I was leaving a meeting at the Petroleum Club in downtown Oklahoma City one day when a man, dressed in a navy business suit with a perfectly tied Windsor knot holding his red and navy stripped tie in place came up to me and introduced himself. I learned that we have a mutual friend. He told me that he had heard about Britton Christian Church through his friend. We exchanged compliments about our friend then the man said, ?Can I ask you a question?? I said, ?Sure.? He ran his fingers through his hair. His platinum Rolex glistened under the lights as he nervously said, ?I?ve heard a lot about Church, God, and that sort of thing since I was a kid. I don?t understand it all, it?s pretty confusing to tell you the truth, but I?ve always had a question about heaven. What do you have to do to get to go to heaven?? I said, ?Well, what have you heard?? The man said, ?Well I know that you?ve got to be good and really love people. My mom use to quote a verse from the Bible that said something like, ?Love the Lord with all of your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself.? I said, ?That?s great. Now keep doing what your mom told you and you will live a full life.? The man scratched his head and said, ?This is my problem. Who is my neighbor? Is it my family, the people who live in my neighborhood, my employees?? I asked, ?Do you have time for me to tell you a story?? He said, ?You want to sit down?? We sat on a couch in the hallway and I began to talk. I began to share my story.
On a Friday afternoon a man and his friends played a round of golf at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. The man was going to head home, but the guys started talking about playing some poker in the clubhouse so he called his wife, grabbed a bite to eat, and sat down for the first hand. One hand turned into another and he was winning like Chris Moneymaker on a roll in Vegas. Finally, just before midnight, he told his buddies he had to get home.
He jumped in his car and began to head home when he pulled up to a stop sign at Penn and Wilshire. A man with a big gun appeared out of the shadows and pointed his gun in the man?s face. The man told him to get out of the car and empty his pockets. He hesitated and the man pistol whipped him until he was unconscious. The attacker beat him, took his clothes and money, and drove off in the man?s Mercedes, leaving him for dead.
A preacher, who had been called by the Chaplain at the hospital to inform him that one of his parishioners had been in car wreck, was just returning from visiting the family at the hospital. He pulled up to the stop sign. He saw the bloody body lying beside the road, but it was late, he was tired, so he looked the other way and made his way home.
A doctor was on his way home from Mercy Hospital where he had been on call. He saw something lying beside the road from a block away, he slowed down to try and figure out what it was. As he slowly pulled up to the stop sign he saw the body of the man. He thought to himself that he needed to do something, but after a few moments of looking around and wrestling with the decision, he decided to call 911. The doctor didn?t wait for help to come. He pulled through the intersection and made his way home hoping that the ambulance would come soon.
Passing the doctor, coming in the opposite direction, was a beat up ?86 Skyhawk, primer gray, and packed with some teenagers with Jay Z blaring from the CD player. The kids pulled up to the stop sign and one of them hollered at his friend driving, ?Hold up dog! Check out that dude.? The car stopped, the door opened, and smoke swirled out of the car like it was a mobile pool hall. One by one five boys with braids in their hair and their pants hanging down to the top of their thighs unfolded themselves and gathered around the man. They talked for just a minute then one of them said, ?Give me some help.? He handed his Black and Mild to one of his buddies and with the help of one of the other kids he lifted the bloody man, who was unconscious, and put him in the car. They drove him to Baptist Hospital. Some of the boys went inside while one waited in the car with the man. The boys explained to the doctor that they had found the man lying beside the road. The doctor was suspicious, he walked out to the car, memorized the tag number, thanked the boys, and went back inside to take care of the man.
I asked the man who had been listening to my story, ?Which one was a neighbor to the man who had been beaten and left for dead?? The man said, ?The boys who showed him mercy.? I said, ?Good answer. Now go and do likewise.?
I?m sure you?ve figured out by now that the story I?ve just told you is fictitious, but it is based on another story that Jesus told. Not a true story, but a parable, a story to teach a lesson. My story is based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. The reason I told you my story is because today the phrase ?Good Samaritan? has lost all of the negative connotations it carried in Jesus? day. We attach the phrase to good things like hospitals, churches, night shelters, and other efforts that try to help people. In Jesus? day the phrase made the hair stand up on the necks of the Jews. They viewed Samaritans the same way that most of us view the boys I described. As I was describing the boys that helped the man who had been beaten and left for dead you were probably thinking they were gang bangers, ghetto thugs, the kind of kids you stay away from, the reason you don?t drive through neighborhoods like ours, except to go to church. Right? You know I?m right. These kids carry the same stigma that the Samaritans in Jesus day carried with them everywhere they went.
As I mentioned to you, the story that we will study today is a parable. This morning we will begin a new study of the parables of Jesus. A parable is defined as, ?a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson.? (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable) We get the word, ?parable,? from the Greek word, ?parabole,” which literally means, ?the placing of one thing by the side of another, a comparing, comparison of one thing with another,? or ?an example by which a doctrine or precept is illustrated.? The word is used 50 times in the Greek New Testament. Let?s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Luke 10.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27He 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.'” 28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’ 36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 NIV)
Jesus was approached by a man who was an ?expert in the law.? We need to understand what this term means because it is very different from our understanding of the practice of Law today. The ?lawyers? of the first century were ?scribes,? most of them were Pharisees. These men studied, interpreted, and taught the Law in the synagogues and held themselves up as examples for the people. They also believed that their interpretations of the Law were almost on the same level as Scripture itself. These guys were no friend of Jesus and this particular man came to Jesus, not to learn, but to trap Him. You can see this from verse 25 where we read,
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25 NIV)
This story is not about ?how to get to heaven? as some folks today try to read into the text. This is Jesus at His finest. He knows this man?s heart. He knows that the guy doesn?t have any desire at all to learn how to get to heaven. In his mind he already knows how to ?inherit eternal life??you follow the Law. Jesus meets him where he is and shows him that he can no more uphold the Law than he can fly. We can easily see this if we will just stick to the Scripture.
After we read that the man tried to ?test? Jesus with his question, Jesus asks him,
26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26 NIV) The man quotes Scripture. He quotes from the ?Shema,? the most important prayer for the Jews, prayed every morning and evening. The Scripture the man quotes is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV)
?Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.? We don?t find any mention in these verses about loving our neighbor so where did the teacher come up with the second part of his quote? Good question. He was quoting from Leviticus 19, the great section of the Law that focuses on holiness towards God and our neighbor. In Leviticus 19:18 we read,
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NIV)
??Love your neighbor as yourself.? The expert teacher of the Law, the one who knew the Law better than anyone in Israel, knew what was important to God. Jesus said, 28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But remember, the man wasn?t trying to learn anything, he was only trying to trap Jesus, so he asked another question, ?Who is my neighbor?? The teacher knew who his neighbor was, he knew Leviticus 19 and the teaching of the Law. Let me give you some insight into what the man knew, but didn?t want to do.
In the opening verse of Leviticus 19 we read, ?Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.? (Leviticus 19:2 NIV) The Hebrew word that is translated, ?holy,? is the word, ?qadowsh,” and it means, ?sacred, holy, or set apart.? What does holiness look like? That?s a great question and God lays out for His people what it looks like in the verses to come. Let me give you some examples. In Leviticus 19:9-10 we read,
9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:9-10 NIV)
Towards the end of the chapter we read another command from the Lord about how His people are supposed to treat their ?neighbors.? Read along with me from Leviticus 19:33-34.
33 “‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV)
In between these verses we learn that we are not to lie, cheat, steal, slander, pervert justice, hold back wages from our neighbor, and much more. The expert in the Law knew all of these things, but didn?t want to do them so he asked, ?Who is my neighbor??
Jesus told the man a story. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a treacherous place, a rough place. From Jerusalem to Jericho is 17 miles. When you leave Jerusalem you are at about 2,500 feet above sea level. When you arrive in Jericho you will be at about 800 feet below sea level. The road to Jericho was rough, rocky, and there were many caves along the route where thieves and thugs could hide out to ambush unsuspecting travelers. One unsuspecting traveler ran into trouble. He was beaten into a bloody pulp. He was robbed and left for dead.
There were always travelers on the Jericho road. The first two travelers that Jesus mentioned were men who knew Leviticus 19, they knew God?s call to holiness, they were men of the cloth, they knew who their neighbor was, yet they passed right by the man who was left for dead.
There was a third man who came upon the man in distress. This man was a Samaritan. Today, Samaritan means ?good guy? to you and me, but in Jesus day, to the Jews, Samaritan meant something altogether different. Jews looked upon the Samaritans as half-breeds, both physically and spiritually. The Jews hated the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were the descendants of Mesopotamian peoples who were forced to move into and repopulate the land of northern Israel by the king of Assyria when the Jews were carted off from their land in 722 B.C. Some of the Jews intermarried with the Samaritans and adopted their religion which combined the worship of YHWH with the Samaritan?s idolatrous practices. In the 4th century B.C. the Samaritans built a temple to YHWH on Mt. Gerizim and established a rival priesthood.
Josephus tells us that the high priest Manasseh was threatened with expulsion from Jerusalem because of his foreign wife, Nikaso, the daughter of the Samaritan Sanballat. Sanballat promised Manasseh that he would preserve the priesthood, appoint Manasseh as governor over his lands, and build a temple similar to the one in Jerusalem on Mount Gerizim, if Manasseh would remain with his daughter. (Josephus, Antiquities, 11.8.2)
The Samaritans believed they were the true worshippers of God. The believed the Israelites were apostate in their beliefs. The animosity between the two people was deep and the hatred strong.
When Jesus was nearing the end of His time on earth He sent His disciples ahead of Him to prepare for His arrival in Jerusalem. The disciples had to pass through Samaria as Samaria was between the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem. Luke tells us what happened.
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51-53 NIV)
There was a deep, deep rift between the Jews and the Samaritans that was much like the hatred between the Palestinians and the Jews of our day. In the Jewish Encyclopedia there is an article about Jesus of Nazareth. In the article there is an interesting discussion of the parables of Jesus and in particular this one about the ?Good Samaritan.? Listen to this.
One of these parables deserves special mention here, as it has obviously been changed, for dogmatic reasons, so as to have an anti-Jewish application. There is little doubt that J. Halevy is right (“R. E. J.” iv. 249-255) in suggesting that in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:17-37) the original contrast was between the priest, the Levite, and the ordinary Israelite?representing the three great classes into which Jews then and now were and are divided. The point of the parable is against the sacerdotal class, whose members indeed brought about the death of Jesus. Later, “Israelite” or “Jew” was changed into “Samaritan,” which introduces an element of inconsistency, since no Samaritan would have been found on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem (ib. 30). (Jewish Encyclopedia, Article on Jesus of Nazareth, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com)
Even Jews today can?t come to grips that a Samaritan would actually stop to help someone in need. This is Jesus? story and I?m sticking with it. Jesus says in Luke 10:33-35.
33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’ (Luke 10:33-35 NIV)
The Samaritan man saw the man lying beside the road and he ?took pity on him.? What a contrast! We saw in verse 31 where the priest traveled the same road. Luke tells us, ?when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.? The Levite came along some time later and Luke tells us, ?when he came to the place and saw him, (he) passed by on the other side.? The Samaritan saw the man just like the others, but he ?took pity on him.? This word, ?pity,? is an interesting word. The NIV translates the word, ?took pity,? but that doesn?t really get to the heart of what the Samaritan experienced as he saw the man beaten, bloodied, and left for dead. The King James Version says, ?He had compassion on him.? The New American Standard says, ?He felt compassion.? The translation I like the best, the one which I believe most closely captures what took place, is found in Young?s Literal Translation, where we read, He was moved with compassion.? The Greek word that Jesus used in telling the story is the word, ?splagchnizomai.” You may not be able to say it, but you can sure feel it when you hear the definition. The word means, ?to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity.? Can you feel it? Does your mind take you back to the last time you heard a story or saw a news report of something that grabbed your gut and made you pick up the phone to find out how you could volunteer, where you could sign-up to help? That?s what godly compassion is all about. Godly compassion has nothing to do with seeing a story and saying, ?Lord bless them.? It?s not hearing about somebody?s plight and thinking about how grateful you are that you are not in that person?s predicament. Godly compassion moves you from the couch or wherever you are comfortable and causes you to join those who are hurting.
You may be wondering where I came up with this definition of godly compassion. Let me show you. There are several places in the New Testament where this Greek word appears. Let?s look at a few. Turn with me to Matthew 20:20-34 and let?s see what we can learn.
30Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33″Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:30-34 NIV)
Jesus was moved by compassion and He did something. He didn?t call out for an ophthalmologist; He touched the man?s eyes and healed him. Now, turn with me to Mark 1 and let?s begin reading in verse 39.
39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. 40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:39-41 NIV)
Jesus saw the man and He was moved with compassion. He didn?t call out for a dermatologist; He reached out His hand and touched the man. The last illustration we?ll look at is found in Mark 6:30-34. Read along with me.
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:30-34 NIV)
Jesus was tired. It had been a long day, but when He saw the crowd He was moved by compassion and He delayed His rest. He didn?t call out for a professor, an erudite scholar, He taught them. Godly compassion moves us beyond feeling sympathy for someone. Godly compassion moves us to do something.
Each of these illustrations is from the life of Jesus. Is it any wonder that we find the model for true compassion, godly compassion, most evident in the life of Jesus? Don?t look at those around you to try and find out who your neighbor is or how you should treat people, look only, exclusively, to Jesus! I say this with conviction in my heart because of my own failure. I know that the Lord has called you and me to be living examples of His grace and mercy, but I have failed miserably.
I want to confess a secret sin to you this morning. I say ?secret? because nobody else was around when I grieved the heart of God, but I?ve grieved the heart of God and He has convicted me. I?ve been found guilty of a cold, divided heart.
Each Sunday morning I get here between 6:30 and 7 am to prepare for the day. Last Sunday I arrived and parked in the north parking lot. When I got out of my truck there was a car parked in the back of the parking lot. It wasn?t parked like a valet had parked it. You could tell somebody just pulled up in the parking lot, put it in ?Park,? and stopped the engine. When I closed the door to my truck I noticed the back door of the old car was open and there were two feet sticking out of the old car. Somebody was asleep, or dead, or something. I stopped for a second, thought about it for another second, contemplated what I should do for another second, and in three seconds I was on my way to my office.
On my way to my office I thought through ten different scenarios of what could have possibly been happening: He was drunk and just needed to sleep it off. Yeah that?s it! He and his wife got into a fight and he decided to leave the house to cool off for a night. It?s possible! He was broke and waiting for some sucker to come by to jump. He was just playing like he was asleep so that he could attack whoever happened to stop by. Maybe not, but that could be the case. I can?t tell you what all I thought, but it doesn?t really matter. The one thing I failed to do was help. I was not moved to compassion to go and ask, ?Are you ok? Is there anything I can do to help you??
My heart is so hard and I hate it. You could use my heart for a meat freezer and never lose a cut of beef. I despise the coldness of my heart. I could try and rationalize away what I did by telling you about the times that I have helped, but last Sunday morning, on the Lord?s Day, I didn?t help. I refused to help. I am the Priest. I am the Levite. I desperately desire to be a Samaritan, a good Samaritan.
James, the brother of Jesus, was a skeptic before his brother went to the cross. After the cross, after the resurrection, James became one of the leaders of the followers of Jesus. I have no doubt that after the death and resurrection of Jesus, James thought long and hard about all that he was so skeptical about earlier in Jesus? life. Jesus? teaching about loving our enemies, seeing someone hungry and feeding them, coming across someone naked and giving them clothes. Maybe this is why James wrote,
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIV)
All of Jesus? followers were affected by His life, His sacrificial lifestyle, the way He loved those the rest in society deemed unlovable or untouchable. When John was an old man he wrote these words,
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:16-17 NIV)
Godly compassion moves us to give ourselves to those who are hurting. Why? Is it because we great humanitarians? That would be ok, but it won?t last, it won?t endure because people won?t appreciate your kindness. No, the reason we give ourselves to those who are hurting is because our Savior gave Himself for us, to us, to heal our brokenness.
There is only one road that leads to this kind of compassion my friend and that is the road that leads to the foot of the cross. We don?t have it in us to see our enemies, the despised and scorned of society with such compassionate eyes, but Jesus does. For us to experience this kind of compassion we first see ourselves as the ones who are lying on the Jericho road, beaten, bloodied, and left for dead. We must see that Jesus alone can bind up our wounds and breath life back into us. Do you see this today about your life? If so, then won?t you invite Jesus into your heart?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 22, 2007