WHILE WE WAIT
By Craig Manners
14th July 2023
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?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
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’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply 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. 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. 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
I have been reading a book by Timothy Keller recently called “Ministries of Mercy – The Call of the Jericho Road”, and having started a new job as the CEO of a 55-year-old mercy ministry organization called Temcare, I have not surprisingly found the book thoroughly interesting and helpful.
Luke 10:25-37 is a very confronting passage of Scripture. One which is very familiar to many yet we always need its message afresh.
This is a passage which Tim Keller says changed his life, and was a big part of what drew him to move to New York City to begin the ministry with Redeemer Presbyterian Church, a ministry which will long continue to make a major impact on many people even though Keller recently departed for heaven.
Very briefly, to give us an extremely basic context, we see in chapters 1-9 that Luke is helping us understand who Jesus is. Then to around chapter 18 he is helping us understand what it means to follow Jesus.
We learn throughout these chapters that as followers of Christ we are to be Gospel messengers, to go forth and tell the world this amazing news of God’s free gift of new life, of salvation through Jesus. But here we also learn that there is a practical aspect to this. We are to demonstrate this Gospel through what we do, how we live. Through practically loving our neighbours.
The point in Luke here is that preaching the Gospel and demonstrating the fruit of the Gospel through acts of mercy go together. Every follower of Jesus is to go and do both, in fact they are both fruits of what has been done in our lives by Christ.
We love, through sharing the Gospel message and doing acts of mercy, because Christ first loved us, and performed an amazing act of mercy for us when we were dying on our Jericho Rd.
In V25 I think the expert in the law refers more to a religious scholar rather than a lawyer as we would think of a lawyer. He was trying to test or trap Jesus, “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” But Jesus, instead of answering the scholar’s question asks him a question back.
V26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
V27 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’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
V28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
The answer given is correct, but it is not so much a formula for salvation as a fruit of salvation Jesus is referring to. If you do this, even imperfectly in this life, it is because you are saved and therefore you have eternal life and will truly live.
Generally, a purpose of the law (the Old Testament law in the Bible known as the Ten Commandments), apart from its being an incredibly valuable and wise guide for living through this life and for achieving the best possible life, is to ultimately convict us of our need for salvation. It shows us that we cannot love this way, or fulfil the law, in our fallen state. It is impossible. But with God’s help we can go some way toward fulfilling it in this life, on our way to perfectly fulfilling it on the day of glorification, when we are in heaven.
V29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Now, was he genuinely interested in knowing the answer to this question, or was he more trying to minimize any potential obligation he may think he had to fulfil this law? The passage says he wanted to justify himself. He wasn’t really interested in the answer. He probably wanted to cross off a few categories of people who he didn’t want to help.
V30 Jesus answered this question by telling a story, or a parable, about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers.
Jerusalem, only 27 kms from Jericho, is 914 m above sea level while Jericho is 304 metres below sea level. The road descends dramatically through steep, rocky settings, which provided hiding places and easy escape routes for thieves along the way. In fact, it was called “the Bloody Way” due to the prevalence of such attacks.
The man in this parable was one such man, who came under attack at the hands of robbers, was stripped of his clothes, beaten, and left lying there half dead.
V31, 32 Two people passed by, a priest and then a Levite. Interestingly these two religious leaders were bound by religious duty to help people in need and yet they did not. We shouldn’t be too quick to judge them though, as we are very often no better.
Keller says they were smart men, as they would have realized that if the man was still alive, the robbers were probably not far away, and so their lives could therefore be at risk. They may well have justified their decision to pass by, maybe on religious grounds, that they were busy with important religious duties to attend to, or maybe by saying that “Well, the man is as good as dead, and I can’t touch a dead body otherwise I have to miss work for a few days.”
However, Jesus, in mentioning these religious leaders was making a statement that we do need to be on guard not to be like them. They had lots of religious knowledge but found ways to justify getting out of helping. Our problem is certainly not a lack of knowledge either.
Our main problem is more generally a lack of compassion. But trying to do these things out of duty only leads to more self-righteousness. The compassion has to come from what God does in our hearts. From the new heart and new spirit God gives His people (Ezek. 36:26).
It has to come from Christ as a result of what He has done for us. It can be a conscious cooperation though, as we try to be proactive in deed ministry. While we play no part in our salvation, we do play a part in our sanctification as we cooperate with God as He makes us holy over time. Doing good is a part of that.
V33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. The man from Samaria took a big risk in stopping , as he may also have known the robbers were most likely still nearby.
The man on the road was the Samaritan’s sworn enemy, a Jew. But he wasn’t operating as if there were certain categories of people who he wouldn’t help. He saw a human being in need.
A key word in this passage is the word compassion. This is what we need more of and should be praying for more of. It is like forgiveness, easy to say but difficult to live out.
One good way to cultivate a compassionate spirit is to put ourselves in the position of those we help. This is what Jesus did to the religious law expert in His parable by making the man on the Jericho Road a Jew, someone who the Jewish scholar could associate with, rather than having the Samaritan man as the one in need of help.
V34 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. This was comprehensive help, meeting a variety of needs: emergency medical attention, transportation, shelter, advocacy, financial assistance, and a follow-up visit.
It was confronting help, cleaning up and bandaging open wounds.
It was personally sacrificial help. The man from Samaria interrupted his schedule, he put the man on his transport, and he walked himself instead of riding.
V35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] 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.’
It was costly and generous help. Apart from the bandages, oil and wine, which was costly, he spent two denarii as a down payment. A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer. This would equate to approx. A$200 a day for us, so maybe 2 denarii would be like us helping someone out at a cost of around A$400. He additionally offers to reimburse the innkeeper for any other expenses.
V36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
V37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
V37 Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
“Go and do likewise.” Is a command from Jesus for His people, individually and as a church.
So, who is my neighbor? That is not really the issue is it. The religious expert who asked it was just trying to minimize his obligations, to get out of helping certain people. Jesus is clearly telling us it is anyone in need. There are no limits. Not just the so called “deserving” poor, as none of us is deserving, but anyone in need.
Since the Fall, human alienation from God has resulted in myriad social problems. All the bad stuff is as a result of the Fall. Natural disasters, famines, disease, disability, pride, selfishness, economic hardship, corruption, abortion, adultery, family breakdown, relationship problems, and all the consequences of these things.
Divorce for example has reached new highs, resulting in increased social, mental, and physical health issues, poverty and trauma rates for single fathers and mothers and especially for children.
Society deceives people into thinking that separation and divorce is the answer and will lead to a better life. With relatively few exceptions, it doesn’t. That is usually a lie. God makes it clear, in Malachi 2, that He hates divorce and for good reason, as it hurts everyone involved, especially the children. We see it all around us today.
Many social problems in our society are due to the misuse of God’s good gift of sex. Sex in marriage is good and good for us. Sex outside of marriage, and unfaithfulness and adultery in marriage, leads to many troubles.
Most often it is the children who suffer the most, and not just those children free to live out their lives, but the unborn, who increasingly fill the Jericho Roads throughout our own city of Melbourne. Although we can’t see them on the road, we know they exist and need our help. Their mums also need our help.
Every church should therefore be a place of refuge, a safe space, for these pregnant women and their babies. Every church is more than able to step up and provide care and support to encourage these women to have their babies and to become good mothers or to offer to adopt their babies. Every church should have a phone number and an email address on their sign offering this protection and support.
Often throughout history, when the State had lost its way, it was the churches which acted as a refuge for people in need. It is time to do so again.
The Jericho Rd is everywhere, our neighbours are everywhere. The soon to be aborted baby, the homeless, asylum seekers, children of prisoners (effectively orphaned by the State and left often without a breadwinner, and limited assistance). The elderly in our neigbourhood who need some help to mow their lawn, or need a meal or need transport to a medical appointment. The struggling single mother around the corner who needs someone to talk to and a food shop or hamper to help ends meet. The struggling divorced father who struggles deeply, often alone.
Wherever there is a need there is a neighbour for us to help.
The wrong type of, and delivery of, welfare has damaged vast numbers of lives, so obviously, we need to be wise in our efforts to help. We do not want to be naïve and foolish.
The decades of Western aid to Africa, has made little difference. Yet, governments, churches and individuals keep sending money and sea container loads of goods, most of which never ends up helping, or often even reaching, the intended poor.
When I was a boy, in Kalgoorlie, the local Wongi aboriginal people would come into town and come to our house selling their wooden items, such as boomerangs, woomeras, spears and other carved items. They would sit with us on the front verandah, and we would talk for ages. Very fond memories. But when the government introduced “free money” welfare for these beautiful people, they stopped working at making their products and stopped coming to our house.
But we also do not want caution to hold us back, nor should we put conditions on our help, at least initially, as God did not put conditions on us prior to His saving us. As Keller says, Christian aid is called mercy. It is not a reward! (Pg 94 MM)
What motivates us to want to do acts of mercy? We don’t have to do these things to receive salvation, otherwise it would be salvation by works, but “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64). And how many good works would be enough to get in?
The motivation can’t come from secular or religious “morality,” which works through guilt tripping people into doing good deeds.
There are nice feelings people get out of doing good, probably because we are made in the image of God, and that can motivate people to do good, but even that can become corrupt and is not the motivation Jesus is here referring to.
This parable is more a principle rather than a rule from Jesus. It is what is behind it that motivates us, not something done out of obligation to a set of rules, rather as Titus 2:14 tells us, when Jesus saved us He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14).
This is how the sheep are differentiated from the goats in (Matthew 25:31-46). The sheep are doing acts of mercy. What sort of acts? “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40).
So, let’s do good to help people in need knowing we are doing it for Jesus.
Matthew 7:17 tells us that “every good tree bears good fruit.” If the fruit of a tree is good it shows that the tree is alive, so too with our faith, according to James, who says that faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-26).
We could also ask ourselves: What if the man on the road was you? ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Jesus in this parable is giving us the dynamic of what it is that motivates Christian mercy ministry. We are the one on the Jericho road. We were Jesus’ enemies. He came, He saw us, He looked at us, saw that we were enemies, He helped us in our desperate situation, doomed to perish, He saved us. His grace and mercy toward us was so costly that He gave up His life to save us. We did not deserve it. His grace was freely given to us.
Jesus came to us on that road. He had compassion on us. He is our Good Samaritan. This is describing radical love that we need to have for everyone in need. This is big. You can see why it changed Tim Keller’s life and direction.
Our doing good is a response to, and the fruit of, Jesus doing good to us.
It is Jesus giving us a mandate, permission and encouragement to focus our attention, energy, resources, and time on ministries of mercy, on doing good deeds.
This is a call from Jesus to individual Christians, families, businesses, and whole congregations to look outward, to seek opportunities to help, be creative, be generous, lavish in doing good. To not hold back.
We are living on the Jericho Road, our church meets on the Jericho Road, we work on the Jericho Road. So, keep your eyes open for people in need and remember Jesus words in V37: “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus is our model. Like Jesus, we too care deeply for all human suffering, but especially eternal suffering, so our deeds need to be accompanied with the Gospel message.
We need to consciously and actively seek the good though. As John Piper helpfully says, we too are easily anesthetized by the comforts of the world.
We need to not let things like endless entertainment like Netflix, laziness, idleness dominate and rule over us. We need to aim to be formed by Scripture, not culture. Seek to be of use to people and our world. Aim to keep God supreme in our lives. This is where true peace, joy and satisfaction come from, not from Netflix, Stan. Disney+, hours spent on social media or other mind-numbing media.
In these culturally dark and lost times, maybe Christians in the West could just double-down and intentionally ramp up mercy ministry. While we wait for Heaven, lets aim to be as active as we can.
Combining deeds of mercy with evangelism and discipleship allows us to reach into our community, break down barriers and plant seeds of good in people’s lives. Healing a broken heart, a community, a nation.
We generally should be a people who aim to meet the needs of people around us, no matter who they are. Christians should be doing so much good in our community in so many ways that people not only notice but are confounded and confused by us.
With prayer and faith, this could cause a groundswell of change in our community, advancing the Gospel and God’s Kingdom.
In A.D. 361 Roman Emperor Julian, like Daniel Andrews today, was busy preaching and imposing paganism, and he noticed the Christians doing lots of mercy ministry in the Roman community and said, “It is disgraceful that…while the Christians support their own poor as well as ours, all men see that our own people lack aid from us”. (Keller, MM p87)
Throughout other periods of history, it has often been the Christians stepping up to help people. During plagues, famines, natural disasters, persecutions (such as against the Jewish people in WWII) and pandemics, and often putting themselves at risk to help people.
We are foreigners and strangers. Our days on earth are like a shadow and without hope. (I Chronicles 29:15) There is only one name under heaven by which mankind can find any hope, purpose, fulfilment and salvation: Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12) While we need to live out our days in this hopeless world, there is much meaning to be found in purposeful activity along the lines of that outlined by Jesus in the Bible.
So, let’s start that movement of mercy in response to the movement of death and chaos being spread around Australia and the West. Let’s take God seriously, and let’s love God and our fellow man. Be a true friend to others by speaking the truth.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands” (1 John 5:3) … such as: “to love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 19:19), “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27), “do good to all people” (Gal. 6:10), be a Good Samaritan (Luke 10:37), feed the hungry, provide for the needy, care for the sick, visit the prisoner (Matt. 25:35-36).
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” Psalm 146:7-9
Prayer: Father, please help us to be a neighbour to our neighbours in need. We know we need to change. I need to change. Please give us a greater measure of your Holy Spirit and fill us with a greater measure of compassion for others. Bring people in need across our paths and show us how to be like you. May this bring glory to you and advance your Kingdom. We know you have used small groups of people to do amazing things in the past. If it be your will, please use us likewise.
(Article taken from a message on Luke 10:25-37 titled “Confound the World with an Overflow of Mercy and Love” by Craig Manners at Belgrave Height Presbyterian Church on 18 June 2023)
Note from author: If you or anyone you know is in need please contact www.Temcare.org.au and we will try our best to assist you or refer you to other professional agencies.