Robert Jeffress - A Stranger In Need Meets A Neighbor In Deed
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Some people think that a Christian is someone who goes to church on Sundays or listens to Christian music in their car. And while those certainly are your good habits to cultivate. The greatest evidence of our faith, is found in the way we interact with others. Today we'll see the truth of that statement played out in the parable of "The good Samaritan". My message is titled, "A Stranger in Need Meets a Neighbor In Deed" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
In his book, "The Jesus style", Gayle Erwin tells the story about two couples who were having dinner together. One was a Christian couple, the other, a Buddhist couple. And in the middle of dinner one of the Christians lit up a cigarette, began to smoke like a chimney, and then automatically put out the cigarette and begin to apologize saying that he was trying to kick the habit, so as not to inhibit his witness for Christ. The Buddhist woman replied by saying, "We non-Christians, when one of our group becomes a Christian, we don't watch them to see how they live up to some self-imposed standard of piety, instead we watched them to see how they start treating people". The greatest evidence of your relationship to Jesus Christ is how you treat other people, especially those people who are in need. And that's the theme of the parable we're going to look at today.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Luke 10 it's a parable that we often call, "The parable of the good Samaritan" but what most people don't understand is, this story that Jesus told was actually a story within a story. The good Samaritan story was actually told to answer a question in a real life situation. And we see beginning in verse 25, of Luke 10, the occasion that caused Jesus to tell this story. Look at it with me in verse 25 of Luke 10. "And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test saying, teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life"? Now when we read this at first glance and we say, congratulations, Mr. Lawyer, finally, somebody who has their priorities straight. Here's a lawyer who's not concerned with what kind of car he's driving or how many billable hours he can charge his clients. He's thinking about eternal things. But our favor toward the lawyer is tempered somewhat, when we see his motivation for the question. In verse 25, we find his motivation, he asked this question in order to test Jesus.
You see, in Jesus day, lawyers were called scribes, they were experts in the Old Testament law. And this lawyer knew enough about Jesus to know that Jesus came with a whole new way of teaching. He was saying no longer can a person ever be justified, made right with God by keeping the law, in fact, he never could from the beginning of time, the law was given to show how sinful we are and how in need of a Savior we are. And so, this lawyer, this scribe, knew that Jesus was teaching, salvation was not by keeping the law. So, he was hoping to trap Jesus, into publicly setting aside the Old Testament law, therefore making him guilty of blasphemy. So, he tries to trap Jesus by saying, "Teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life"? By the way, underline that word "Do". That's the basis of all religions in the world. H.A. Ironside said one time, "There are not thousands of religions in the world, there are only two. All the other religions of the world are all spelled d-o, do". Do this, do that and you can have eternal life.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no difference between, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism, they are all exactly the same in that they say, do this or do that, and you can have eternal life. Every religion is spelled d-o, only Christianity is spelled d-o-n-e "Done". God's already done it for us. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves by sending Christ to die for us. Nevertheless, we need to give the lawyer just a little bit of credit here for asking the question, "What must I do to have eternal life"? "What must I do to be saved"? Let me ask you, how many people have you ever had come up to you on the street and say, "Tell me what do I need to do to be saved"? How many people have you had even in your sphere of influence, your friends, or family members who are lost, who say, by the way, "Tell me what I need to do to be saved"? Most people don't ask that question because most people don't understand that they need to be saved. Most people are not pursuing salvation today because they have no understanding that they are lost.
In January of 1979, arch bishop Fulton Shane was addressing the national prayer breakfast in Washington D. C., and Fulton Shane was addressing a group that included then, president Jimmy Carter and his wife. And the archbishop began his message by saying, "Mr. President, Mrs. Carter and fellow sinners", he then went on to explain how all of us are sinners, from the president to the prostitute. Every one of us is guilty before God. Every one of us have fallen short of God's plan for our life. Romans 3 says, "For there is not one righteous among us, no, not even one". We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. "What must I do to be saved"? Now look in verse 26, Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How does it read to you"? In other words, you're the expert, Mr. Hot Shot Lawyer, you know the Old Testament backward and forward. What do you have to do? If that's the way you want to go to be saved? And so, the lawyer answers in verse 27 and he said, "You shall love the Lord your God, with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your strength and with all of your mind and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself".
Now, he was quoting from two different passages in the Old Testament. One was Deuteronomy 6, "The great shamar of Israel" Deuteronomy 6, shamar coming from the word hero. Hero Israel, the Lord your God is one God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart. That was the greatest commandment. So, he said, "Jesus, the two greatest commandments, love God with all of your heart". And then he pulled from Leviticus 19, I believe it was the passage that said, you're to love your neighbor as yourself. Those are the two greatest commandments. Verse 28. And Jesus said to him, "Bingo. A+ Mr. Lawyer", oh, that's what it says in the Greek text. Anyway here, maybe not in your Bible. He said, "You have answered this correctly, do this and you will live". That is, you have cited the two greatest commandments that all you have to do is keep these perfectly, and you can go to heaven. You can have eternal life.
Now, had the lawyer been sincere, at this point, he would have hung his head and said, "But Jesus, I haven't loved God with all of my heart I've allowed other things to take his place in my life, and I haven't loved other people like I ought to love them, I've allowed my own self-interests to eclipse their needs what am I to do"? And had he said that to Jesus, I believe Jesus never would have told the story of "The good Samaritan". Instead, Jesus would have told a story about forgiveness to show how we can have eternal life, even when we fall short of God's plan. He would hold a story about grace instead of the law. Then, look what he responded the lawyer verse 29, "But wishing to justify himself", that's what the pharisees did. They were always trying to make themselves look good. They were always trying to prove that they were good enough to get into God's kingdom. But wishing to justify himself, the lawyer said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor"?
If the great commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, exactly what do you mean Jesus, by that term neighbor. Typical lawyer looking for a loophole. See, he thought if he could redefine neighbor in such a way that he could keep that commandment, IE, if he could make neighbor mean, people I like, it's easy to love them. If I can redefine neighbor, just maybe just maybe, I'm good enough to make it into heaven. I had a friend in the first church I pastored who was a pole vaulter and that was his hobby pole vaulting. And he told me one time, he said, "There's two ways Robert, to win at pole vaulting, jump higher or lower the bar". And it's the same way with trying to keep the law to get into heaven. There are two ways to try to do it. You can either jump high enough to reach God's standard, or you can lower the requirements, low enough to get in. And that's what he was trying to do here the lawyer, he thought, well, I'll redefine the lawyer so that I can love neighbors as myself.
You see the rabbis taught, they restrict at that term neighbor, they said, neighbor means only fellow Israelites, people like us. And then there was a group of Jews who even restricted it further and said, well it's not just Israelites, it's 100% pure breed Israelites. Leaving out the Samaritans, leaving out foreigners who were in the land. And so, this lawyer says, okay, "Jesus, define neighbor for me, that I'm supposed to love". You see Jesus, he didn't restrict God's law, he expanded it. This common thinking out there that the Old Testament has all of these hard requirements in it, but when Jesus came, he did away with those requirements and said, basically live however want to live and you can make it into heaven. That is not the case. In fact, Jesus standard for righteousness were more strict than the Old Testament. Remember how Jesus would say, "You've heard it in the Old Testament, you shall not murder, but I say to you, to hate somebody is to be guilty of murder". He was raising the bar. I remember he would say, "You've heard in the Old Testament, you're not to commit adultery, but to even look on another person with lust, is the same as committing adultery".
Now, Jesus revealed the true heart of God. God demands absolute perfection. Not only in our outward actions, but even in our heart, he demands complete perfection if we have any hope of making it to heaven. You say, well, "Robert who can meet that kind of standard"?. That's the point. No one can. And that's why Christ came to die for us. He made up the deficiency. He paid the price for our sin so that when we stand before God we stand not wrapped in our own goodness and righteousness. We put on the righteousness of Jesus. And that's why Christ died for us to pay the payment for our sin. Well, this lawyer didn't understand that, he was trying to restrict the term "Neighbor" so, an answer to the question, who is my neighbor? What is it that God actually demands of me?
Jesus told the story that we call "The story of the good Samaritan". Now, here's the story beginning in verse 30, 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". Now, many of you have been on this road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It's a 17 mile road, and the reason it says going down is, it's a descent of 3.300 feet from Jerusalem to Jericho. If you've been on that road before, I've been on it. I remember the bus ride over a lot of winding curves, nauseated me, all those turns and turns and turns going around. And along that road, there are these caves, where robbers would hang out, and when people were on foot, either going from Jerusalem back to Jericho or Jericho to Jerusalem, the robbers would jump out and they would rob, and mug and leave these people for dead. That's apparently what happened to this guy.
Now, this story though, isn't so much about the victim as it is, about the people who walked by the victim. We see the first group representative, verse 31, "The apathetic". Verse 31. "And by chance, a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw the man, the victim, he passed by on the other side". Just walk by, never stopped. Now, we don't know what his motivation was. It may been the fact that, he had just finished his duty in the temple in Jerusalem. The priest served on a rotational basis. So, he was finished. He was ready to get home. And he walks by and sees this guy in the street and he thinks, this guy could be dead. And the law says, if I touch a dead person, I have to go all the way back to Jerusalem, to the temple and purify myself, "I don't have time for that I'm just going to pass on by".
Or maybe he thought, I spent years in the seminary to be a priest, not to be a doctor. That's not my calling. Maybe a doctor will be along the way and he can take care of this guy. Or maybe as he looked back behind him, he saw somebody else coming, he saw his executive priest, his Walter walking behind him. And he said, you know what, "I think I'll let him take care of this. I've got busy or things and more important things to do". And in fact, that's exactly what happened in verse 32. The assistant priest was a little bit behind him and that Levi that's what Levi told. They were assistant priest, that assistant priest, he also came to the place and saw him, and he passed by on the other side, he too failed to stop, maybe as he looked ahead and saw the priest passed by, he thought to himself, maybe my boss knows something I don't know. If he didn't stop, surely I shouldn't stop. And he too walks by.
At this point, I think Jesus' audience, they were smiling, perhaps even laughing out loud. They loved it whenever the priest were the villains in the story. By the way, we kinda have that same attitude today, be honest, don't people today just kind of like it when there's a story of some preacher who falls into immorality? Some preacher or televangelist involved in embezzlement. There's a little sense of glee whenever somebody in religion falls, because deep down we think they're all a bunch of hypocrites and now they're getting theirs. I think that's exactly what was going on here. I think Jesus audience loved the story. They realized that Judaism was bankrupt. They wasn't meeting their needs, and so, they were delighted to hear that these leaders in Judaism, they were the villains. But their delight turned to dismay, when Jesus told them who the hero of his story was.
Look at verse 33, "But a certain Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him, and when he saw him, he felt compassion". Now we pull the story, the story of "The good Samaritan". And I've said before to you, we just say that, it rolls off our tongue. We don't think anything about it, but that was unthinkable to this audience that heard this story, "The good Samaritan". That was an oxymoron, there was no such thing as a "Good Samaritan". It would be like today, calling together a group of family members of those who were killed on September the 11th, calling them together and saying to them, "Today I'd like to preach a message to you the title of the message is 'the good terrorist'". Or it would be like speaking in an African-American church and saying, "Today I'd like to bring a message entitled, 'the benevolent ku klux klan member'". There's not such a thing in their minds. That was the same way with the Jews, to the Jews, there was no such thing as "A good Samaritan".
You see, Samaritans, you have to understand their origin to understand the Jews attitude toward them. 700 years earlier, seven 22 bc, aSyria, a neighbor of Israel, invaded the northern kingdom of Israel, and they ended up deporting many of the Jews back to aSyria but they also planted some of their people in the capital of Israel, Samaria. And so these are Assyrians began intermingling with the Jews who had been left in the northern kingdom and out of their union together came this breed called Samaritans. They were half Jews, half a Assyrian, half Israelites. And for hundreds of years, the true blooded Jews hated the Samaritans because they were the product of their forefathers who literally were sleeping with the enemy. And so, they were treated with great disdain. But in verse 33 it said, it was that Samaritan who was on the journey, he came upon this man who was in the street and when he saw him, something bubbled over, some emotion that he couldn't contain an emotion of empathy, and he stopped and he did what was necessary to take care of that need.
I want you to notice exactly what he did with this person who was left for dead. Verse 34 says, "He came to him and he bandaged up his wounds". My very first theatrical role occurred when I was five years old, and it took place right behind me in the truth Sunday school building I was asked to play the lead in our Sunday school production of "The good Samaritan". Trust me, it was not type tasting but I guess I was the only one who volunteered to do it. And I remember my parents dressed me up in a little tunic and the robe, I think a back row by hand and then they gave me as a prop, they gave me a little first aid kit. And so, when the time came, I pulled out my first aid kit, and there was the other kid, lying there on the ground and I knelt down and took out the stuff and started working on him. And that's kinda what we picture happened here.
We think here is this Samaritan, he stops, he sees the man bleeding to death and he gets off of his donkey and reaches in to the saddle there and pulls out his Johnson and Johnson bandages and starts working on the guy. There was no such thing available then. The only way he could bind up this man's wounds, probably was to tear his own expensive Hickey freeman garment there and to rip it off and to wrap up this man's wounds. And not only did he do that, but notice what else he did, he poured oil, that was a balm that soothed the pain, and then he poured wine on the wounds as an antiseptic. And then he put him on his own beast, and he brought him to an end and he took care of him, and on the next day, which by the way means, he must've spent the night there.
On the next day, the Samaritan took out two denarii, a Denarius was one day's wage. So, he took out two days wages and gave them to the innkeeper and said, "Take care of him and whatever more you spend, here's my visa card, charge it". But he didn't say that exactly. But he said, "You can bill me I will be responsible for whatever costs he incurs". This is an amazing thing. The contrast between the Samaritan, and the two religious leaders. You see, those two religious leaders were representative of the lawyer's attitude, let's restrict the meaning of neighbor so that I can even meet that standard, but now the Samaritan, he refused to restrict the meaning of neighbor, he expanded it like Jesus did.
One commentator I was reading this week noted, first of all, the Samaritan did not allow legalism to limit his love. That is, he didn't concoct his own system of religion that would keep him from ministering to this person who was different than he was. He didn't twist God's law. He didn't use his own prejudice to use as an excuse for not ministering to this person who had been left for dead. And by the way, we need to be careful that we don't do that either.