? I’ve been there, and I’ve had to repent and ask God to flood my heart with grace many times. The Jews felt this way about the Samaritans. Below is some interesting information that will paint a picture for you as to why the Jews strongly disliked (hated) them.
INFO: Through Samaria was the usual route taken by travelers from Judea to Galilee, though strict Jews, in order to avoid defilement, could bypass Samaria by opting for a longer route that involved crossing the Jordan and traveling on the east side. The Samaritans were a racially mixed group of partly Jewish and partly Gentile ancestry, who were disdained by both Jews and non-Jews. 2 Kings 17:24–31, describes how the king of Assyria brought foreign people to settle in Samaria in 722 b.c.; over time they had intermarried with some Jews who had remained in the area). Many inhabitants of this region between Judea and Galilee were descendants of the OT northern kingdom of Israel, although from the Jewish perspective these Samaritans had assimilated strongly into non-Jewish culture and had intermarried with Mesopotamian colonists. The Samaritans had their own version of the Pentateuch, their own temple on Mount Gerizim, and their own rendering of Israelite history. Copies of their Pentateuch in Hebrew (and in Targumic Aramaic) remain extant, as do their basic historical narratives. Tensions often ran high between Jews and Samaritans; thus Josephus recounts fighting between Jews and Samaritans during Claudius’s reign in the first century a.d. being so intense that Roman soldiers were called in to pacify (and to crucify) many of the rebels (Jewish War 2.232–246).
Important People With a Title: When Jesus stepped onto the scene the church was very well established. There were the Priests, Levites, Pharisees, and Lawyers (experts in God’s law). The Priests and Levites were all from the tribe of Levi, but unlike the Levites the Priests themselves were from Aaron’s lineage. The job of the priest was to serve as a mediator between man and God. They would bring sacrificial sin offerings to God on behalf of the people of Israel. The High Priest was different in the sense that he would offer sacrifices for the sins of all the people in the land versus on the individual level. The position of the Levites was to assist the Priests in their duties, such as door people, preparing the sacrifices, and tending to the temple. They also served as judges at times and read and taught scripture from the Torah. The Levites and Priests were clearly very important people in their time and people looked up to them as their leaders.
Unthinkable Comparison: I was thinking about this situation presented here in Luke 10 and a thought came to me, can you imagine the uproar that would happen today if someone walked into some of the Mega churches of America, where pastors are idolized almost as rock-stars, and publicly compared them to some money laundering crook who swindled old widowed women out of their retirement money? I’ve actually been in churches where certain people have been labeled trouble makers, maybe the labels are true and maybe they aren’t but one thing is for sure, if that trouble maker dared to rebuke the pastors or leaders of the church they would most certainly getting a helping hand of fellowship out the door (I speak clearly from observation). Jesus was labeled a trouble maker from the first day He started His ministry. In this text you will see that He’s not about to get Himself a better position in the church with what He’s about to say .. Let’s read.
Luke 10:29-37 ESV .. But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 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. 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.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
How Dare You: So Jesus is likely speaking about a Jewish man that gets beaten up. He doesn’t specify and for that reason it would be safe to assume that this is what He is illustrating. I say that because He does specify later in the story that it is a Samaritan who stops to help him. To get a really good picture just how badly the Samaritans were thought of take a look at these few passages below:
John 4:9 ESV .. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
John 8:48 ESV .. The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
(Luke 9:51-56 ESV) 51. When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.
The hostility was so intense between them that when Jesus was not received by a certain Samaritan village His disciples ask Him if He wants them to call down fire from heaven to burn the Samaritans to death. This was not the request Jesus had in mind! (A side note: our job is to warn people of the wrath to come, it’s not to request that wrath be poured out on the ones who reject the Gospel. The world is already condemned according to the Book of John, so we must not take joy in their condemnation but warn them of that dreadful day and plead with them for the sake of the Gospel.) Back to the disciples, James and John thought they came up with an amazing idea, this actually seemed like a good plan to them. It’s important to mention that this is the same John that wrote the book of John and Revelation. This is also the same James that wrote the book of James. These were amazing guys (after they were regenerated by the Holy Spirit). I don’t care how much I haven’t liked someone I’ve never asked Jesus if I could burn them to death. I believe that John and James give us a very clear picture of the type of resentment the Jews had towards their Samaritan neighbors.
What about you? Do you have any resentment in your heart toward a specific ethnic group? Think about the times when you are really upset with Credit Card support that happens to be outsourced to another country. You spend 30 minutes waiting on hold only to find yourself talking to someone who barely speaks English, so you spend the next half hour just trying to explain the situation and what it is you need! I’ve heard all kinds of derogatory remarks from professing believers about other ethnic groups on a variety of topics. Is there any resentment toward others in your heart regardless of their nationality? This is really important stuff, it would do you well to spend some time meditating on this. I did, and I followed this post up with repentance.
The Cost: If you were walking down a dark road and saw a young child being gang beat would you stop and lay your life on the line to save that one soul? Maybe the situation you find yourself in is less of a risk as far as life and death goes, let’s say you see someone that had no vehicle, no money, lived in dumpster but loved Jesus. Would you be willing to be their friend and pick them up for church, drive them back home to their dumpster (just kidding, you would need to invite them live with you as well), clean them up, buy them clothes and the list just keeps going? Is that the type of neighbor you are?
Jesus tells us here that the cost of being a neighbor is super high. In the case of the Samaritan he ran the risk of being beaten by thieves himself (this road was twisty and in the mountains, it was filled with thieves, it wasn’t a great place to stop), it cost him travel time, he would have also lost wages as he spent time nursing this man back to health, and finally, the farewell cost was two days wages which he freely paid to have someone else take over his responsibility of caring for this Jewish stranger. The Samaritan could have just left at that point and said, “Well, he’s someone else’s issue now, and I really did go out of my way already”, but instead he told the innkeeper that he would take care of all additional costs when he returned to the inn. I remember several years ago being in a line of traffic that must have stretched for miles, no one knew what was going on, but whatever it was we were gridlocked. We searched all the local stations to find out how to find a detour off the freeway and around this mess (as everyone else was as well) when suddenly we heard the news, “A fatal accident that involved a family”. As I spoke with other people in the line-up I heard comments like “Yeah, I guess it’s a fatal accident, looks like we’re going to be here for a while!” Sadly, at the time I was more concerned about finding an alternate route than the welfare of the family involved. So grateful for the mercy of God and that He has saved me and begun to make me into a ‘Neighbor’ as I study His word more and more.
You’re Either a Neighbor or Your Not: This is where Jesus really sticks it to these hypocritical church leaders, he says, “Which of these three, do you think, PROVED to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The Lawyer’s question before this story was, “Who is my Neighbor?” He wanted to know exactly what he needed to DO to love his neighbor, what are the requirements? how little can I get away with? Jesus responds and essentially says, “either you are a neighbor or you aren’t, the proof is in your life”. It boils down to the fact that not everyone who is compassionate and does good works is a Christian, but every one who is authentically a Christian will do good works and it will be proven by their good works that they are indeed Christians.
Here’s a thought: if I were to bring in three gold watches and have them examined for authenticity and after the inspection was complete two of them proved to be fake and only one of them proved to be a true and authentic gold piece, could the fake gold watches do anything to be become real? The answer is, of course, No! They can’t because they are genuinely fake, the only thing they do is resemble the real watch but deep down inside they’re fakes, and as soon as they are put the test they show their true colors.
Take heed to Jesus words “Which of these three, do you think, PROVED to be a neighbor”. Jesus isn’t saying that if you go ahead and start a downtown ministry, feed the homeless, and care for the orphans then you will become a neighbor. He’s saying that you prove you are a neighbor by doing these things. One of the neighbors that are very dear to my heart these days are the Unborn Babies. These are some of the neighbors that if you stop to help you will be ridiculed, harassed, made fun of, UN-friended and the works. Please take some time to watch 180movie.com and allow God to work on your heart for our little unborn neighbors.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Final Thoughts: No amount of claims to be a leader, pastor, worship leader, youth pastor, choir director, average church goer is enough to give evidence that you are indeed genuinely saved. At the end of your life Jesus will look at people that are from the same church and some are sheep and others are goats, and He’ll say to the sheep come into everlasting life and to the goats he’ll say depart from me I never knew you. It doesn’t matter how much a goat tries to act like a sheep he is still a goat, sheep act like sheep because they are sheep, goats act like goats because they are goats, and People act like Christ when they have been born of His Spirit.
If you don’t see yourself as a Biblical Neighbor then I urge you to open the Bible and begin to read in the book of 1 John. While you’re reading call out to God to save you from your sinful heart; that selfish, self-centered heart we’re all born with. Ask Him to give you a new heart of flesh, one that desires to obey Him and do His will.
Psalm 37:4 ESV .. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
My prayer is that many of you will be granted the gift of godly repentance through reading this post. I hope many people will read it, but more importantly I hope that people will be changed. If God changes you then He will also become your absolute Delight and as the text says, He will place His desires in your new heart and they will become your own
Preparing The Way