Series: A Church For The City (2008)
The gospel is not clean, tidy, or cute. It never has been. When Jesus hung on the cross, clean would not have been the word to describe it. The gospel, and living it out, is not safe. For thousands of years, our brothers and sisters have been martyred, burned alive, eaten by lions, etcetera. I’m sorry, but safe is not the adjective that comes to mind when thinking about the gospel.
The gospel has always been dangerous.
Only in the last two hundred years, mainly in Europe and the United States, can the word safe and Christianity dare to be breathed in the same sentence. I doubt Christian radio stations in China use the slogan, “Safe and fun for the entire family.” Actually, there are no Christian radio stations in China. The Sudanese don’t use these words or slogans to describe their faith either. So why do we?
Jesus never did. The Bible never does.
As a matter of fact, Scripture paints a picture of Christianity that’s anything but safe. It’s quite the opposite.
So why have we come to the place where when we think about the gospel we think adventure, glamour, safe, and fun? When most people get an accurate, biblical, realistic, uncut, and unedited version of what Scripture says it’s going to cost us to follow Jesus, they’re out.
Jesus was at the height of His popularity. He was feeding and healing people, so thousands of people were following Him. But in the midst of all that incredible popularity, Jesus dropped a bomb on them.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:53-54 (ESV)
Put yourself in that situation. You’re cruising around, following Jesus, because He’s feeding you and healing your kids. Then all of a sudden the dude stops and says that if you want to follow Him you have to eat his flesh and drink his blood?
Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” John 6:59-60 (ESV)
Jesus laid down the façade and said what it would really cost them to follow Him. The people didn’t know what to do with that.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66 (ESV)
What caused them to walk away from Jesus? He painted an accurate picture of what the gospel would cost them and they said they preferred the candy coated version and if they couldn’t have that then they were out and left.
There was a second group of people. Unfortunately, I think there’s a segment of us that fall into this group. We’re smart enough not to bail on Jesus, becase we know if we do, it’s not good. But at the same time, we hear really hard statements from Jesus and don’t want to live them out either. So we immediately start reconstructing them in our minds and hearts, justifying and making them easier for us to live out. That’s what we see in today’s story.
This lawyer came up to Jesus who was an expert in Jewish law and asked Him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him there would be something he’d have to do if he wanted to go to heaven. Now Jesus is not espousing you have to work your way to heaven. His point is that if you’re saved there are going to be things that’ll show up and rock you to the core. Immediately, you see the lawyer begin to reconstruct the statement trying to get around it to make it easier for him to actually go out and live.
Two things I want you to do while we listen to this story. First, hear it and feel the gravity and difficulty of what it’s going to mean in your life to actually follow a biblical picture of Christianity. I want you to hear Jesus talk about what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. I want you to feel the gravity and weight. Then, before you leave, I want you to start to do business on whether or not you really want to live it out. Is it really what you want in your life?
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 10:25 (ESV)
The lawyer asked Jesus a common question. You can sense the arrogance of the lawyer, this expert of the law, coming up to the redneck from Nazareth, a carpenter, who’s claiming to be God.
He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Luke 10:26 (ESV)
Jesus looked at him and said, “Dude, you’re the expert on the law, why don’t you tell me.” You see the guy rubbing his hands, thinking, “That’s what I thought. I knew you didn’t know. Let me educate you.”
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.” Luke 10:27 (ESV)
The lawyer gave him the right answer. But watch Jesus.
And he said to him, “You have answered correctly… Luke 10:28a (ESV)
Jesus told him he got the right answer. Basically, “Congratulations, you’ve been studying a long time and you got all the right information.”
…do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:28b (ESV)
That right there nailed the lawyer. Jesus said he had all the knowledge he needed then told him to just go do it. Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and with all your soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. This little phrase shook up the lawyer. It hit him that he didn’t have to just study how to go to heaven, but he actually had to go do the things he’d been studying.
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 (ESV)
It hit him that he needed justifying. The knowledge he had was not enough. The lawyer was reconstructing and justifying whom he actually needed to love. Jesus answered his question and in answering it He dropped a nuclear bomb on him and on us.
I think the lawyer wanted Jesus to give him an easy answer. He didn’t really want to go out and love people. He was hoping Jesus would say that to love your neighbor as yourself means you just love those that love you, or those who are the same economic status, or the same race, or have the same political persuasions as you. But that’s not what Jesus said.
Have you ever done that in your life? Has Jesus ever dropped a really hard teaching on you and you immediately started dismissing it? Start rationalizing it away to the point where it has no meaning anymore for your life?
For example, when Jesus says you’re committing adultery in your heart when you look at a woman with lust, do you start justifying that that’s not true and rationalizing how it doesn’t apply to your situation? Then all of a sudden it doesn’t mean anything?
Jesus answered the lawyer’s question of who is my neighbor and how do I love others like I love myself and His response was so diffuclt it was almost impossible for the guy to rationalize it away.
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Luke 10:30 (ESV)
This is the story of the Good Samaritan. There was a Jew cruising down the road to Jericho. It was a seventeen-mile road stretching from Jerusalem to near the Dead Sea. There were mountains on either side. During Jesus’ day, this road was considered the most dangerous road in the world. Robbers would hide in the cracks of the rocks and beat people, strip them naked, take their stuff and leave them for dead. Which is exactly what happened to this guy.
Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Luke 10:31 (ESV)
One of his fellow brothers was lying half dead on the road and he just went by him? But good news, there was somebody else coming.
So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. Luke 10:32 (ESV)
Both the priest and the Levite were holy religious guys, spending time in the temple. Both of them made the same decision.
Before we pass judgment on these guys, which would be easy to do, put yourself in their shoes. It’s three o’clock in the morning and you’re in downtown Detroit in a dark alley. You look and see somebody lying on the side of the alley moaning, bleeding, and naked. As far as you know, the people that did this could be just around the corner waiting to do the same thing to you. What would you do? Probably run, right? Maybe get to safety then call the cops?
Based on Scritpure if a Levite or a priest were to touch him and then he were to die, they would have been considered ceremonially unclean, having to go through ceremonial washings, and then wait for seven days. Not only would stopping to help their fellow Jew be dangerous to them, but it would also have put their family in danger, because they wouldn’t be able to go back to the temple to worship and make a living.
Jesus’ story about two religious guys leaving a dead guy on the street didn’t shock the lawyer. No Jew would have been shocked at all. But the next thing Jesus said would have shocked the lawyer to his core, stunning him.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Luke 10:33 (ESV)
When the Samaritan saw the Jew, he didn’t walk around him, he had compassion for him. The Samaritan went over to the guy, bandaged him, picked him up and took him to an inn. He then gave the innkeeper two days worth of wages to take care of him. When he heard this, the lawyer would have been shocked, because Jews hated Samaritans. It wasn’t like the friendly rivalry between schools. They hated each other. The Jews disdained the Samaritans, seeing them as half-breeds, because they were half Israelites and half pagan. They wouldn’t even touch them or get near them. Imagine the shock when Jesus said a certain Samaritan came along and loved on this Jewish guy.
Who would have blamed the Samaritan if he had acted the same way the priest and Levite did? No one. Yet, he didn’t. He had compassion on the guy and helped him.
That alone is revolutionary. Jesus defined what it meant to love your neighbor as yourself by loving and having compassion on your enemy, even at great risk to yourself. That alone was enough to undo the lawyer and ought to undo us as well.
Something Jesus said has absolutely floored me all week. I cannot get away from it.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Luke 10:33 (ESV, emphasis added)
The Samaritan saw his mortal enemy and felt compassion for him. The Greek used for this statement was idon auton esplagchnisthe. This phrase is only used three times in all of the Bible. The reason it’s used so sparingly is because it has intense meaning and conveys a depth of feeling that’s rare. One of the only other times the phrase is used is in the story of the Prodigal Son.
The Prodigal Son is about a son who went to his dad and demanded his inheritance. In other words he said, “Dad, why don’t you just die.” The dad gave him his money and he left to a far away land. He spent all the money on prostitutes and alcohol winding up, literally, in a pigpen. He came to his senses and decided to go home.
Imagine if you were that dad and what you must have felt when your son took your money and took off. Yet, you still love him. So every once in a while you stop and look at the horizon, just in case your son, the one you love more than life itself, might come back to you.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (ESV)
It’s the same phrase, idon auton esplagchnisthe. The feeling the old guy felt when hope against hope he looked up and there was his son comig over the horizon. Imagine the action the father took when he realized it was his son, losing all dignity, hiking up his robe and taking off in a dead sprint to embrace and kiss his son.
That same feeling and action is what the Samaritan took and felt towards the half dead guy on the road, the guy that hated his guts.
According to Jesus Christ, a neighbor is somebody that looks, feels, and acts towards somebody that hates them with the same exact compassion and love a father would look, feel, and act upon his child who is coming home from a long time in a really dark place.
This truth has messed me up. In response to the question on how to inherit eternal life, Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself. You gotta love people who hate you the way the father loved his son when he came home. That’s unbelievable!
A friend of mine Aaron Ivey and his wife Jamie have an unbelievable heart for adoption. They’ve already adopted one of their sons and are now going through the process of adopting two children from Haiti. The money is there, but they’re not able to bring them back to Austin, because the government is dragging their feet. But they’ve had the opportunity to spend a ton of time with those two babies. As a result, Aaron and Jamie look at Story and Amos as their children.
Imagine what was going through their minds when they found out Hurricane Ike was going to crash into Haiti. Imagine what they were thinking as their children were going to have to endure a hurricane pretty much by themselves. Their children survived, but they discovered that the children in the orphanage were in desperate need of food, water, and medical supplies. They made the decision Jamie would fly to Haiti and get to their kids.
But it wasn’t that easy. She got on a plane and flew to Haiti. Then got to a truck and went as far as she could until the roads were washed out. Then they hiked through the water for several hours. She had to get to her babies. That’s a no brainer, right? Who wouldn’t do that for their children? If your child was in desperate need of food and water in a foreign country, which of you wouldn’t leave immediately and do whatever it took, moving heaven and earth, to get to them?
As she was wading through the water and debris, do you think at some point Jamie stopped and thought she should turn around? Do you think she thought it was just too messy for her and should just go home? As she was in Austin pondering the thought of having to go, do you think she was fretting about the danger of it all? It never crossed her mind.
Do you think if she got there and Amos and Story were lying on the side of the road, naked, bleeding, and half dead, she would have walked around them on the other side? No way.
They are her children. They belong to her.
Jesus just said that kind of ownership, that level of compassion, that kind of stewardship that Jamie felt for Amos and Story is the kind of ownership, compassion, and stewardship we are to take towards anyone who is in need.
We are to pursue the homeless guy on the corner with the same love and compassion the father pursued the prodigal son. Even the sorority sister you disdain because she sleeps with a bunch of guys. Even the boss you can’t stand because of the way he treats you at work. Even the Muslim. Even the person with different political views. Even the person who is pro-choice and supports abortions.
Would you cross over land and sea, risking grave danger to yourself, for their pain and brokenness? Or would you just keep on walking?
Who are you walking past in your life right now?
Think about that. Whether due to busyness, inconvenience, dignity, or fear, whom are you avoiding? Jesus says, “My people are neighbors and neighbors don’t walk on the other side of the street.”
I’ll never forget this was all in response to the question of how to inherit eternal life.