- Introduce yourself
- Introduce the topic
- When asked about who and how we should love, Jesus tells a story of radical love – how a Samaritan goes out of his way to show love to a Jew, his cultural enemy.
- Before we get into the story, though, we have to understand what makes this story significant culturally: I want you guys to understand the Jewish cultural history so you know why Jews and Samaritans were cultural enemies.
- Short Background on Jews and cultural history
- The Jews were a people with a very specific cultural identity: they were the chosen people of God, who had set them free from 400 years of captivity in Egypt. As the chosen people of God, the Jews were given a set of moral and cultural practices to follow, giving them a national identity of God-centered tradition. Many of these practices revolved around the temple in Jerusalem, a place where God was loved, worshipped, and offered sacrifices to. The people in charge of the temple were called Levites, and the people who helped others offer sacrifices were called priests. Priests and Levites were highly respected in Jewish society as they had to have outstanding moral character to work in the temple. Moreover, the Jews had cultural festivals such as the Passover, where Jews got together to celebrate God setting them free from being slaves in Egypt. Essentially, the Jews were a people group rich in tradition and rich in cultural identity – and all these traditions were given to them by God in order to help them love and worship him.
However, everything changed when the Assyrian empire invaded northern Israel, destroying it and occupying it. Because of this, the cultural identity of northern Israel was completely disrupted and the Northern kingdom’s inhabitants intermarried with their conquerors. After a couple centuries, Israel’s Jewish cultural identity was almost completely lost, and what once was the Northern kingdom was then called Samaria. Samaritans were considered to be dogs, a half-breed – not Jews. They didn’t worship in the temple in Jerusalem as the rest of the Jews did, instead worshiping on mountains, which the Jews found barbaric. However, Southern Israel maintained their cultural identity, religion, and temple worship, later becoming the people group known as the Jews.
- So, as you can see, the Jews’ hatred of Samaritans actually flows out of their own cultural history – Temple worship, following Moses’s laws, ritual purity, their cultural festivals were EVERYTHING to the Jews. Jews saw Samaritans as a bastardized version of their own cultural history.
- Not even eat out of same dishes
- Go out of their way to not associate with Samaritans
- The consensus of biblical scholars is that, when trying to get through Samaria, Jews would actually go AROUND IT, adding a week to their travel time rather than even encounter a Samaritan.
- Jews use “Samaritan” as a racial slur
- When religious leaders in the temple are trying to insult Jesus they say: “Are we not correct in saying you are a Samaritan and have a demon??”
So, now that we understand the cultural background, let’s read the story. If you have a Bible, open it up to Luke 10:25.
Story’s main points:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart (stress heavily)
- Love your neighbor as yourself
Okay, let’s remember that Jesus is telling this story to explain the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus is asked “Who is my neighbor?” he answers by telling the story.
Jesus is explaining both “Love” and “Neighbor”
- Samaritan has compassion
- Binds up wounds, pouring on oil and wine (First aid, immediate help – Urgent care as opposed to preventative…Hurricane Katrina)
- Sets on own animal – gives up his comfort, riding seat for. Sacrificial.
- Brought to an inn – takes care of him for the WHOLE DAY.
- Next day, gives huge amount of money to innkeeper and makes plan to give long term care – all the help he needs.
- Samaritan in the story is the one “Loving his neighbor”
- Who is the neighbor?
- Well, he’s from Jerusalem. It’s heavily implied that he’s a Jew.
So, this Samaritan is showing love to his cultural enemy – someone who probably would have taken an extra week’s journey to avoid him on the road. He’s showing love to someone who might not love him back or even repay him at all. He’s sacrificing his own comfort and money in order to serve this foreign cultural enemy who he’s never met.
After telling this story, Jesus presents a call to action to his audience: “You go, and do likewise.” He is advocating for radical, sacrificial, selfless love towards even our cultural enemies. Not only that, but he’s telling this story to highlight an extreme. The implied message is “Love everyone like this. Even your cultural enemies.”
What does this tell us about the character of Jesus? Well, it shows that he’s a radical, sacrificial, selfless guy. In fact, he lives out this message perfectly, by DYING for his very enemies.
According to the Biblical story, God intended us to be co-rulers with him, taking care of his good world and creating good things with him. However, the world has flipped a middle finger at him instead and went off to seek our pleasure from whatever we want, creating whatever we want, not caring about what he intended his good creation to be.
We seek pleasure and status from others – and many actually exploit others for their own gain. We’ve all messed up God’s good creation and pursued wicked and evil thoughts in our hearts, trying to claw our way to pleasure and fulfillment on our own terms, giving no thought to God. This is the definition of sin – rejection of God and his ways in order to pursue whatever we want. And we all fall under this definition, no matter who you are. We’ve all rebelled against God’s moral law, which is written on our hearts as our consciences. Whether you’re Mother Teresa or Hitler, we’ve all sinned and received a death sentence – Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.”
So, our punishment that we deserve, according to God, is death. Because we are all guilty of sin, and God would be an unjust judge to overlook rebellion. From God’s point of view, we’re fallen and broken creatures, responsible for the broken state of the world as it is. Murder, war, exclusion, divorce, hate, malice, and discrimination exist in this world because of humans. The claim of the Bible is that God is king and ruler over this universe, and yet we have chosen to make ourselves the sovereigns of our own lives and pursue whatever we want – at the expense of others.
But, yet, even others choose to be direct enemies of God, like the apostle Paul used to be – he would carry off Christians to prison, constantly breathing murderous threats against them. I myself, admittedly, have been a part of this category. Though I never went to the religious extreme that Paul went to, I myself was a militant atheist whose objective was to undermine all Christians’ beliefs and convince them of how stupid it is to believe in a God.
Now, I ask the question: What reason does God have to love me?
He’d seemingly have every reason to hate me: I’m mocking him and openly hostile to his children – not to mention all the sin going on in my life aside from that. I was the very definition of one “in rebellion against God.”
Yet, what does God say?
Romans 5: 6- 8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Jesus died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a morally upright person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.”
Just let that sink in for a second. Paul, the very man who wrote this, was the same one who was dragging Christians off to prison and voting for their executions.
Our God demonstrates himself to be one who LOVES AND DIES FOR REBELS.
Our God forgives his enemies by dying in their place, even when they don’t deserve it at all!
That’s how Jesus lives out his teaching to love his neighbor as himself.
He died for those who didn’t have any power to save themselves by their own good works. He died for those who were unaware of him, desiring to make himself known to them and adopt them into his family. He died for his enemies and those who actively rejected him.
In this way, Jesus becomes the fulfillment of his own teaching. Jesus shows his love to us by dying, not just for his cultural enemies, but also for those who oppose and hate God, like I used to, so that we can be saved! He shows remarkable kindness to us by canceling our legal debt of sin, becoming guilty of our sin on the cross, being punished in our place, and giving his own perfect moral record to us so that we become sinless as he is, finally able to enter a restored relationship with God, which is eternal life.
However, all these wonderful things come with a condition:
Romans 10:8 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to cover belief in Jesus’s resurrection – however, I will tell you that it is an incredibly rational belief to have. There’s a ton of evidence pointing towards it if you’re willing to search.
As for declaring Jesus as Lord, that means to turn towards him and begin to follow him as King over our lives, having authority over all that we say and do, conforming our lives to his commands, and loving and enjoying him as our personal friend, lover, father, and king.
We were made to know and enjoy God in a perfect relationship. I’m sure a lot of you have heard the story of Adam and Eve and how we sinned, lost our standing with God and were thrown out of paradise and God’s presence. And I know that we’re all aware that our world’s been broken by human selfishness and greed ever since then. Well, even though he didn’t have to, God stepped in to solve that problem! He chose to send his son to die for us so that we could have eternal life with him and a restored relationship with us now where he reveals more of his love and kindness every day.
So how should we respond?
Man, if you’re like I was and never understood the love of Christ, just pray. The very moment I comprehended God’s amazing love for me for the first time was the moment I realized I could trust Jesus with my life – if he loved me enough to die for me while I was THAT much of a sinner, he’s worthy to be followed.
Follow Jesus. Listen and learn from his words. Be shaped by his commands. He promises everlasting riches and joy in his presence. If that’s you and your heart just after this talk, make sure you tell the person you came with – I’m sure they’d be super happy to hear it.
What should be the response of those who are willing to follow Jesus?
Well, Jesus says as much – “Now, go and do likewise.” Now that you know Jesus has loved you with this radical, selfless, sacrificial love and that he gives you complete forgiveness for all of your sins, no matter what you do – love Jesus, and love your neighbor. Love everyone. Sacrifice for people. Be selfless. Be willing to help out even your cultural enemy, expecting nothing in return. That is the way that Jesus was, and he wants you to follow him in this.