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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Pelican Point Day  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Where we pick up today in the gospel of Luke, Jesus’ ministry on earth was in full swing. He had a reputation and He had a following. There were the 12 disciples of course, but there were others who were committed to Him and His mission. There were also those who hated Jesus, and wanted to see Him and His ministry destroyed. I suppose that’s much like today.
But when we get to Luke 10, Jesus organizes a mission team and sends them into every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He sent 72 people in teams of 2 into places that had tremendous need, but not many to address those needs. Luke lets us know what happens when the 72-person team returns:
Luke 10:17 ESV
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
And Jesus shares in the of the people and expresses His joy in a prayer:
Luke 10:21–22 ESV
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
But following this assertion that the wise lack understanding, we come to an illustration of such a lack of understanding. One supposed wise expert in the law of God (referred to as a lawyer) came to Jesus to ask what is probably the most basic religious question anyone can ask. If anyone is going to consider God and who He is and what He means to us, the question the lawyer asks is the most important one. He ends up asking 2 questions and these 2 questions are really connected, and based on the fact that the lawyer’s 2 questions are connected makes clear that Jesus’ response to these 2 questions are connected as well.
I want us to know that the 2 questions we will see in this text and the 2 answers address the most fundamental concerns of all our lives. So let’s go there now to see this.
Luke 10:25–37 ESV
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And 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.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
The pseudo-scientific formula that explains most human bonding is basically time + affection + togetherness = relationship. Perhaps more than anything in our life times, COVID 19 has challenged our ability to maintain these components of healthy relationships.
Now, we know that people are different. Some love to be around people often, and some prefer to not be around people often. Regardless of where we fall on that spectrum, all of us need to be around people sometimes. And more fundamental to that is that we all need to have meaningful relationships.
But there’s a reason that studies are conducted, articles are written, books are published and seminars are conducted that center on developing and maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships. It’s because relationships are important and having healthy and meaningful relationships is difficult. If we’re all being honest, we all want relationships with others, but we often have trouble with them.
Why are relationships so difficult? Personalities, different experiences and backgrounds, give and take and how that works, communication breakdowns.... all of this makes maintaining relationships difficult.
There is something however, that I want to suggest we can’t do. We can’t, although it is quite common to do so, never the less we can’t separate the health of our relationship with God from the health of our relationships with people. It seems to me that we have a tendency to underestimate the impact on our relationship with God has on our relationships with people. Atheists reject God’s existence with God all together. That view of God will have profound implications on how they relate to others. Christians strive to live for the glory of God. This way of life has profound implications on how they relate to others.
A great deal of talk in our culture today is centered on getting along with one another, but much of it seeks to marginalize or ignore the God factor in our experience.
FCF: We cannot separate our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Those relationships are not the same thing, but they have significant impact on one another, and the more we try to live as if they don’t the more strife we can expect to experience.
Main Idea

The same change that God makes in us for us to have a right relationship with Him is the same change that enables us to have a right relationship with others.

What happens in us when God changes us?

We have a relationship with God (25-28)

AQ: What changes in us when we have a relationship with God?

We no longer believe we can merit eternal life (25)

The lawyer’s question
eternal life means entering the kingdom of God
Luke 18:18 ESV
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’s answer to him included the need for him to sell all his possessions, and and we’ll see the ruler’s response here, but notice how Jesus describes eternal life:
Luke 18:24 ESV
Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
So again, eternal life and being in the Kingdom of God are the same thing. So the lawyer, in our text, is asking Jesus what he must do to get into heaven after he dies. How can he come to have that assurance that he will go to heaven when he dies?
He wants to know how he can inherit eternal life which is a way of saying possessing the legal right to heaven.
But do you see the problem with this question? We can learn allot about people by listening to the questions they ask.
For example, if I asked you how long you thought it would take me before I was able to jump high enough to jump up on this stage from the floor. Now you may have doubts that I would ever be able to do that, but what do you now about me based on that question? That I think, after some practice, that it is entirely possible for me to jump from the floor to the stage.
The lawyer (again, expert in the law) asks what he must do to inherit eternal life.
What the gospel makes clear is that we cannot do anything to get to heaven.
Now it does seem that this question was a common question in first century Judaism, and it’s not difficult to imagine that Jesus would receive such a question, but remember the lawyer’s intentions were not so pure here. There was an effort underway to discredit Jesus, and His enemies would often ask questions to back Him into a corner in attempt to make Him look ridiculous. It never worked, so they took the tactic of false accusations and seeing that He be put to death, but that didn’t work either.
When we come into a real relationship with God that is free from hidden agendas, and we see that only Jesus and what He has done can provide us the way to have an assurance of heaven, we will see that we cannot do anything to have that assurance. Jesus has done it.
One more thing I think we see here that changes in us when we have a relationship with God

We believe God’s Word defines the terms of eternal life (26)

To answer the lawyer’s question Jesus asks him 2 questions. What is written in the law? How do you read it?
Now, what these 2 questions reveals is that Jesus thought the answer to the lawyer’s question (what must I do to inherit eternal life?) could be found in the word of God.
And this is what I want us to see here. The word of God is the authoritative entity here. Jesus pointed the lawyer back to this source to obtain the answer to his question.
It is not up to us to figure this out. But another way to say that is we do not make our own way to heaven.
It may seem right to us that by striving to live a good life will result in us going to heaven. It may seem right to us that being good citizens, spouses, parents, friends employees entitles us to heaven.
Or perhaps some may think that God is unnecessary and all that matters is the here and now. That the idea of life after this life on earth is a myth.
And what these 2 ideas have in common is that the person is the authority and not God.
What Jesus makes clear in v. 26 is that God’s word is authoritative, and when it comes to the terms of eternal life, we find them in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 15:4 ESV
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
The gospel message itself is one that is in accordance with the Scriptures. So what we proclaim to you here today is not a man centered message, but one that is Jesus-centered. The Bible does that, so we do that.
One more thing I think is made clear here that changes in us when we have a relationship with God.

We believe perfect obedience to the law of God is required to possess eternal life (27-28)

Now, you might think that I am now contradicting what we said earlier, that we cannot do anything to inherit eternal life. But notice what Jesus says is correct: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
So the lawyer asks what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus asks him what the word of God says. The lawyer then quotes the word of God. He actually quotes
Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
And part of
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
And then Jesus responds to that answer in v. 28: You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.
I want us to know something about how v. 27 literally reads. In our bibles it reads that we are to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and with all our minds. The word with is the same word every time it is used in v. 27 except the first time. So when it says with all your heart, it really says from all your heart..
Now we might not think that’s such a big deal at first, but why use that word, from, but then use with in the rest of the verse?
The word from here means from out of. So what the command literally says is that we are to love the Lord our God from out of our whole heart. OK, and you still might be saying big deal, and still wondering why I’m making all this fuss. The problem with commanding us to love the Lord our from out of our whole hearts is what the Bible says about the human heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Our hearts have problems. So how much value should we place on love that come from out of our heart. Yet, this is the command: to love the Lord our God from our of all our hearts.
What’s the answer? A heart change. In order for us to properly love God, our hearts need to be changed from being deceitful and desperately sick. But how does this change happen?
Ezekiel 36:26 ESV
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
And when someone receives this new heart then loving God from out of that kind of heart is possible. And then the rest of the verse is possible, because from out of this kind of heart we will also love God with all our souls, minds and strength.
But what does this have to do with obeying the law perfectly? Even with changed hearts, can anyone really love God with all our souls minds and strength? You see what we need to focus on here is the basis on the changed heart. How can hearts that are above all deceitful and sick be changed so completely?
Now, remember what the lawyer quoted was from the law. What do we know about Jesus and the law?
Matthew 5:17–20 ESV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus fulfilled the law. No one could nor even has done that, but Jesus did. And not only that, unless people fulfill the law so perfectly that our righteousness fails to exceed the most religious standards we can think of, we will fall short of what is necessary to enter heaven.
Our hearts can be so radically transformed by God because of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf. He loved God perfectly, so if we place our faith in Him, and not ourselves, our hearts will be changed.
So yes, if we have a relationship with God, we will believe that that the law of God must be perfectly fulfilled in order to have eternal life. But we will recognize that the law has been kept perfectly, that Jesus is the one who kept it and that we need to place our faith in Jesus to have our hearts changed so that we can love God the way we need to in order to have eternal life.
This is a radical change. The change that occurs for people to have a relationship with God. But remember
The same change that God makes in us for us to have a right relationship with Him is the same change that enables us to have a right relationship with others.
What else happens in us when God changes us?

We are enabled to see people as God sees us all (29-37)

Now before we consider how God sees people, I want to point a few things out about this parable Jesus tells. This parable, at least it basic ideas are familiar. In fact, most of us know what is meant to call someone a good Samaritan today. It’s someone who has helped someone else in need. But I want us to know right off the bat, that helping people in need is a far too simplistic of an understanding of this parable.
Notice how v. 29 begins: But he (the lawyer) desiring to justify himself.... What’s going on here? Jesus just held up a mirror to this expert in the law, which was the law itself, to demonstrate that the law condemned him. If what it required to inherit eternal life is to love God from our of our whole hearts and with all our souls, minds and strength, then we are in trouble… at least if we understand it the way the lawyer did. So now the lawyer wants to try to save face. He wants to show himself to be ok, and deserving of eternal life. So he asks another question: who is my neighbor?
Some places are named in this parable. Jerusalem and Jericho. Jerusalem sits on a mountain about 2500 feet above sea level, so to go anywhere else from Jerusalem is to go down. Jericho is about 17 miles east of Jerusalem and approximately 800 feet below sea level.
So the traveling man in this parable, was making a journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. The idea of this being a dangerous trip would have made sense to everyone listening to Jesus. Robbers would hide in the mountains and the desert along the road between these two cities.
But the lawyer’s chief concern was that he not been seen as the looser of the conversation he had with Jesus. He wanted to be viewed as someone who understood the law and as one who had eternal life well in hand.
Jesus just made him look foolish, but in an effort to save face, he asks who is my neighbor? Jesus, in an act of grace, answers his question with this parable, and in doing so makes clea
How God sees us

Helpless (29-30)

naked, beaten, almost dead. If we saw someone like that somewhere, we hope we would seek to help that person. We would conclude they were unable to help themselves. We would proceed to call in help from somewhere else. We would understand the need to be urgent.
People in this condition are helpless. Jesus addressed this issue with the people of the church in Laodicea. The people there were feeling self-sufficient. Much like this lawyer did. Here’s what Jesus said to them:
Revelation 3:17 ESV
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Helpless.
This is our condition without the intervention of God. Spiritually, we are laying on the side of the road, in a ditch perhaps, half dead and unable to do anything to change that.
But we’re not victims. As much as the physical condition of the traveling man describes our spiritual condition, the callous and indifferent response of the Priest and Levite also describes our spiritual condition.

Inward focused (31-32)

You would think that of all the people who could come by this helpless person, a priest would be the best news. Priests were servants of God. Those who offered sacrifices for the people in the temple. A spiritual man. One, that most would expect to be a man of compassion.
But notice what he did when he saw this helpless man: v. 31 he passed on the other side. This was intentional. It says when he saw him. When the priest saw him, he didn’t respond with compassion. He went to the opposite side of the road from the injured traveler.
You see, when we consider the lawyer’s question (who is my neighbor) against the parable up t this point, it’s clear that who is our neighbor is not the main concern. It’s not who is our neighbor, its who needs the help of Jesus. And of course the answer is everyone needs the help of Jesus, and therefore everyone is our neighbor.
Everyone that is, except democrats. Everyone that is, except those who criticize the United States of America. Everyone that is except those who at one point in the past deeply offended us and left emotional scars. Everyone is our neighbor and in need of the help of Jesus except....
We don’t put it in those terms, but often our behavior does. Yes, the priest should have know better, and you and I should know better, but what is true of all of us is that in our flesh, that is in that part of us that rejects God, we are inward focused. We’re self-serving. Selfish.
I know this is a rather negative view of people. We prefer to have a more positive view.... especially of ourselves.
The Levite responded the same way. All priests were from the tribe of Levi, but those who served as priests were descendants from Aaron. So this Levite served in a subordinate role to the priests. They may have been assistants to the priests or temple police, but the same kinds of expectations would have been on them as on the priests. Godly men who had compassion for others.
But again, inward focused.
God sees this about people, and we need to know this about ourselves and others. This is not meant to depress us or defeat us. In fact, God sees this about us more clearly than we do, and yet he shows compassion. Our inward focused bent did not deter Him from saving people from their sins.
You see, there allot of talk today about having compassion fro the disadvantaged. Allot of talk about equity and inclusion. Allot of talk. But when it comes to seeing people for who they are. When it comes to dealing with the offensive reality of ourselves and others, inclusion, equity and compassion all of the sudden becomes very conditional and in short supply.
The kind of compassion that God has for people could be seen a little more clearly if the man who was beaten, forgave those who beat him and saught to serve them and meet their needs. This is what Jesus did.
Romans 5:8 ESV
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
People are inward focused. We need to know this about ourselves and others. it will help us to have better relationships with one another. Why? Because it is this fact that reminds us that we’re all in the same boat. We all need a Savior. And what we need to know is that Jesus is that Savior.
So God sees us as helpless, inward focused and

In need (33-35)

The unlikely hero is a Samaritan. We are told in v. 33 that he had compassion on the beaten man.
We can assume that robbery victim was Jewish. We know the rescuer was a Samaritan. The Jews and the Samaritan had been enemies for centuries. In fact, Jewish travelers going from Jerusalem to Galilee took the road that went through Jericho because they wanted to avoid Samaria.
Samaritans were descendants of Israelites who had intermarried with pagans after the Assyrians forced most of Northern Israel into exile in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:6)
So a Samaritan man is helping a Jewish man. To those hearing Jesus tell this parable, this would have been shocking because that same animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans that developed during and after the time of the exile in 722 BC continued into that day.
The Samaritan provided all that was needed. Bandages for his wounds. Oil and wine. Transportation to safety. A safe place to recover. Payment for all these services.
You see, the Samaritan never asked what the lawyer asked, who is my neighbor?
The wounded Jewish man was in need. This describes all of us.
And when we think this way about ourselves and others, we can only conclude that we all need something that we do not possess ourselves. God sees us as

Objects of His mercy (36-37)

And now the lawyer has been humbled. Jesus tells this parable, and then asks the lawyer a question: v. 36 which of these 3 do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?
And the lawyer couldn’t even say the Samaritan. He just described him as the one who showed him mercy. He was right, but his heart was unchanged.
Mercy is the withholding of punishment and grace is unmerited favor. The Samaritan had reason not to help the Jew (mercy), but helped anyway (grace).
What Jesus did to rescue people from the helpless, inward focused needy state is captured well in
Hebrews 7:25–26 ESV
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
During His earthly life, Jesus did fulfill the law. He died and paid the penalty of our sins. He rose again displaying His defeat of our sin. And now He reigns from heaven where He makes intercession for those who places their faith in Him.
The lawyer was unwilling to confess his sins and repent. He was unwilling to even say the word Samaritan because of his own hatred and bias.

The same change that God makes in us for us to have a right relationship with Him is the same change that enables us to have a right relationship with others.

The lawyer couldn’t bring himself to say Samaritan. Gd has called His people by their name. He showed mercy to people who hated Him. Who rebel against Him. He calls them by name, and they receive His mercy
John 10:3 ESV
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Jesus call us by name when He calls us to Himself. When He shows us His mercy. He changes us and grants us a relaitnship with God and it is that change that enables us to be neighbors.
Don’t ask who is my neighbor. Ask, whose neighbor am I.
Pelican Point, the New Life family consider you neighbors, but not because of geography. We are neighbors because Jesus considers us His neighbors. He is the one who rescues us out of our helpless, selfish, needy state and grants us His mercy and grace. We want you t know this Jesus because you are our neighbors and we are yours. i
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