Step 6: Do Good.

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daily text logoFebruary 24, 2015

Read Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

CONSIDER THIS

goodness

Before we begin with today’s text I want to share the answer to yesterday’s Pop Quiz. The answer to the question, “How many distinct prayers do we have recorded from the mouth of Jesus?” Answer: 9. I’ll print them below for your “rememberization.”

Now to today’s text, which demonstrates the sheer brilliance of Jesus.

1. The “Expert in the Law” comes to “test” one he calls the “teacher.” He sees in Jesus, a peer of sorts. He is about to get schooled.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

2. Note how Jesus immediately turns the test around by asking the “Expert in the Law” about his own subject matter. Jesus refuses to play defense. It’s a good lesson for his followers.

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

3. He takes the bait– hook, line and sinker. Eager to “get it right,” he responds,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

4. Jesus gives him an A with a short teacher’s note to the effect of, “It’s not enough to get the answer right. You have to actually do it.” He seems prepared to leave it at that.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

5. As far as Jesus is concerned, it’s “class dismissed.” The “Expert,” however, can’t leave it alone. Remember, he’s trying to “test” the “Teacher.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Here’s what I think he was asking: “Who is not my neighbor?” These first century “Lawyer” types wanted to determine who they didn’t have to love. Just like with the Sabbath, and their focus on the meaning of the word, “work,” this time it was the word “neighbor.” They wanted to prove their perfect compliance with the demands of the Law. (i.e. to justify themselves)

In my peripheral vision I can see the disciples off to the side turning to one another with wincing looks of, “He just said the wrong thing!” The “Expert” is about to get it “handed to him.”

Rather than a frontal “smack down” assault, Jesus lays a “story” trap. He will lead this “Expert” down a path where he will be confronted with the absurdity of his own outlook.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 

“A man,” is all we get. Attacked, robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

The “Expert’s” notion of the Law is under scrutiny now. Of course the Priest and the Levite couldn’t get near this guy. It would make them “ceremonially unclean” which would prevent them from performing their religious responsibilities in the Temple (Heaven forbid!).  The Law, meant to illuminate all of life, had through their misguided interpretation become the source of their blindness. The Priest and the Levite “saw” the bleeding man. The trouble was they didn’t have “eyes to see” him.

At the same time, the “Expert” is confronted with the urgency of the life and death situation at hand. Somebody needs to help this poor soul. He’s probably asking himself W.W.M.D. (What would Moses Do?) ;0) Jesus, the Master Storyteller, artfully dances with the “Expert” like a prize fighter. Jab. Jab. Jab. . . .

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

BOOM! RIGHT HOOK! “But a Samaritan. . . . . Really?! The “Expert’s” jaw drops, but Jesus doesn’t indict him “Expert” just yet with the “Neighbor” question.  What fascinates me is what Jesus doesn’t do here. If I were telling the story, I might just leave it at, “he took pity on him,” and moved on quickly to the “Gotcha!” part. Instead, Jesus goes for the “love” part. He proceeds to reveal the extravagance of Divine Love in ordinary human form. I want you to “see” this. I’m going to enumerate and list for effect.

1. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, 2. pouring on oil and wine. 3. Then he put the man on his own donkey, 4. brought him to an inn and 5. took care of him. 6. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper.  7. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and 8. when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

All this time I’m thinking the neighbor is the guy who got beat up and left for dead. Jesus completely flips it.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

This is not a question of who is my neighbor. The big question is, “How do I be a neighbor?” In a stroke of Divine irony, this story shows us that the natural “heirs” of the Kingdom of God least resemble the righteousness of God and the avowed enemies of the “heirs” of the Kingdom are lifted up as the exemplars of God’s righteousness.

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus 1. Expert 0.

And just when Jesus could really excoriate the guy (like he did a couple of days ago with his rant against Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum), he has mercy on him with a word of grace. Listen to Him. . . .

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

It’s not a question of who is or is not my neighbor. The question is, “What kind of neighbor will I be?”

Do Good, and always remember, goodness is as goodness does.

P.S. Here are the 9 Prayers of Jesus:

The 9 Prayers of Jesus

  1. Our Father who art in heaven . . . . . .Matthew 6:9-13.
  2. Blessed are you Abba, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Abba, for this was your good pleasure. Matthew 11:25-26.
  3. “. . . Abba, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. . . . . Lazarus, come out!” John 11:41-43.
  4. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Abba, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Abba, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28.
  5. “Abba, nothing is impossible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36.
  6. “. . . Abba, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34.
  7. “ Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34.
  8. “. . . Abba, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46.
  9. “. . . . My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Abba, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. . . . .” John 17:1-26.

#LISTENtoHIM

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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