Fifth Sunday After Pentecost | July 14, 2019
25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Luke 10:25-37 New Living Translation (NLT)
Following hard on the heals of last week’s passage comes this nugget from the gospel writer Luke. It’s a question that many people have. One of the religious leaders came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Maybe it was a trap – maybe the leader really wanted to know.
Jesus answers the man with question. Isn’t it annoy when someone asks a question to your question? But Jesus knew this man knew the answer. Jesus asks the man, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The ball was now back in the religious leader’s court. He quotes from the Shema (a traditional Jewish prayer.) “Listen, O Israel God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (See Deuteronomy 6:4-5, New Living Translation) – this is part of the law of Moses. Then the man moves on and says, “AND ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus says, “Good answer! Now do this and you will live.” The man had quoted what Jesus said in another gospel when asked what is the greatest commandment. Perhaps this man was there at the time and remembered what Jesus said.
Luke tells us that the man asked another question to justify himself – and perhaps trap Jesus. “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus purposely tells a story that would get the man’s attention. The protagonist of the story is a Samaritan, someone who would not be well thought of by the Jewish people. It’s a story of mercy. The Samaritan shows a Jewish man mercy, when the Jewish men who passed by didn’t. Jesus finishes the story by asking, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the bandits?”
The man replies, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus now replies very similarly to the “Do this and live statement.” Now he says, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Interestingly enough this passage was discussed on our Wesleyan Pastors Facebook group this week. Some would say that Jesus is advocating a works-based theology. I don’t think so. This dual-pronged approach of loving God and loving people is evident throughout the scripture. Even as we look at the Ten Commandments. The first 4 deal with our relationship with God – the last six deal with our relationships with people. Jesus, when he said we should love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor has ourselves, is simply paraphrasing the Ten Commandments.
We should love God with everything we have and love others the same way. Imagine a world where those who claim to be Christ-followers would do this. I imagine the world would be radically different.
The Wesleyan Methodist Church was started on this principle of holiness – this dual-pronged approach of loving God with all we have – and loving others. This idea also shows up in the book of James:
27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.James 1:27
Again caring for others – having mercy and compassion is not in conflict with loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Sometimes we really struggle with things being “both/and”. As if we can’t love God with all of our heart and care for others.
Just a few paragraphs later James talks about those who break just one of the Ten Commandments, break all of them. Then James writes these convicting words:
12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.James 2:12-13
In another translation we are told, “Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James reminds us that there is only mercy for those who have shown mercy to others – which sounds much like Jesus’ statement “that you will only be forgiven if you forgive others.” Several years ago, I did a series on the fruit of the Spirit. When it came to patience, I discovered another word for patience is forbearance – or mercy or compassion.
We are even reminded just after this in the book of James that faith without good deeds is dead. “How can you have faith if you don’t show it by your actions?” James asks. He goes on to say, (and this is my paraphrase) “If your faith does not produce good deeds…it is dead and useless.”
Our faith and action work together – just as love for God and love for our neighbor work together. If we simply love God, we are missing the point. God came to earth in the person of Jesus to save us from our sins – even when we were not worthy of it. If there is anyplace where mercy triumphs over judgement is in the life of the one who has been saved by the grace of Jesus.
So remember – love for God and love for others work together – living a life of holiness requires refusing to let the world corrupt you and taking care of the widows and orphans. Do this and you will live.