…Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii 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.’
‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
This is the final study in the series on the parable of the Good Samaritan. And so we will look at the words of Jesus at the end of this passage of scripture.
Having looked in a lot of detail at many things in this passage of scripture, we are left with some very simple words and a challenge: go and do likewise.
I have said on a number of occasions that Jesus was very practical in his approach. And this also reflected the people he was living among in his day. People did not come and ask Jesus, “What must I believe to be saved?” They also did not ask, “What understanding should I have about these scriptures to be saved?”
The important question always was: “What must I do to be saved?”
And not once do I see a reply along the lines of: “You need to understand these scriptures to be saved.” (Although you could say that this is implied to some degree in the whole passage about the Good Samaritan, and, indeed, in the early parts of the Sermon on the Mount.) I also do not see Jesus saying, “You need to believe these doctrines to be saved.”
He always had answers like today’s “Go and do likewise.” Or, “Do these things and you will be saved.”
For the pedantic among you, (and, bless you, I used to be one of you) you can interchange “to be saved” with “to receive eternal life” with any of these statements.
When approaching Jesus with questions, you would certainly find yourself learning more than the question you were asking. It is interesting to do a study of the times when different people came to ask Jesus questions.
- He would often reply with a parable, or with questions of his own.
- He would challenge the motives for the question.
- He would bring into question (as he was partly doing in the passage of scripture we have been studying) a person’s loyalties.
- He would draw out the tendency to literalism, which is something easy to fall into when having a closer relationship with the written scriptures that with a living God.
- He would always challenge legalism, because it has the tendency to obscure the nature of God as our Father, and instead present to the world only a god of wrath and judgement who looks for the slightest opportunity to crush a human being like an annoying bug.
In fact, to pause there for a moment, it is worth thinking about that for a moment. Facebook can be a distressing place for those who have a close walk with the Lord, and who know his love and his mercy. You can quickly find that another, professing to be a Christian, jumps on to the least thing you say, then proving it is not scriptural and then declaring that you are going to hell, or that you are full of deceiving demons, or leading people astray and so their blood will be on your hands…
And then sometimes you do not need to be on Facebook, but merely attending a Sunday service, and then after the service notice the turning heads and the wagging tongues and the disapproving looks. Gossip and rumour can begin from absolutely nothing, or a totally innocent remark. Before you know it, you are not invited to any homes any more and these little groups are noticed gossiping together while casting cold looks in your direction. And sooner or later one or more will not be able to resist approaching you to “tell you the truth in love.”
Oh, if ever I wished that one scripture was not in the bible, it was that one about ‘telling the truth in love.’ People associate it with the right to judge the actions or beliefs of another. Something that Jesus makes very clear, in the Sermon on the Mount and in other places, that we are not to do – only with the possible exception of false prophets (which is what ‘by their fruits’ is about when taken in context). And what truth? That there is some sin in a person’s life?
Let me be clear here: gossiping and ‘telling the truth in love’ kills the spirit of the person who is the subject of this satanic attack (and both these sins – yes they are indeed sin – show their satanic nature in the results that follow, which never never glorify Jesus).
It can be compared to the (male) mob that was eager to stone an adulteress to death (why not the adulterer?). Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” And, of course, no-one is without sin. I like this story, because it also places sin on a level playing-field. Sin is sin. It does not come from god, this idea that some sins are worse than others. That is human thinking, and it is encouraged by the enemy – because it can cause suffering and division and the sin of judging.
One can also think of the parable in the Sermon on the Mount – to rid yourself of the log in your own eye before trying to remove the speck of dust from someone else’s eye. Simply put, how dare you judge when you are still with sin in your own life, and that one quality of sin is to impair the way you see things, to impair your judgement?
‘Telling the truth in love’ is almost never about the truth, and it is certainly never an act of love.
Let me tell you how to tell the truth in love: preach the gospel! This is certainly the truth, and it is certainly loving to be able to share this truth. But even here there is a proviso or two…
For instance, if the person who hears the words has suffered acts of hatred or of bigotry or of cruelty or of shunning, or any such thing – either from you or anyone in the church that you are a member of – then their hearts will be hardened against you and the gospel that you preach. To then claim that this is ‘their problem’ and not yours is to deny love to them and live inside of a lie. To claim that god hardened their heart because of their sin is also a lie – because you have sin in your own life and you were not hardened to the same gospel.
Go and do likewise – these are the words of Jesus. And this referred specifically to the second love commandment: to love your neighbour as yourself. And the parable of the Good Samaritan showed that the neighbour could be someone outside of your system of beliefs. It can be someone that ‘everyone knows is wrong and in sin and of the enemy.’ It can be someone from a different political persuasion, or from a different tribe or different people. In fact, it could be anyone who you cross paths with on your journey of life.
The Samaritan did not know who the injured man was. The man was naked and half-dead. That was all that mattered to him.
The Jews had made themselves enemies of the Samaritans. Although they lived together in the same land, there was great racial tension (despite the fact that Samaritans were mostly Hebrews of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh). This tension often became violent. But the Samaritan did not think of the possibility that the man who was injured could have been a Jew who hated him. He did not have bitterness in his heart and so require that the man be someone who ‘deserved help’ first. He just saw the desperate state of the person, that he required help, and did all he could to give that help.
And how different that is to us today. We deny love and the simplest things of compassion and humanity to those we think ‘are not worthy of it.’ And so fall short of what is required in the second love commandment.
What groups of people would you deny acts of love and compassion? I am serious here, because most of us reach adult life with these prejudices!
I like to think that I have brought all my prejudices to the cross and so be willing to be as universal in the obedience to this commandment as Jesus implies. But we all reach adult life with some prejudices and so there would be some people that we find it very difficult, if not impossible, to show this love and care towards.
Is it gay people (including lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and all the other ingredients of this sector of society)? Is is people of a different colour? Is it a particular racial or national group? Is it prostitutes? Is it homeless people? Is it people of a certain political persuasion? Is it former prison inmates? Is it ugly people?
Let me tell you what nearly all of you already know: whichever group of people you have a discrimination against or some kind of difficulty with – Jesus died for them. He loved them enough with a sufficiently strong passion that he gave up his life to the death of the cross for them.
That gay person? Even if that person was the only human on earth who needed the sacrifice of Jesus, He would still have gone to the cross for them. The same for that person of different skin colour. The same for the former prison inmate. The same for that person on the sexual offences register. And whoever else you come across in life.
This is not about beliefs. It is not about doctrine.
It is about you and what you are prepared to do.
Jesus was concerned about what you do – what you will put into practise. And, for sure, he expected this to arise in you as a result of being the child of the Father (I would refer you to the studies on the Sermon on the Mount in this regard, especially the studies on chapter 5 of Matthew). The more you are a child of the Father, in that loving family relationship with Him, the more the qualities will grow in you that reveal your parentage (as being a child of the Father).
So – what if you are known for your judgement, for your legalism, for your ‘correctness’, for the way you ‘come out’ and separate yourself from others? OK, you reveal which family you are in and your parentage. You are following your father: the accuser. Do I really need to spell out who this is? And how he is also known as the father of lies?
As a son or daughter of The Father of heaven, there will be very different qualities. Some of them you can read in the Beatitudes. But certainly you will be someone able, increasingly, to put into practise in your own life all of the 3 love commandments as taught by Jesus. And you will not exclude anybody from the effect of these.
And love, as I have said before, is the key that can unlock the hardest of hearts to the message of the gospel.