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3-19-2017 - Journey: The Main Thing

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It’s a Trap!

In “Return of the Jedi” the Rebel Alliance was seeking to destroy the Galatic Empire’s new Deathstar II. As the Rebels moved to attack the Deathstar II, Admiral Ackbar realized they had been sucked in. At that point, he uttered a three word phrase that would become iconic… The phrase, “It’s a trap” has become a reference I’ve heard in movies, tv, and other places. However, I find that not everyone knows where the reference comes from.
Once in a great while, I’ve heard the phrase when someone was giving warning that what they were about to do might not work out the way they wanted it to. Jesus didn’t have such a warning. Luke tells us that a Lawyer asked Jesus a question, not so much to get an answer, but because he was trying to test Jesus.
II. God
Luke 10:25 NRSV
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The question, “What should I do to inherit eternal life” was a common question.
Luke 18:18 NRSV
A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Similar (if not the same) question is in Luke 18:18 (18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him)
Luke 10:25 NRSV
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
It was a common question and, in some ways, simple because it already had answers. Perhaps the lawyer wasn’t so interested in Jesus’ answer to this first question, than he was with the question he may have been wanting to ask all along. The lawyer may have thought he would ask this simple question, but trip Jesus up on a subsequent question.
Luke 10:26 NRSV
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
Jesus turned the question around. Perhaps knowing that the lawyer already knew his answer, Jesus asked him to share how he read what the law said.
Luke 10:27 NRSV
He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.”
Yep. The lawyer already had an answer in mind… I wonder if the crowd standing around started clapping like on Family Feud… “Good answer…Good answer...”
Luke 10:28 NRSV
And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
Jesus agreed. Good answer. Easy. Jesus says, “Good job. Just do it!” Knowing what we are to do, and then doing it are two different issues. Jesus didn’t seem as interested in what this lawyer said, than what he was going to do.
Luke 10:29 NRSV
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
oh…wait a minute…the lawyer isn’t done. He wants to justify himself…perhaps he wanted to justify why he asked such a simple question that he already knew the answer to…perhaps he was hoping to put Jesus on the spot thinking Jesus might say something to make people angry. Maybe he was saying, “Wait a minute, it isn’t that easy...”
Perhaps this is the question he is wondering about all along. How big does my circle of love need to be? Who and who am I not to love?
Luke 10:30 NRSV
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
To answer that question, Jesus shares a story
Jesus then shares a parable about three men. Two respected members of Jewish society and then a hated and despised Samaritan. I don’t have to recount this story. We’ve heard sermons, songs, and movies, referring to the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:31 NRSV
Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
The basic story is simple enough. Four men. One has been robbed, stripped, everything has been taken and he is left for half-dead.
One many comes, a priest. Surely he will help. He knows the law of loving God and neighbor. Yet, he doesn’t stop. Our heart sinks. Why doesn’t he stop? Jesus doesn’t say. We can guess, but we don’t know.
Luke 10:32 NRSV
So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Then another man comes. He is a levite. We have already been disappointed. If a priest won’t help, surely this man won’t help either. We are right. He doesn’t help. He, like the priest, walks on the other side. We don’t know why. Jesus doesn’t say.
Luke 10:33 NRSV
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
Then a Samaritan comes. From our Jewish perspective he WON’T help. The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. He would rather leave him for half-dead than to offer any help what-so-ever.
He notices him. He sees him there…in the ditch…broken....half-dead…and comes close to him. He doesn’t walk on the other side of the road like the other two. Jesus says that the man has compassion. Something within him wells up…he cares....and he acts.
He has the means to care for his wounds, put the man on his donkey, takes him to an Inn, and pays for two days stay until he can come back.
I wonder how long Jesus waited after sharing the story....did he pause as the lawyer and others stood…thinking....the parable sinking deep into their hearts. How could this man…who just have hated Jews so much…actually reach out…while those who were of the same nationality and so God focused walk on the other side of the road.
Then Jesus asks the question…differently than the lawyer did. Notice:
Luke 10:29 NRSV
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

It’s a Trap

Luke 10:36 NRSV
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
Do you notice the slight difference?
The lawyer asked…who is MY neighbor. Who am I suppose to love which assumes there are some who I am not supposed to love.
Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor to the half-dead man?” Jesus wasn’t concerned with the question of who are we supposed to love…who is MY neighbor..he had a deeper question.
Luke 10:37 NRSV
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
It wasn’t the God loving and fearing Jews…it was the hated and godless Samaritan. In the act of showing mercy, the Samaritan BECAME a neighbor to the Jewish man.
III. You and Us
I’ve struggled with it because I keep thinking there is a deeper lesson here.
Over the past few weeks I’ve reflected and struggled with this parable. I didn’t want to preach about it, but it is the first parable Jesus shares on his journey to Jerusalem, and we are, after all, journeying with him. So, I’ve struggled over this.
We know we are called to love God and love our neighbor as our self. Perhaps the task is not determining who are neighbors are, but in becoming a neighbor.
Compassion is something that happens within. The Samaritan had compassion…then he showed mercy. Mercy has action. We become neighbors and we love when we show mercy.
Jesus’ mission was one of mercy and love. We are the half-dead and he did not cross over on the other side. Instead, he came to us. Born into our world. Moved into our neighborhood. He loved us.
How do we become a neighbor?
We move close
We see
We have compassion
We act
God has challenged me to become a neighbor. We don’t love..not really…we learn how to love…then we become love.
Jesus calls us to this because it is exactly what he has done!
John tells us in John 1:14 that Jesus put on flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood. Jesus saw our need. He had compassion on us as he moved close and showed us mercy. He acted by going to the cross so we might find healing. He calls us to follow him and do likewise.
What happens when someone truly opens to Jesus? They become love.
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