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Indifference or Compassionate Action?

 

Luke 10:25-37
Bible Studies for Life, March 17

 

In his book “Great Bible Questions,” John Brandt calculated that “in the New Testament there are nine hundred and forty-six questions.” He said that there are 135 questions in the Gospel of Luke alone. Today we’re focusing on one of those questions, from Luke chapter 10.

We discover in this passage a conversation between Jesus and “a certain lawyer.” While this situation bears some resemblance to Jesus’ encounters with another lawyer in Matthew 22:35-40 and a scribe in Mark 12:28-34, this seems to be a unique account not found elsewhere.

As Jesus shared the story of a man beaten and robbed, ignored by a priest and a Levite, but finally helped by the Good Samaritan, He asked the lawyer in verse 36 which of these three men proved to be a real neighbor to this needy man.

As we consider this Question Jesus Asked, and as we study this passage and the situation in which the Lord asked this question, we observe…

 

A misleading meeting - Luke 10:25-29

This proud man wanted to entrap his master (v. 25).

This “lawyer” in verse 25 was not a litigator or attorney as we might think, but rather a scribe, well versed in the Law of Moses. How wonderful if such a man was genuinely interested in eternal life. But apparently his query was disingenuous, for we’re told that his intention was to tempt the Lord.

The word “tempted,” or “tested,” indicates that he was putting Jesus on trial, hoping to expose some error in Jesus’ teaching.

This proud man wanted to extol his merits (vs. 26–29).

There was really nothing he could “do to inherit eternal life.” He had to trust in what the Father could do on his behalf. Jesus pointed to the law in verse 26, as Warren Wiersbe said, “not because the Law saves us, but because the Law shows us that we need to be saved.”

The man’s summation of Moses’ law in verse 27 was correct, but he wouldn’t acknowledge his own inability to live up to these demands. His goal all along was to make himself look good, and even now he wanted to “justify himself” (vs. 29) by narrowing the scope of his responsibility.

As a scribe, his definition of “neighbor” was probably confined to other Jews. No doubt, he wanted to draw attention to the good he had shown his fellow countrymen instead of the indifference he likely showed towards others. So he asked in verse 29, “Who is my neighbor?” In order to answer the question, Jesus begins to share a story about…

 

A misfortunate mugging - Luke 10:30-32

This poor man suffered the misfortune of attack (vs. 30).

The fact that the man in Jesus’ story began his journey in Jerusalem suggests that he was a Jew. The rocky, mountainous road from Jerusalem to Jericho was very dangerous, so people generally traveled in groups or caravans. But to be accosted by these highwaymen was still a common occurrence here.

The robbery described in verse 30 needs no embellishment or explanation. The man was stripped of his clothes and beaten. And when the thugs left, the man was nearly dead.

This poor man suffered the misfortune of avoidance (vs. 31–32).

There’s a memorable line from John Wayne’s movie, “Chisum,” where the title character says to the bad guy, “We may have to be neighbors, but I don’t have to be neighborly.” That was the mentality of the priest and the Levite who both saw the man in need, but both of them passed by on the opposite side of the road without helping the poor fellow.

Here are two men, a priest and a Levite, who would have known their God-given responsibility. And yet, neither was willing to love their neighbor as they did themselves. They were unwilling to be neighborly.

Thankfully, when Jesus told the lawyer about the indifference of the priest and the Levite, it was not the end of the story. He went on to describe the compassionate actions of …

 

A merciful man - Luke 10:33-37

This pitying man exhibited compassion.

Some think that this was merely a fictional parable. However, I would suggest that had it not been both a true and somewhat familiar account, the lawyer surely would have objected to the hero of the story being a Samaritan. “For,” as we’re told in John 4:9, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

Yet, despite this racial rift, this “Good Samaritan” went to great lengths in treating his wounds and providing (some have said) as much as two months’ lodging for the convalescing Jew. Truly, as it says in verse 33, the Samaritan “had compassion on him”!

This pitying man exemplified Christianity.

Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which one proved to be the real neighbor to the needy man?” He would not even answer plainly that it was the “Samaritan,” revealing his antipathy for such a man. Nevertheless, he conceded in verse 37 that the real neighbor was “he that showed mercy” on the wounded fellow.

The final, humbling blow came as Jesus told the lawyer to “go and do” what this Samaritan had done. Through his compassionate actions, the Samaritan exhibited much of what it means to be a Christian. Certainly, we who have received mercy should show mercy and compassion to others.

The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” But the better question is, “Who can I reach out to and show compassion as a neighbor (and as a Christian)?” Apply Jesus’ question in verse 36 to your life. Are you proving yourself to be a real neighbor to those around you?

When you see someone in need, will you respond with indifference or compassionate action?