Love for neighbor is when you love others practically the same way you love yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of this half dead man. What if that was you? You were traveling and out of nowhere you got mugged, beaten up and that was you bleeding on the side of the road. How would you want to be treated? Wouldn’t you want to be treated just like the Samaritan treated this half dead man? That’s the point. Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF. Love others and treat them and care for them the same way you want to be treated. You love yourself, right? I love myself. If I’m hungry, I feed yourself. If I am cold, I put on a jacket. If I am tired, I go to sleep.
If you were that half dead man on the side of the road, and you’re the one who’s dying, then what can you do? You can’t do anything to help yourself. You’re in serious trouble. And because you can’t help yourself, you are at the mercy of someone else. You will die unless someone steps in and intervenes to show you mercy.
Mercy is the highest form of love for neighbor. The question asked at the outset of this Good Samaritan parable was, who is my neighbor? Did you notice–Jesus doesn’t answer that question?. Instead of answering this question, Jesus, as he often does, changes the question. v36 – he changes the question from, who is my neighbor, to–which of these three do you think WAS a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?
Important difference. It’s not important who your neighbor is. It’s not important to define boundaries and put people within those boundaries. It is not important to look at only your friends and family, those who are nearby in terms of proximity and blood lines and natural human affections. It’s far more important that YOU are the kind of neighbor described in this passage.
How does Jesus define neighbor? A neighbor is someone who 1) had pity (v33) and 2) showed mercy (v37).
Pity is a start. It’s an emotion. This is much better than crossing over on the other side because you don’t want to look at this half dead man in the face. Because if you got too close, your heart might be stirred. So if you left the scene, and, by your inaction, you condemn this man to die, guess what? His blood will be on your hands. You’d feel guilt. So pity is a great start because at the very least our heart is engaged.
But this Samaritan didn’t stop at pity. He SHOWED mercy. Mercy is not a feeling. It’s an action. The lawyer got the right answer (v37). The one who had mercy, the one who showed mercy, the one who demonstrated mercy by his actions, he was a neighbor to this half dead man. If having the right answer was enough, then we’d all be fine. You hear the sermon. You got the main points. Think about it. Pray about it. Write it down in your journal. Then, come back next Sunday for more information. Having the right theology is not enough. Knowing the Bible well is insufficient. Jesus doesn’t say, great job, your knowledge is perfect. Go and teach others. He says, latter half of v37, go and DO likewise. Mercy is an action.
To wrap up, we talked about how our love for neighbor is an indicator of our love for God. Love for neighbor is no guarantee that we love God. But clearly, NOT loving neighbor is a guarantee that we don’t love God. If the love of God is in us, then love will overflow to neighbors.
In addition, we learned 6 things from this text of what a loving neighbor looks like.
1) A loving neighbor places no boundaries of who he loves and who he doesn’t.
2) A loving neighbor expects his life to be filled with constant interruption.
3) A loving neighbor is willing to get his hands dirty.
4) A loving neighbor is willing to go the extra mile.
5) A loving neighbor loves others practically the same way he loves himself.
6) Lastly, a loving neighbor shows mercy.
That’s quite a list. It’s overwhelming. How can you and I live like this? This is impossible. Why couldn’t Jesus say, go and meditate on this parable? Go and pray before your meals? Those are easy. We can do that. But this? He wants us to love like THIS, to be this kind of neighbor to others, to love others as ourselves, the same way we would want others to love us if we were that half dead man. It’s impossible.
It is impossible UNLESS you understand that you and I were that half dead man, half dead woman, spiritually speaking. You don’t have to put ourselves in the shoes of this half dead man because this parable is a picture of who we were before we met Christ. We were sinners. Cut off from God with no chance to be reconciled to him. We were dead in our sins. Until Jesus, our Good Samaritan, came and died on a cross for your sins and mine. He bandaged us. Dressed our wounds. His wine was poured, symbolizing His blood being shed. He poured His oil, the Spirit, into our lives. We were born again of the Spirit. Jesus, our Good Samaritan, took us to an inn, the church. Where we can heal and recover. Like the Jews and the Samaritans who were mortal enemies, Jesus showed mercy to us while we were still enemies of God.
This parable is a re-enactment of the gospel. It’s the gospel told in parable form, through the words of Jesus himself, the master Storyteller. We are recipients of mercy. Then and only then, as recipients of this mercy, can we extend mercy to others. I pray that our church can grow in our love for others as we marvel at the love and mercy shown to us by God in Christ.