SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 22, 2019
Title: “Knowing your Neighbor”
Text: “And he answering said, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. But he, desiring to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:27-29 KJV).
Scripture lesson: Luke 10:25-27.
Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry use parables very often. There are over forty parables and related sayings recorded in the gospel. Jesus Christ used these parables as teaching moments. Jesus used these teaching moments to convey truths. Jesus use of parables was to convey a message to change his audience’s perception about reality. So Jesus use of these parables was to create meaning for the people of his time and for us today..
In our Scripture reading this morning, we read a well known passage in the Bible, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We all are familiar with this parable. Society is familiar with this parable that even a half dozen hospitals in the US are named after this the Good Samaritan. This story is so familiar, we may ask the question, “Why another sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan?
It is important to preach another sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan because a lot of people think it is a story about helping someone. It is not. Jesus Christ spoke this parable to convey a truth. It is a parable about the perspective of eternity. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It is a story in which Jesus tells us the importance of loving God and those who are created in the image of God. With that in mind, we can look at three things here this morning: Who is our neighbor? How do we know our neighbor? What are the things that hinder us from knowing our neighbors?
Who is our neighbor? Jesus told this parable as a result of the interaction between Jesus and the Lawyer. The Lawyer asked Jesus a question, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The motive behind the lawyer’s question is not clear. The question itself contradicts the core of Jesus’ teachings because the inheritance of any form is the result of a relationship. Eternal life is a gift we inherit from God through our relationship with him. It is not something we earn through works of righteousness.
Jesus answered with a counter question. He asked, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The Lawyer answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself,” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18) The Lawyer was right but got trapped. He sought to prove that eternal life required the fulfillment of the Law. But his answer proved otherwise.
The lawyer pulled out a wild card, in an attempt to justify himself. “Who is my neighbor?” In Jewish culture, only a fellow Jew was considered to be a neighbor. Gentiles weren’t considered as neighbors. The Lawyer was implying he has fulfilled the Law by treating his fellow Jew with respect in keeping with the Law. Therefore he has earned eternal life by complying with the Law, not through a personal relationship with God. Our friend thought he finally had Jesus. But Jesus is smarter and wiser. He told him the parable of the Good Samaritan in an attempt to answer the lawyer. In this parable, Jesus Christ introduced four individuals. Two of those individuals were the Jew and the Good Samaritan. The interaction between two of these individuals, the Jews and the Good Samaritan answers the question who is my neighbor?
The history of the feud between Jews and Samaritans is as old as 722 B.C. The year the Assyrians conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity. Shortly afterward the invaders brought in Gentile Colonists to resettle the land. These foreigners brought with them their pagan idols, which the remaining Jews began to worship alongside the God of Israel. Intermarriages also took place. The Samaritans were descendants of these Jews who mingled with the Gentiles. Therefore the other Jews despised the Samaritans.It was such a man that became the neighbor to the fallen Jew. Did he know the Law of Moses? Jesus didn’t tell. But he said this, “But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him.” Then Jesus closed the story with another question. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The Lawyer knows the answer but he cannot even bring himself to mention the man’s race. He is picky about his neighbors. He answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” By telling this parable Jesus wanted us to understand that our neighbor can be anyone in need. Our neighbor can be anyone who lives far and near. Our neighbor is anyone who is not in right standing with God. Don’t divide people as neighbors and non-neighbors based on their race or behavior because God created everyone in his own image.
How do I know my neighbor? To answer this important question is to have the heart of love and getting to involved with people. It is important that we get involved with people to know them. The heart of love which Jesus had made him involved with people. This is found in the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. This example is found in John The end result of this example is found in verse 39, “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him.” (NKJV) Jesus influenced a city by influencing one person. As we endeavor to experiment with the good neighbor project, we must learn one great truth: Get involved with people.. Notice the introduction of the story.
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” (John 4:7-12; NKJV).
Jesus was involved with people. At the time recorded in this text Jesus was traveling. He was traveling from Judea to the region of Galilee. He did not have to pass through Samaria but He did. In fact, the Bible indicates “He needed to go through Samaria.” Samaria consisted of a group of people who were a mix of two nationalities. The Jewish people frowned on such crossovers. They looked down on the Samaritans. They believed in a purebred pedigree. Jesus did not avoid the Samaritans. He walked among them. As Jesus traveled through Samaria he stopped at a water well about noon, for a drink of water. This well was named after the Old Testament character, Jacob. It is still there today.
Notice something; Jesus did not stay among the religious people, the Jews. He did not stay in the religious realm, in Jerusalem. He was involved with people. The longer we attend church and participate in religious functions the fewer contacts we have in the community. Jesus was not some religious Holy Man who stayed in a religious bubble. He was actively involved with people.
As a church you have been given a wonderful gift. Our church does not bog you down with endless meetings and activities. Some churches I have served will require 8-10 hours of our time each week. We try to limit time requirements. I hope you will use some of that time to be involved with other people. If we take a retrospective look at the ministry of Jesus, we will see in Luke chapter 4 beginning with verse 31 that Jesus was involved with people. Jesus was involved with Peter’s sick mother in law (Luke 4:38); Jesus was involved with the demon possessed (Luke 4:41); He was involved with the crowd (Luke 4:42) What are the hindrances to us getting involved with people?
In our passage, two individuals shows some of the hindrances in being a good neighbor. The priest and the Levites were two people who could not get involved with the victim. It was common for the travelers of ancient times on this path to come under the attack of the bandits and thieves who occupied the mountains.
A Priest passed by him but did nothing to help. In the Jewish culture a Priest was a very important person and a symbol of hope. It still is in any other culture also. He passed by on the other side deliberately putting a safe distance between himself and the dying man. Maybe he feared ceremonial uncleanliness or was afraid the bandits were still around. The Bible doesn’t say? The point is the Priest failed to be a neighbor.
We also see that the Levite also passed by the Jew. I assume hierarchy wise Levites was lower than the Priests. Nevertheless, they were a well-respected group in Jewish society. The Levite also passed by the other side of the road. Maybe he too feared ceremonial uncleanliness or was afraid the bandits were still around.
We will all agree that fear, prejudice, lack of love and the list goes on are all things that hinder us from being good neighbors. We can put our fears away and work towards being good neighbors to people. We need to have a heart of love to be able to perform the art of good neighboring.
Jesus showed one cannot hate another human being and still claim to love God. Our love for God and man is best expressed in showing mercy to people in need. Let us show mercy wholeheartedly and God will reward us with eternal life.