So that completes our bird’s eye view of the life of Jesus. Now with that as the context, I think we are ready to tackle the parable of the Good Samaritan. Let’s read the text. Luke 10:25-37.
Tying in the bird eye’s view of Jesus’ life, I want to end with 4 brief observations. And in these 4 observations, I want to contrast a religious life from Jesus’ life. Another way to put it, I want to contrast a life of religion with a life of love.
1) Religion is about what you know. Love is about what you do.
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?”
An expert in the law comes to Jesus. He knows the Old Testament law backward and forward. And he asks a rather simple question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? In other words, how can I be saved? Jesus doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he turns the table and asks the expert in the law in v26–
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
And the expert in the law answers in the next verse–
27 He 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.”
Notice that the expert in the law knows the right answer. He cites the Great Commandment. But listen to what Jesus says next. Jesus doesn’t say, yes, you got the right answer. Keep meditating on the Great Commandment. Go to seminary to learn more about it means in the original language. Memorize it. Teach it to others. Pray about it. No, he says, v28–do this and you will live. There is world of difference between what one who believes intellectually, yes, I believe I am a sinner, yes, I believe in God, yes, I pray and I read the Bible, there is a world of difference between right doctrine and right action.
And as we will find, it’s not that right actions save us. We can’t be saved through works. However, right actions serve as evidence that we are saved. Do this, live a life of love. Then, you will inherit eternal life.
It is not enough to know the right answers. The expert in the law knew the right answer. Satan knows that Jesus is the Son of God. The issue is living out the right answer. Can you carry out what you know to be true, a life of love? That’s the issue. What does living a life of love look like? This brings me to the second point.
2) Religion is reasonable and it doesn’t cost much. Love is full of interruptions and it’s costly.
Jesus begins to describe a life of love by giving this parable of the Good Samaritan. In v30, we read about a nameless man who is mugged and left for dead on the side of the road.
Then, reading on in v31–
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Two men encounter the half dead man prior to the Good Samaritan finding him. The first one is a priest and the second one is a Levite, who is also in the priestly line. So 2 religious people passed by this half dead man on the side of the road.
We know that the loving thing to do would have been to stop and care for him. But why didn’t they? Why don’t we? It doesn’t say, but I can offer some speculation. These religious people in the story were busy. They had places to go, people to meet, appointments to keep. Plus, this half dead man was bleeding. He was ceremonially unclean. I don’t have time to deal with this. Religion is about being in control and keeping things in order. Everything in moderation. It’s reasonable to live for your career. It’s reasonable to look out for yourself and maybe your family. It’s reasonable to always shoot for the best that the world has to offer. The best education. The best neighborhoods, with the best houses and driving the best cars. That’s a good use of one’s potential. Oh, did I mention, I attend church, I tithe a few bucks, I give donations to special causes. Let me just tack on Christianity to the end of my life. Religion is reasonable. You can live your life religiously in such a way that following Jesus doesn’t cost you much.
Do you think it was a coincidence that the first two people who encountered this half dead man were religious people? Of course not! Jesus, the master teacher, was obviously giving a not-so-subtle nudge for the expert in the law to look in the mirror. The message is clear–although you have the right knowledge, you are not doing it. You have head knowledge, but your heart knows nothing about love. Your heart is dead.
The first 2 characters, religious guys, passed by this half dead man. But there’s a third character in this story who was loving toward this nameless stranger. v33–
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He 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. 35 The 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.’
If religion is reasonable and it doesn’t cost much, then a life of love is full of interruptions and it’s costly. Think back to the context. The bird’s eye view as we looked at the life of Jesus, the ultimate example of a life of love. His life was full of interruptions. Totally unreasonable. He rarely had a moment of peace unless he woke up early before anyone else was awake and he could go away to pray in solitary places. He was repeatedly stalked by crowds who wanted food or needed to be healed. He was constantly dealing with disciples who just didn’t get it. Instead of becoming loving people, the disciples wanted to send the crowds away and rain down fire from heaven.
If you took Jesus’ schedule at face value, you would conclude that his life was rather chaotic. Full of interruptions. When you are single, there are not too many interruptions because mainly you are concerned with yourself. Then, you get married and life gets a bit more complicated. Life is more inconvenient because you have to consider the needs of your spouse. But at least your spouse is a grown-up. He/she can take care of themselves. Wait until you have kids. Then, you realize, a life of love is not reasonable. It’s not something we can control. It is chaos. When your child goes down at 8:30pm, you don’t stop being a parent. If one of the kids wakes up in the middle of the night with the stomach flu, one of you is going to have to wake up and change the sheets. Love is not like work where you can clock in and clock out. Love is a 24×7 life of interruptions. How much more when it’s not just my life, when it’s not just my family, but you factor in a church? What if on top of the existing members of your church, you happen to be at a church that is constantly meeting strangers and making disciples. Love is a life of interruptions.
It’s also costly. In v33-35, we see that the choice the Good Samaritan made to love this half dead man cost him time. He was traveling somewhere. He was on his way to some destination. But he put his plans on hold and spent time with this man. First, he stopped and came to where the man was. And he had pity, but it didn’t stop with an emotion. Many of us cry when we see someone suffering in a movie and we equate those tears and emotions with love. I must be a loving person. From this passage, we see that love is not an emotion. It is not enough to have pity. Love is an action.
It cost him time. He put his plans on hold. He bandaged his wounds. And it cost him money. He took him to an inn. He paid out of his own pocket.
Religion is formulaic. Stick to rules and schedules and traditions. Religion is reasonable and it doesn’t cost much. Love, on the other hand, is not a formula. Love is unpredictable. A life of love is full of interruptions, and it’s costly.