Part 3: What did Jesus say?
- Who is the best teacher that you have ever had? It may not have been a school teacher; perhaps it was an older work colleague, a friend, a sports coach.
- What made them a great teacher?
- What is the most important lesson they taught you?
A Look at the Bible
Read Luke 10:25-37
- Why did the expert in the Law come to talk to Jesus? (v25)
- How does he summarise God’s Law? (v 27)
- Who would you have expected to stop and help?Jesus tells a story about a man who is mugged on the way to Jerusalem. Three people pass by but only one stops to help. Why do you think the other two might have hurried on?
As we saw in our last study, many people came to hear Jesus teach. Some came searching for wisdom but others came to catch him out. They were jealous of his popularity and hoped that if they got him to slip up then the crowds would turn against him.
Here we have an example of someone who wanted to catch Jesus out. First of all he asks an easy question. He asks “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” Every Jew knew the answer to that one. To live at peace with God, knowing that he would bless you in this life and raise you to eternal life in the next required that you keep God’s Law. So Jesus gets the man to give a summary of the Law. His answer is based on two Old Testament verses.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18.
All of the rules and commandments in the Old Testament were summarised by two principles. We are to love God with all of our being and love others in the same way that we would want to be loved.
Then the man asks the killer question. “Who is my neighbour?” He wants to get Jesus to start making judgements between people. The Pharisees and law-experts had a clear definition of who their neighbours were, they were all of their fellow Israelites who kept Gods law and followed their religion diligently. Jesus didn’t take this view; he believed that God’s plan was to show his love to people from all nations, without barrier or distinction. The lawyer wanted to flush Jesus out and expose him as a heretic.
So Jesus tells a story to show the folly of this thinking and to expose this man’s heart. In the story, it is the victim’s fellow Israelites and in particular those who claimed to keep God’s law who fail to love him, who fail to act as his neighbours. In so doing, they show that for all their external observance of the Law, they have not kept it. They have not loved God or their neighbour.
Instead, it is a Samaritan who stops to help. Now, here is the irony. The Samaritans lived in the northern part of Israel. They were ethnically mixed, Israelite survivors of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions had intermarried with people from other ethnic groups who their occupiers had resettled around Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. In other words, they bore a grudge, they sought revenge. They did not love. But here in the story, the hated one is the one who acts in love.
Jesus’ point is that it isn’t the external surface issues that matter. It’s not whether we appear to be part of the right group and follow the right rules and customs that matter. Rather, God calls us to love from the heart. This love will result in compassion and help for those in need, even our worst enemies. The twist in the story really pushes the point home. It isn’t just that the Jew discovers that the Samaritan is his neighbour and helps him. The Jew is helped by the Samaritan. The hated one, the outside turns out to be the one whose heart is right, who keeps God’s Law.
Now here is the challenge for each one of us. God’s Law is radical. More radical than we can imagine. It asks not just for external obedience but for a heart change. We are called to love God with everything we have. We are called not just to love our friends but even to even love our enemies. We know that this is too difficult. No-one can love God and love others in that perfect way. We all fail. We are distracted from worshipping God by our worries and ambitions. We know that instead of loving others and putting them first we become jealous of their success, selfish about our own needs, impatient when we don’t get our own way.
If I am honest with myself, then I will recognise that I cannot change my own heart to love God and others more. What Jesus shows us, even in his wise teaching is that it isn’t just a teacher that we need. We need a saviour.
To Think About
- What would your life look like if you were able to say “I love God with my whole heart”?
- What would your life look like if you were able to say “I love my neighbour as myself.”?