"Show and Tell."
August 3, 2022, 4:59 PM

“Show and Tell.”

Luke 10:25-37

This is one of the most well-known teachings of Jesus. It is so familiar that the term “Good Samaritan” has made its way into our language as a common phrase. It now means to do something nice or good for someone else, especially strangers. This was not the way it was used by Jesus though. In fact, the Samaritan in the story isn’t called “good” anywhere in Jesus’ teaching. He is called merciful though. This parable would have been scandalous at the time. No respectable Jewish teacher would have ever used a Samaritan as the hero of the story. Jews and Samaritans hated each other. It was centuries old hatred too. They wouldn’t talk to each other and considered each other bitter enemies. To put this in a modern context, think of having this parable told in France during World War 2 and having the hero of the story be a German soldier and the wounded man a French soldier. No one in France in WWII would have considered a German soldier a hero!

Jesus intentionally pushed the boundaries. His intention was to break down barriers: social, ethnic, and political. Human beings tend to divide. Sin drives us to break relationships. Sin causes us to divide into “us” and “them.” This happens politically, socio-economically, ethnically, and even in small ways like music or region of the country we are from. Human beings divide ourselves and tend to think of people like us as our neighbors. People who are different are often judged as not worthy of our time, effort, or love. The expert in the law wanted clarification of who his neighbor was. The text tells us he was “trying to justify himself” by asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” He was trying to make the demands of God’s law easier! He wanted a narrow definition of neighbor.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about this passage of Scripture in the speech he delivered the day before he died. It has become known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech. In this speech given to sanitation workers on strike, he talks about how throughout Christian history many have tried to figure out the motives of the priest and Levite for not stopping. Maybe it was religious law, or maybe it was just fear. Perhaps they assumed it was a trap set by robbers. King wrote, “And so the first question the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by, and reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

King illustrates what was happening in this story beautifully. King saw the breaking of social biases in Jesus’ teaching, preaching, healing, and outreach. By using this story, Jesus is illustrating that our definition of neighbor is often too narrow, and it will no longer suffice. The boundaries that sinful human beings had built were being broken down and redefined in the kingdom of God that Christ had come to usher in. The expert in the law asked, “Who is my neighbor?” to make himself look good. Jesus told the story of the Samaritan to turn the question back on the expert. The question isn’t “Who is my neighbor?” the real question, the better question is, “What kind of neighbor will I be?”

Being a neighbor isn’t just about doing good things for others. It is much deeper than just doing good deeds. Jesus desires His people to love others. Love goes much deeper than doing good things like giving to the needy or helping someone change a tire. If you want to know what loving neighbor looks like in concrete example, read the life of Jesus. He constantly showed us through His actions and speech what it truly means to love our neighbor. He prayed for people, including His enemies. He fed people. He spent time with people. He had compassion on people and that led Him to action. He even took the time to mourn with those who mourned. Jesus, the King of Kings, didn’t put His own needs first. He served others His whole life. He even served us in His death.

The most loving and most neighborly thing that we can do for someone is to show them the love of Christ in word and deed. We must show them through our daily living and tell them through our proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord. If we want to be good neighbors, the best we can be, we must proclaim Christ to those who don’t know Him.