Family Bible Study lesson for April 29: Being a neighbor
April 6 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , Luke 10:25-37

Family Bible Study lesson for April 29: Being a neighbor | Friday, April 6, 2001

Friday, April 6, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for April 29: Being a neighbor

By William (Mac) McElrath Luke 10:25-37 Remember the old expression about "gilding the lily?" Writing a commentary on passages of scripture is like that. Who could possibly clarify, expand or improve on Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan? Yet the most familiar and beloved passages sometimes need the most careful study. Lilies bloom every year. We tend to forget how bright their colors are. Try looking at them this spring through the eyes of a little child who is discovering them for the first time.

Important questions (Luke 10:25-29) An expert in Jewish law once asked Jesus a question that emphasized doing. In effect, he said (v. 25): "By the doing of what great deeds shall I earn the right to inherit eternal life?" His approach was legalistic; his motives were dubious, for he "stood up to test" Jesus.

How like Jesus to answer a question with a question! His implication was, "You, a legal expert, have posed a legal question; now render your own legal opinion" (v. 26).

It's hard to see how the lawyer could have answered any better than he did. The two verses he quoted (v. 28) represent a high watermark in Old Testament thought.

Jesus congratulated the lawyer (v. 28), but also put him on the defensive by challenging him with the humanly impossible task of always obeying those two greatest commandments. That's why the lawyer started looking for a loophole (v. 29). Surely there was some way to narrow God's demand that he love his neighbors! So he asked another question.

Callous indifference (Luke 10:30-32) How like Jesus to tell a story instead of giving a cut-and-dried answer! He spoke of things his hearers would have known well. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho dips 3,400 feet in 17 miles; it was notorious as a haunt of highway robbers. Many priests and Levites lived in Jericho, so they often traveled that road. The road lay near the borders of Samaria, even though Jews hated Samaritans and vice versa. A single Roman government ruled them all, so there was freedom of passage.

The priest and the Levite stand as stark word-pictures of people who get so busy being religious that they forget about the needs of others. Is there a bit of the priest and the Levite in each one of us?

Compassionate action (Luke 10:33-35) The last person that unfortunate Jewish traveler would have hoped to receive help from was a Samaritan. Who would you put in his place if you would make Jesus' story ring true for today? Someone of a different race? Of a different language or lifestyle? Of a different social or economic status?

Notice the utter extravagance of the Samaritan's response: He went far beyond the call of duty. Do any of us ever do only our duty toward ourselves? Do we ever look in the mirror and wonder, "How much should I do today to help you?" If the Samaritan had been the one robbed and beaten, would he have stopped to consider whether he owed it to himself to drag his aching body all the way to the inn? No and neither did he stop to consider how far he ought to go in helping a wounded Jew. Thus he became the perfect human example of loving a neighbor as much as he loved himself.

Divine command (Luke 10:36-37) Jesus' story had begun with a question. It also ended with a question. Note, however, that the two questions are not the same. The lawyer had asked, "Who is my neighbor?" The implication behind Jesus' question at the climax of the story is "To whom should I be a neighbor?"

In answering that climactic question, the expert in Jewish law apparently could not bring himself to speak the hated word, "Samaritan." Instead, like any skilled lawyer, he beat around the bush with legal terminology. But he got the point all right. Jesus drove it home by commanding, "Go, and do continually as he did!"

Indonesians of Chinese descent are generally hard working people who have garnered a bit more of this world's goods than non-Chinese Indonesians. As you might expect, this doesn't always make for good relations with their neighbors.

A few years ago two talented Christians produced a modern Indonesian version, in comic-book form, of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Are you surprised that they turned the kindhearted traveler into an old fat Chinese merchant?

Suppose you were preparing a new version for here and now: whom would you put into Jesus' timeless story?

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4/6/2001 12:00:00 AM by William (Mac) McElrath , Luke 10:25-37 | with 0 comments
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