Sunday, June 10, 2012

Luke 10:25-37 - The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan, James Tissot
Contextual Notes:
A major shift in Luke’s Gospel occurs at Luke 9:51 (and goes to Luke 18:14), as Jesus turns his attention from ministry in Galilee to a resolute focus towards Jerusalem and his coming suffering. Despite opposition (Luke 9:51-56), Jesus calls for personal sacrifice, even of family responsibilities, in order to concentrate completely on serving the Lord (Luke 9:57-62). Accordingly as Jesus moves toward Judea and Jerusalem, he sends 70 disciples ahead with a warning that God’s Kingdom is near (Luke 10:1-12). Despite his great sadness toward those who have rejected it (Luke 10:13-16), Jesus focuses his joy over those who have received salvation (Luke 10:17-24). Questioned by an expert in Torah, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to show the full extent of the Law’s demands of the believer. Authentic spiritual life is defined by love for God and others (Luke 10:25-37).

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 10:25-37 to teach believers to love the Lord and their neighbor.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about loving others.
Key Verse: Luke 10:27 – Love is primary and drives everything else.
Pray and Read:  Luke 10:25-37

Sermon Points:
1.   Love the Lord with all your heart  (Luke 10:25-28)
2.   Love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:29-37)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   One of the most remarkable features of Luke’s Travelogue (Luke 9:51-18:14) is the series of the most memorable parables in the NT, parables not recorded by the other Gospel writers.[1] The Good Samaritan is the first of these.
b.   Luke 10:25 – The expert in the law is literally a lawyer (nomikos[2]), essentially the same as a scribe (grammateus). Perhaps Luke prefers nomikos as more . He can do what less than 1 in 10 people can do. He can read the Scripture, so people rely on him for his interpretation. He stood up to test Jesus: Was his intention to enquire or to entrap? The construction seems to be a question meant to “try him out,”[3] to test his ability as a teacher,[4] but there is an element here that if Jesus stumbles with an awkward question, he would be able to turn to the crowd and point out that such matters should be left to professional people like him.[5] In His question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is the same question the rich young ruler will ask Jesus later (Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-22). Eternal life is taught throughout the OT, most clearly at Daniel 12:2.
c.   Luke 10:27 – Love the Lord: This lawyer seems to expect some new fangled doctrine from this miracle-working country preacher from Galilee. Jesus only gives him the Word of God. The same two OT texts (Lev 19:18; Deut 6:45) are called by Mark 12:28-34 as the first and second greatest commands.
d.   Luke 10:28 – You have answered correctly: Jesus is not talking salvation by works, but rather that authentic acts of love happen in an attitude of faith. Jesus has lovingly set up this man to expose to him his failure to love his neighbor truly. Just like the prophet of God’s Word Nathan confronted King David with his sin, here in reversal this Prophet-Priest-King, the Son and Lord of David, lovingly confronts this expert in God’s Word about the prideful sin of his own heart.
e.   APPLICATION: When the Lord confronts us with the reality of ourselves, he is being so kind and gracious to us to show us the truth so that we can repent and depend on him in faith to move forward.
a.   Luke 10:29 – Who is my neighbor? A neighbor was normally considered a fellow Jew (not a Samaritan or Gentile), but even this expert in the Torah should have known that Lev 19:34 extended neighbor to resident aliens living in Israel. APPLICATION: Perhaps that should confront us on the immigration issue in our own day. Justify himself: i.e., he wanted to regain some of the face he had just lost. The law expert had a clear grasp of the central teaching of the Torah. He was also aware of how he fell short of them.
b.   APPLICATION: When that realization dawns on someone, there are only three ways a person can react. (1) We can acknowledge we are sinners and appeal to God for mercy. (2) We can concentrate on the things we do well and pretend we do not fail in other things. (3) We can cut the Torah’s requirements down by reinterpreting them, so we can live up to what are lower standards. The scribe takes the third approach. He wanted to define neighbor in such a way that he could claim he had kept the commandment.
c.   Luke 10:30 – True story? Was Jesus telling a story of something that actually took place? That question is nearly as old as the NT. Some say so, but they have only conjecture to back it up. One does in fact go down the 21 miles in a rugged gorge to Jericho (800 feet below sea level) from Jerusalem (2500+ feet above sea level). It is also true that even today the modern road from Jerusalem down to Jericho, now in the Palestinian Authority, is infested with robbers.
d.   Luke 10:31 –Priests were from the Tribe of Levi, but specifically descendants of Aaron (Exod 28:1-3). Levi was one of Jacob’s sons, a tribe without a land allotment (Num 35:2-3; Deut 18:1; Josh 14:3; the Lord was their allotment). The priest would want to avoid contact with a possible corpse for fear of being ceremonially unclean (Num 19:11-19), but there is a problem. He is doing down to Jericho, not up to Jerusalem. He didn’t need to worry about ritual uncleanness. APPLICATION: Jesus’ point is that ordinary human compassion is a higher priority than ritual obligations, and Scripture upholds that (1 Sam 15:22: I desire mercy, not sacrifice; Isaiah 1:11-17; Amos 5:21-24; Mark 2:25-26, etc.)
e.   Luke 10:32 – A Levite, another Temple official, descended generally from Levi. At the Temple they assisted the priests (Num 18:4). He is just as callous or cowardly. Remember that Jesus and his disciples had just come through Samaritan territory and were not welcomed. What a lesson for James and John (Luke 9:51-56)! And for the Torah expert, who was probably a Levite and perhaps a priest (Lev 10:11; Deut 17:18). The priestly class were aristocrats with the attendant snobbery.
f.    Luke 10:33 – But a Samaritan: Samaritans were a real irritation to Jews. Descended from various tribes by Sargon II of Assyria when he repeopled Samaria after the fall of northern Israel in 722 BC, they were not really Jews by race. But they adopted Jewish forms of worship and read Torah. After the Exile, when the returning Jews refused their help in the rebuilding, the hard feelings increased, and the Samaritans desecrated the Temple with human bones. The ill-feeling persisted for centuries.
g.   Luke 10:34 – Oil and wine: Medications, oil for soothing and wine as a disinfectant (Isaiah 1:6). Without falling into the allegorizing errors of Origen and Augustine, there is more here to the value of the work of the Holy Spirit (symbolized elsewhere in Scripture by the oil) and the blood of Jesus (symbolized elsewhere in Scripture in the wine) to heal the broken spirit.
h.   Luke 10:35 – two silver coins: Two denarii, the daily wage of a farm laborer (Matt 20:2).
i.    Jesus’ story shocks his hearers. He defines neighbor in the most rigorous way. Jesus used this story to bring home to the Torah expert the challenge of the law of love and the condition of his own heart. Jesus taught him that any person in need is your neighbor, even if he is a member of a race that is a traditional enemy.
j.    ILLUSTRATION: The early church father Origen (AD 184-253) tells us about Celsus, a learned Roman opponent to Christianity, who thought the Christians’ love for people of all nations was peculiar. Celsus called their ethnic diversity “a manifestation that shows that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, [along] with women and children.” What Celsus regarded as a ridiculous weakness proved to be the unique strength of Christianity. It welcomed all races and classes, men and women, the downtrodden, the poor, the outcasts, and sinners. It elevated them spiritually, socially, morally, and financially, and it rapidly spread and in three centuries conquered the Roman Empire itself. A hallmark of Christianity is its love for all people, its ethnic diversity, its promotion of human dignity and social justice. Despite how the secularists and humanists and detractors of Christianity criticize it today, despite their claim to be the originators of truth, justice, and human dignity through their evolutionary enlightenment, Biblical Christianity which maintains an exclusivity on the person and work of Jesus Christ is the best example of loving one’s neighbor the world has ever seen.
Love for God and neighbor require unlimited commitment to meeting needs. A true neighbor is one who is willing to look past the differences that traditionally divide people and to love others unconditionally and without prejudice. This story speaks to Christ’s mission in the earth, to the Great Commission. We are called as a church to reach not just the people who are like us, but to everyone. To whom would God have you reach out today? To whom would God have us as a church reach out?

[1] The introductory dialogue has no real connection with Mark 12:28-31, 34 as some scholars suggest, except for quoting Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18. William Manson (p. 131) suggests the two verses are a standard formula. The two contexts are different as well as the attitudes of the questioners. The scribe in Mark is purely academic. Here is more practical.
[2] Nomikos is used only by Luke among the Synoptics except for Matt 22:35 where some manuscripts omit it.
[3] Leany, 182.
[4] Plummer, 284.
[5] Moorman, 126. William Manson, Browning, et. al. have similar view.