Who is my neighbor?
Luk10:30-37; BCBC/IOUC; 5/23/2021; Rev. Paul Wang
We are very familiar with those verses, right? Three different people met a person in need, and the results are totally different and surprising. What does Jesus express? Who is my neighbor? Or whose neighbor am I? Different values come with different attitudes, do you agree? Which attitude are you in? Let us see the first point:
None of one’s own business, just leave it alone?
What are you talking about? Are you talking about someone being robbed? What I am hearing might be totally different with what I am thinking, right? Let along what the others are thinking, right? First, neighbors are usually strangers. The biggest command Jesus Christ gives is to love God and love people, right? What we say ‘love people’ is to love your neighbor. Your neighbor may not necessarily be people close to where you are living but normally some random strangers. The neighbor relationship today is normally completely isolated from each other all their lives. Maybe people who live upstairs and downstairs, neighbors, distant relatives and close neighbors, are getting more and more strangers. Classmates do not necessarily share the same frame, childhood friends do not necessarily be close friends, colleagues do not necessarily share the same meal, and friends may not last long. Jesus is broadening our horizons. Maybe when you travel to a far place, you will meet your neighbors among strangers. This is also a gospel channel. Did you think about it? If our living zone is limited to the people we are familiar with, how can we enlarge God’s kingdom and openly spread the gospel?
Second, neighbors are often met by chance. Human beings are strange. We seem to somehow reject the person who was arranged by purpose, right? Especially for today’s young adults, who would like to let their parents arrange their partners? Just ask ourselves, isn’t it the same? We are always impressed by the person met by accident, right? The person mentioned in the Bible has no name, no address, no information about how far he lives from us, and so on. The important information the Bible mentioned is that a man is to come across in a casual way. Of course, in God nothing is by accident, he is in charge of everything. So, please remember, we may meet our neighbors every day and he or she may be our new gospel target.
Lastly, neighbors are usually troubled. Our neighbors may be anyone we meet, and those people are normally coming to our lives with troubles. Maybe your old parents who always want you to bring them to the hospital. Maybe your kids who always receive the warnings from the school as a trouble maker. Right? Through today’s Bible verses, Jesus told us that, ‘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. (Luke 10:30)’. When we meet beggars on the road, we may even run away to avoid troubles, how about a person left in robbers’ hands? Do you agree? Let’s look at the second point:
It has nothing to do with me, is it connected with the heart?
None of one’s own business, just leave it alone. Sweep the snow before your own door, and never mind the frost on another’s life. That’s our sinner’s nature. Jesus mentioned here that the things not related to us are not necessarily unrelated to our heart. First, religious sacredness. Normally, Jews don’t go to Galilee. Why? Because if they travel northward, they have to go through Samaria, where they are unwilling to go. We Jews are pure selective blood. How can we be with hybrids? Therefore, if Jews want to go northward, most of them will first go to Jericho and then walk along the Jordan Valley to the North. Unless it is necessary and related to the sacrament, priests rarely go there. This time, the priest may have to travel from Jerusalem through Jericho to Galilee for some unavoidable reason, maybe to preside at a religious ceremony. Unexpectedly, he met the ’troublesome friend’. Sorry, I have more important things to do. The evidence in the Bible is ’He passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31)’ Pay attention! The Bible said after he saw it, we passed by on the other side. It means that the stranger who encountered the robbers failed to enter into the priest’s heart, let alone to become the priest’s neighbor.
Second, dignity of status. Even a Levite is not a priest, he still has a noble status. They are selected as a full time missionary when they are born. The Levite who is not on duty, may sometimes be invited to serve in different places. Obviously, this Levite has the similar value, attitude and action as the priest. Same, ’He passed by on the other side.(Luke 10:32)’. Same as the priest, in his eyes the person is not an injured person but a stranger who has nothing to do with himself. We also have an identity of someone who was born again as a God’s child, right? Can we still see the weak? Can we still see someone in need?
Lastly, humble bondage. Two spiritual noble people just pass by the person God gives as a neighbor and leave the opportunity to the unwelcomed Samaritan. Jesus Christ came into the world in the incarnation, first in the chosen ones Israel. But the Jews are arrogant and deny Jesus is Christ! They reject God’s grace again and again. So Paul said, God gave the opportunity of gospel to the Gentiles who were not originally elected. This is God’s wisdom. God turns the curses to the blesses, that is ’Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (Romans 11:11)’ Let’s look at the third point:
Your mercy, God’s remembrance!
The Samaritan is called good Samaritan by the people afterward, why? First, he found the neighbor. Do not think it is easy. Finding your neighbor is extremely difficult! There were three people there, but the Bible said only one Samaritan has the mercy as Jesus. The other two just passed by from the other sides. So, to discover our neighbor is not through the eyes in our flesh but the eyes in our heart, in our faith, in our love. Do you have those eyes? If you have, then you can find your neighbors God gives you. Same way, neighbors are not necessarily distant but in your heart.
Second, he served the neighbor. Why do we call him the good Samaritan? It is not by no reason. The Bible described the details: ’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.(Luke 10:34)’ He can easily take out the oil and wine, which means he is well prepared to serve the others in his daily life. Just a simple look, he skillfully poured on oil and wine, and bandaged his wounds. It means it is not a first time aid but a habit! Do we also have the spiritual characters to serve people and form the habit in our life? May I ask, do you have this habit?
Lastly, he has pity on the neighbor. From just being touched to have pity on the person is a journey and accumulation of our spiritual life. From having mercy to having a heart for people, or paying attention to people, he already lived out the model of Jesus Christ with mercy. Besides taking care of the person, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper for taking care of him. ’Look after him,’ he said, ’and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ When the money is paid, the heart will be given also. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. How about you, dear brothers and sisters? Do you understand the secret of mercy? James said, ’Mercy triumphs over judgment’. Are you willing to have mercy?
Today’s sermon ’who is my neighbor? ’is finished. The essence of ’who is my neighbor’ is ’whose neighbor am I?’ The three people-a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan, all have the opportunity to treat this injured stranger as their own neighbor. However, only this Samaritan actively and willingly treated this injured stranger as his own neighbor. In Christ’s view, maybe the priest is great, the Levite is very noble but only this unwelcomed Samaritan fulfilled God’s will. Finally, Jesus said, ’Go and do likewise!’ Will you?
Let us pray……
10:30, 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.
10:31, A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
10:32, So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
10:33, But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
10:34, 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.
10:35, 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.’
10:36, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
10:37, The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”