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Jun 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 5, 2011

And He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Luke 10:27-28 (read vv. 25-37)

INTRO: As the story opens, two important themes are introduced

  1. The first theme is embedded in the question, “what shall I do?”
    – Jesus forms his response around the word “do”: “do this” (v.28) and “do the same” (v. 37)
  2. The other theme is the tip-off that the lawyer is being dishonest, “put Him to the test”
    – a lawyer in this context was someone who had received extensive training in the Law of God

There is more to this interaction than we see on the surface
–  a challenge like this was common in Jesus’ culture and has to do with honor and shame
– someone would enter the social space of another person, either to get honor for himself or to shame the other person
If someone could reduce a person’s social status, it would effectively ruin their life and the life of their family
– the challenge was delivered in front of an audience (it was always public)
– the person challenged was put on the spot to respond wisely
If he did not respond well, he would lose honor, status, and his social standing within the community

Just prior to this challenge, Jesus had been teaching his disciples in private
– the lawyer intrudes into their social space, violating their boundaries
– his goal was to ruin the special special status that Jesus enjoyed among his disciples

On the surface, it sounds like he respected Jesus, addressing him as “Teacher” and his question seems to be legitimate
– but Luke reveals what he is really up to, “put Him to the test”

The tension in their encounter is between appearance and reality
– between what a person is or does on the surface versus what they are or intend on the inside

Verses 25-28, Round One

People took a huge risk when they challenged Jesus
– there was a good probability they would be the ones to go away shamed
– but even more, it was likely they would be forced to confront a hard truth about themselves, their relationship with God, or how they had missed the real issues of faith

Jesus wisely handed the question back to the lawyer
– “You’re the legal expert. What does the Law say?”
– this move will serve to prove that the lawyer already knew the answer
– then Jesus responded, “You know it, so do it”
But the gap between knowing and doing can be hard to cross

It almost seems like the lawyer was prepared for this toss-back
– he immediately quotes De. 6:4 (but adds “with all your mind”)
This is the whole person:

  • heart: emotional and psychological
  • soul: spiritual
  • strength: physical (the body)
  • mind: intellectual

– the lawyer then tacks on the commandment regarding loving ones neighbor

So the essence of what a person must do to inherit eternal life is love

Assuming a position of authority in relation to the lawyer, Jesus tells him that his answer is correct
– but then the Lord pushes him into action, “Do this and you will live”
– the path to life is not in knowing but doing

Before going on, I want to explain something you may find helpful
– the four all’s represent the whole person
– but for a long time (even now in some ways) I could not do this, I could not be in God as a whole person
– looking back, I see myself as fragmented and with pieces missing
What drove me was mostly hidden from me

  • a chain of losses I had never strung together that resulted in a deep-seated fear that I would never be able to sustain a long-term, intimate relationship with another person
  • painful humiliations made me unsure of myself and insecure
  • an absence of approval or acceptance, coupled with an unhealthy application of the doctrine of original sin filled me with self-contempt and feelings of worthlessness
    – I was helplessly vulnerable to the first person who said I was bright, and therefore happy to let him exploit my work without giving me any credit

Even though I was not a whole person, I still found that I could give the fragments of my broken self to God wholly

To get to our all, we have to let God into our inner life
– he’ll choose the best way to do this, we just have to be willing
– he will search us and find the broken places and heal them
In Christian spirituality, this is known as The Purgative Way, the way of God’s cleansing
– it is laying aside the old self and putting on the new self (Ep. 4:24-26)
The problem is, like the lawyer, we are reluctant to be totally honest with Jesus
– it’s easier to be religious than to be honest; easier to be religious than to love

Verses 29-37, Round Two

“But wishing to justify himself”

This is precisely the problem with the lawyer and with us
– we would rather protect and defend our brokenness than be healed and made whole

What holds us back is fear
– we are afraid of what we will learn about ourselves
– we are afraid of change (and the extra work it may require)
– we are afraid of the potential pain or shame that may be dredged up
So we keep on pretending we’re fine, keep on justifying ourselves

If the lawyer did have this conversation planned, like a chess game, he now says, “Checkmate!”
“And who is my neighbor”
– we saw that he had no respect for the boundary around Jesus and the disciples–that was because they were not important to him
– now it’s suddenly very important to him that he should establish boundaries regarding who and who is not his neighbor
– if we take his question literally, he wants to clarify who he is free to exclude

But the question also serves two other functions
(1.) to win ultimate victory in this contest with Jesus (it is a question too complicated to answer)
(2.) to deflect the force of the inner issues and the responsibility that Jesus has brought to his attention
So he turns love for neighbor into an intellectual dilemma
“Perhaps the matter can be discussed to pieces, and thereby everyone avoids taking it seriously. That is probably his secret hope.” Helmut Thielicke

Jesus answers with a story – his favorite teaching device
– a pattern emerges as three travelers come across the injured victim:

  • a person came along
  • saw the wounded man
  • and responded

– the first two who came along and saw the man responded by avoiding contact
– the third person saw the man and responded with compassion–this is the turning point in the story and it is what distinguishes him from other two men
The two men–a priest and a Levite–who veered around the victim were both representatives of Israel’s religion
– the third man was not only an outsider to Israel’s religion (most likely a merchant), he was a Samaritan

Again, Jesus hands the question back to the lawyer
– only Jesus changes the question
– the lawyer’s question could have led to a debate regarding the wounded man
“Yes, he is suffering and all, but is he my neighbor? Is he my responsibility?”
– the priest and the Levite didn’t think so and it is possible that many people in Jesus’ audience would agree with them
So Jesus does not make the point that the victim is our neighbor, but his question switches everything around,

Which of the three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?

The answer is obvious
– so, again, Jesus proves to lawyer that he already knew the answer to his own question
– it is not about me looking for a neighbor to love, but me being a neighbor to the person in need

Why did Jesus use a parable? What does it do?

  • it presented the lawyer with a new perspective and in this way it assisted him in his ability to see, think and reason
  • it helped him reflect on the issue from a different point of view
  • it drew from his own heart the truth he already knew
  • it revealed that he had been asking the wrong question
  • it enabled the listener to be objective regarding the issue, “The parable is not about me
    – subjectivity clouds our thinking–when strong emotions are present, we cannot be logical
    – if the story is about someone else–a priest, a Levite, a victim, a Samaritan–, then I can consider it without strong emotional involvement
    – only afterwards do I find myself in the story, but by the time I realize that it is about me, it’s too late

The parable is a very old method of prophetic ministry–e.g., Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-7), Isaiah (Isa. 5:1-7), Jeremiah (18:1-11)
– the parable helps us to see what we’ve missed and also to see into ourselves
– it brings us to an understanding we could never achieve on our own

What God does through parable, he also does with us in meditation and contemplative prayer
– there are times when sitting in stillness and silence before God we experience agitation
“Why am I wasting my time? This isn’t doing anything for me”
Barbara and I like to watch real crime programs
– during an interrogation, detectives may notice that the suspect has become agitated
– they take this as an indication that he is hiding something and so they press harder

We put a lot of effort into distracting ourselves from our inner life
– but a part of contemplative prayer is doing good detective work by bringing before God questions like, “Why am I so agitated? What am I hiding?”
– how do we know when we’re healing?
When we can return to sitting with God in stillness and silence and be at peace

CONC: Jesus did not keep anything from the lawyer

Which is why it is a good thing that God did not give me our Lord’s job
– I would have said at the start, “You’re insincere. I know that you’re trying to trap me. You’ve disqualified yourself from eternal life!”

Jesus, however, patiently drew the answers out of him
– after all, Jesus saw the lawyer as his neighbor
– so he met him in his own questions, brought out what was hidden within him, and offered him the hope of eternal life

Finally, we notice that Jesus’ teaching on love will always end with a “go and do”
– and although this is simple enough, it is not always easy
– but if panic, a sense of being overwhelmed, or agitation arises, Jesus reassures us, saying,
“Peace! Do not be afraid. Stop hiding. I have not come to condemn, but to heal”

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