The two greatest stories about love were both told by Jesus. One is about a Father who forgives a runaway son. The other is about a foreigner who loves a man lying beaten on the side of the road. Both of these stories tell us what love looks like. Both of these stories challenge us to love well.
Christianity is a divine revolution. It is God coming to change his world. That is the big story within which we read everything else. Whether it be Jesus offering forgiveness, healing the sick or doing great acts of mercy… this is God renewing his creation!
So what does Jesus revolution look like? The kingdom is pre-eminently good news for the poor, the lost and the outcast. And we shouldn’t rationalise that away because so many of us are wealthy. It should be a constant challenge to our own prosperity. But this is not just how Jesus chose to live, this is about the calling of others who would join his revolution. They are to show mercy to the undeserving, unfortunate and the lost.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is given in response to a Jewish theologian asking about the meaning of neighbour. He has answered correctly about inheriting the life of the age to come. It means to love God and love your neighbour… but who, he asks, is my neighbour? It’s a good question. To Jews then and to us now a neighbour is usually thought of as those to whom we live next to, or have a friendly relationship. But does it include everyone? To Jews in Jesus day it certainly didn’t include Gentiles. That is, those who were not of the same ethnic group. People like the Samaritans. So Jesus gives us a confronting story…
A man goes does a road down from the hills of Jerusalem to Jericho where he set upon by bandits who leave him within an inch of his life. Those hearing would have known this stretch of road and known the risks involved. Seeing a man robbed, beaten and dying on the side of road was not outside their experience. So two religious guys walk by, a priest and a Levite… part of a privileged group! Part of the shock of this story, is that it could be expected that as servants of God, they would understand God’s heart for the lost and hurting and respond with compassion. They don’t. They walk on by.
What is going on when we don’t help someone? Maybe it is self preservation… if this guy has been robbed and beaten, maybe the bandits are still around? What about you? Why do you not help? Too busy to stop? Maybe a conviction that it’s the addict’s fault, that they will only use your help to buy more booze? Whatever the reason too often the human story is one of not stopping, but passing by.
Then a Samaritan comes on by. These were perhaps Jews least favourite people. The animosity went back centuries, it had to do with their ethnicity, over ownership of land, over ways of worship…There were often violent clashes between Jews and Samaritans. In one incident some Samaritans got into the temple in Jerusalem during Passover and scattered human bones, making the temple unclean.So you get why the introduction of a Samaritan into a story about compassion and mercy gives it a controversial nature… everyone would be feeling uncomfortable…
But what incredible, undeniable kindness. He stops for the one. He does not veer away from the bandit’s victim.It says in verse 33 of Luke 10 that ‘his heart went out to him’. His heart went out to him. It is the same description used here of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son. If that parable is an insight into God’s heart for us, it suggests that the Samaritans heart is a reflection of God’s for the lost. Now that is important. Remember we never reflect God’s character more, than when we love the lost, the broken and the poor.
And his compassion is not an ideal; it is expressed in practical action… The revolution is not about an idea about love, it is an outworking of the love, poured into our own hearts. He binds the wounds, applies medicines, he puts him on his donkey which he would have been riding and he takes him to an inn to personally take care of him. And then with extreme generosity he pays for a long stay and promises to pay anything more that might be needed. All this done by a hated Samaritan for a Jew.
Now, all of this has come in response to a theologian asking what it means to love your neighbour. Being a lawyer he was probably looking to cover the scope of what a neighbour is, to justify his own actions, to make himself look good in the eyes of others. So who has been a neighbour to the man robbed and beaten by bandits? And what does loving a neighbour look like? The theologian replies “the one who showed mercy on him.” Jesus says, “Go… go and do likewise.”
This is the revolution of God that Jesus came to initiate. As Jesus says in Matthew 9, “I require mercy not sacrifice.” In other words not religious ceremonies or outward appearances of righteousness… the revolution requires generous mercy that reaches out. Go and do likewise. Eternal life, the life of the age to come involves living like the good Samaritan. Go and do likewise.
Well, there it is… there is your application if you are looking for one… kind of hits you over the head like a two by four… Go and do likewise. This is how the revolution works! Jesus announces the kingdom, he demonstrates the kingdom and then he calls others into the life and work of the kingdom.
The kingdom of God, the revolution that Jesus came to initiate involves the renewal of all things. And in this revolution, Jesus wants to change your heart so you can change your world. Let me say that again… he wants to change your heart so you can change your world. As you are loved by an unquenchable love, your capacity to love others grows.
So, as I said, the application is pretty simple – go and do likewise… because really this is about continuing on the life and works of Jesus as a community. This is how God renews his creation… he calls and commissions a people to go and do likewise.
I reckon if you are a Christian you need to be involved somehow in helping the poor, the battered and the broken. Hopefully you do that by supporting your local church that in turn supports organisations like the local Salvation Army. All of us are called to radical love of our neighbour… and as Jesus has shown in this parable, that means those in need. A lot of you are sponsoring children. Keep going! Victoria and I give a percentage of our income not just to the church but also to an orphanage in Mozambique. Greg who comes to Manly Life sets up orphanages in the poorest parts of the world… check out the website, speak to him, get involved.
But one of the most important things we learn in this passage is that love stops for the one in front of us. And love looks like something. It is not an ideal; it is an action. It cost the good Samaritan his own personal safety, it cost him his ride, it cost him money for the inn. And it also cost him his comfortable personal prejudices. He crossed social boundaries, ethnic boundaries, historic boundaries…Because love knows no boundaries.
Could you impact a hundred lives, could you change the world? Well it starts with the one. And usually it is the one in front of us whose path we have cross. Love stops for the one. Love looks like something. It is how Jesus treats us.