Colossians 1:1-14 and Luke 10:25-37
We read in Luke 10:25-28, On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jeus replied. “How do you read it?” 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.”
I found a little illustration of a not so good neighbor and an elderly woman who didn’t take any guff from him. Have you heard the story about the elderly woman who lived in a small town in East Texas? She had car trouble on the way to the supermarket one morning. Her car stalled at a stop sign, and she tried everything to get her car started again, but no luck. Suddenly, a man in a pick-up truck came up behind her and with obvious agitation he started honking his horn at her impatiently. She doubled her efforts to get her car going. She pumped the gas, turned the ignition, but still no luck. The man in the pick-up truck continued to honk his horn constantly and loudly. As I said this elderly woman didn’t take any guff from this man. Very calmly she got out of her car, walked back to the pick-up and motioned for the man to lower his window and then politely she said: “I’ll make a deal with you. If you will start my car for me, I’ll be happy to honk your horn for you!”
Now, that is what you call, not taking any guff, that man was acting foolishly and the elderly woman wasn’t having any of that, she rose to the occasion and took that man to task!
That is precisely what Jesus does here in Luke 10. The lawyer was “testing” Jesus, honking his horn loudly. He was trying to trap Jesus and trip Him up with a loaded question, but Jesus (as He so often did) rose to the occasion and passed the test with flying colors. In so doing, He reminded the people back then (and us today) of what the main thing in the Christian faith is. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s sometimes really hard to love the people God puts into our lives. Slurs and hateful language fill the air. Bullies push people around on playgrounds and in workplaces. Drivers cut you off and then make obscene gestures. What in the world can you do? Be kind. If we call ourselves Christians, naming ourselves after Christ, we must love our neighbor as we love our self.
We talked about this in our Tuesday women’s Bible study at the Christian Centre. If you are not comfortable with who you are, if you do not take care of yourself; your physical, mental and spiritual health, you cannot care for anyone else. If you do not like yourself, you are not going to like others or care about them. We have to find our real, authentic self before we can be willing to help others in a caring way.
The question had been asked and the answer given. You would think that the man would be pleased and go home. But lawyers are never happy. A lawyer’s responsibility is to define the limits of liability. In Luke 10:29 we read, “But he, wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor.” In other words, where does my responsibility stop? Who exactly am I responsible for?”
At this point, instead of further defining the question, Jesus tells a story. A way of indirect teaching. I think people learn best when we tell them a story.
The good Samaritan story, one of the world’s best known acts of kindness is found in our Gospel lesson for today. I hope it’s a familiar story to all of us. It was a story that Jesus told about a man who was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he fell among thieves who robbed him, stripped him, beat him and left him for dead.
Bible scholar William Barclay notes that this kind of thing frequently happened on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The road was notoriously dangerous for travelers. Jerusalem is set on a hill which is 2,300 feet above sea level. The Dead Sea, which is located near Jericho, is 1,300 feet below sea level. Being situated near the Dead Sea makes Jericho about the lowest city on earth. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho descended that 3,600 feet in little more than 20 miles. It was a road of sharp turns and narrow passageways, which provided several excellent lurking places for thieves and bandits. *
Fortunately, the road was well traveled, so it wasn’t long until a priest happened by. Unfortunately, the priest glimpsed at the broken and bleeding body lying there by the side of the road and hurried by on the other side. Let’s give the priest a break. Let’s assume he thought the man was dead. Priests were forbidden by the Jewish law from touching a dead body. Dead bodies were ceremonially unclean.
Likewise, a Levite, when he saw the man, passed by on the other side. Levites were under the same prohibition concerning dead bodies as were priests. But there was a certain Samaritan, that is all we know about him, a certain Samaritan who, coming upon the man, had compassion on him. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and he placed the beaten man on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day when he needed to be moving on, this Samaritan went to the innkeeper, took money out of his own pocket and gave it to the innkeeper saying, “Take care of this man, and if this isn’t enough, I will give you more when I return.”
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most famous stories in all of literature. Jesus told this story in response to a lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” That is a question that still haunts us today.
Are illegal immigrants our neighbors? Are people who are starving in remote sections of our earth our neighbors? Luke tells us that the lawyer asking this question did so “seeking to justify himself.” We ask the same thing—also seeking to justify ourselves.
As followers of Jesus we know that the obvious answer to this question is, “Anybody who needs your help is your neighbor.” But that’s a lot of people! Where do we start? We start one person at a time.
In October of 2015 Reader’s Digest carried an article that featured 24 stories about what the editor called “the touching kindness of strangers.” One story was titled “The Man at the Market.” It was contributed by Leslie Wagner from Peel, Arkansas.
Ms. Wagner told of being in a supermarket one time. When she checked out, the clerk tallied up her groceries. Much to Ms. Wagner’s surprise she discovered that her bill was $12 over what she had in her purse. With embarrassment she began to remove items from the bags in her cart. Quite to her surprise another shopper saw her predicament and handed her a $20 bill. Embarrassed, Wagner said to the person making this generous offer, “Please don’t put yourself out.”
“Let me tell you a story,” said this kind person, (we are not told his name either). “My mother is in the hospital with cancer. I visit her every day and bring her flowers. I went this morning, and she got mad at me for spending my money on more flowers. She demanded that I do something else with that money. So, here, please accept this. It is my mother’s flowers.” **
Gratefully, Leslie did accept the gift of money.
What a thoughtful act. We are always touched when we see one person do something kind for someone else. It gives both the giver and the recipient a good feeling. In fact, it’s a wonder more of us don’t perform numerous acts of kindness for one another just so we can experience the good feeling it gives us. But is that a good reason to be kind? I think a better reason is that Jesus tells us to.
In Colossians 1:3, we read Paul writing to the church in Colosse, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”
The truth of the gospel, when we understand it, should make us kinder, more compassionate people. We should be living out the fruits of the Holy Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” If these fruits of the Holy Spirit are not evident in our life, we are not understanding the gospel.
Two women were sitting in church. One woman said to the other, “I’ve always wished that God would touch me, but I suppose that’s too much to ask.”
The other woman replied, “That sounds like a reasonable desire. Have you prayed about it?” “Well, no. Of course not.” “Why not? There’s certainly nothing wrong with a prayer like that. You should pray about it.” “All right. Maybe I will sometime.” “Not now. Maybe sometime.”
“What better place to pray than here in the Lord’s house?” Thus persuaded, the woman reluctantly folded her hands, bowed her head and closed her eyes in prayer, asking that God would touch her. About ten seconds later the other woman gently laid her hand on the folded hands of the friend at prayer. She responded as most of us would do. She jumped and said, “He did it! He touched me.” Then, after a moment’s thought “But that felt an awful lot like your hand.”
“It was my hand,” her friend replied. Disappointment was on the other face. “And I thought God had touched me.” “He did touch you. How do you think God touches people? That he comes down like a fog blanket or a pillar of fire? When God touches people, he takes the nearest human hand and uses that.”
That sounds good, doesn’t it? And it’s almost right. She left out one word. When God touches people, he takes the nearest willing human hand and uses that. The Gospel for today is a case in point.
About ten years ago, in California a small boy accidentally fell into an abandoned mine shaft. His playmate ran for help. Rescue workers moved in by the dozens. Heavy equipment was brought in and tons of dirt were moved. Finally, after two days and nights of digging, the rescue operation was completed. The little boy was rescued and appeared to be in excellent condition.
When asked about his condition, his mother said, “Well, he was very hungry and very dirty.” After a night in the local hospital, he was sent home.
A couple of days later he persuaded his father to take him back to the place where the accident had happened. The little boy was shocked! He saw a mountain of dirt that had been removed by all the heavy equipment. He looked up at his father and said, “Daddy, do you mean they did all of that for me?”
His father hugged him tightly and with tears said, “Yes, son, all this was done to save you. That’s what Christ and the cross means to us. Jesus did all that for us.”
Through His love, through the Grace of God, we’ve been rescued. That’s part of our inheritance as Christ-followers, and all we have to do is claim it. ***
Since we’ve been rescued by Jesus Christ by His sacrifice on the cross, shouldn’t we stop and help our neighbor, whoever they are? I believe we should, do you?
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: *The Parables of Jesus (The William Barclay Library, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation), p.79.
***The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651;
970-785-2990), September 1996 ALL THIS FOR ME, By Dr. Leonard E. Stadler