Today’s blog may feel a little bit different than recent posts, as there’s a lot of scripture that we’re going to cover. A question gets raised in chapter ten of Luke that I think is really critical for all of us who are hoping to walk according to the biblical standard of a man or woman of God. The question is posed to Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” To understand why it was asked, we need to look at the verses that come before it.
Luke 10:25-29 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
So, a couple of things here. Firstly, it’s never a bright idea to try to “test” Jesus. This guy was doing what so many other religious leaders were doing at the time, trying to stump Jesus and prove that He wasn’t the authority that everyone was saying that he was. Second, so far, this guy’s dead on. As far as what his interpretation is of what the two most important commandments are and how to inherit eternal life, the guy had it right. Look at what Jesus himself said in the book of Mark.
Mark 12:29-31 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
So as we return to the book of Luke, you see that the question that is raised isn’t if the guy had the two important commandments correct, it was deeper than that. Love your neighbor as yourself? Well, who qualifies as my neighbor? Jesus answered as he so often did, with a story.
Luke 10:30-37 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
You’ll notice in the story that Jesus referred to the Samaritan as a “despised” Samaritan, and that’s because the Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other one bit. There’s a point in the book of John when Jesus is interacting with a Samaritan woman and she’s shocked that he’s even speaking to her because Jews and Samaritans just didn’t interact. Jesus was very deliberate with his stories, he chose a Samaritan for this example to show just how far the term “neighbor” stretched. A neighbor isn’t just the person next door, and it’s not just the person three streets over, and it’s not even just the persons that you are on friendly terms with. In a sense, Jesus answered the question by saying that everyone is your neighbor. Even the “despised” Samaritans.
It’s important to have this definition in your heart. Jesus tells us that two commandments matter above all else. Love God with everything we have and everything we are, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And through this story you now know, your neighbors are everyone. Friend, enemy, the person next door, the person in a neighboring nation, all of them. They are all our neighbors, and thus we should treat them accordingly.
But, there’s something else really important here. Look at the exact way that Jesus closed out his interaction with this man.
Luke 10:37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Jesus doesn’t just answer the question of “who is my neighbor”, does he? What he actually does is turn this entire situation into a commission for this man to carry out ridiculous love and kindness to other people. Jesus is an action kind of a King. We don’t just “join” him, we “follow” him. It seems very fitting that the answer to “who is my neighbor” was ultimately an encouragement to go out and love people above and beyond what they’re used to being loved. Because after all, that’s the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus loves us so far beyond what we’re used to, dying for us so that we may live forever. Don’t just go tell people about the good news, go show them what it looks like in action. The easy ones and the tough ones, the friends and the enemies, the close and the far away. They are your neighbors, after all.
Another week is upon us. I love all of you, I hope everyone is enjoying this long study of the book of Luke. I’m so encouraged by the depth of the Bible, how you can dive so far and so deep into a book or even a single scripture and pull out so much wisdom and guidance. I hope everyone is having a great Monday!
If you have any prayer requests or just need someone to talk to, my email is always open to you at firstname.lastname@example.org