Upside Down Kingdom Parables: Who is My Neighbor?



And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to 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.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” Luke 10:25-37

In this parable, Jesus answered two questions:
1. What must I do to inherit eternal life?
2. Who is my neighbor?

The second question came out of the first question, so let’s spend some time looking at the first question.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This is a question that everyone has asked at some point during their lifetime. We wonder if there is a greater purpose for our lives. This may not be a question that we ask publicly, but in the quietness of our own hearts and minds, the question has been asked.

How we answer that question affects the way we live. If it is a level of morality, then we live moral lives filled with good deeds. If it is self-actualization, then we live creating our own purpose. If we do not believe in God or enteral life, that too will direct our thoughts and actions. Clearly this is a very significant question for us because what we believe about God influences every area of our life.

As Jesus was interacting with the crowd, a lawyer stood up and asked Jesus a question to put Him to the test. Jesus responded with a question of His own:

And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to 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 10:26-28

The lawyer answered correctly: Love God and love others, the two greatest commandments. When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He responded:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

Love God and love others is our purpose as a church, and we don’t really have that down yet, so that’s where our focus needs to be. We struggle with the two most basic commandments, and so did the lawyer. He knew he was lacking, and we know we are all lacking:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:3-7

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin has to be paid for, yet God is also loving, kind, gracious, and full of mercy. He makes a way for us to be born again. He sent His son Jesus to pay the penalty and experience the wrath of God on our behalf. He died, was buried, and then rose again to demonstrate His authority over sin and death.

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:3

We were all born children of wrath, but adopted into the family of God. On our own, we do not have the desire or understanding to love apart from God’s love. We can only love because God first loved us. Because of His selfless love, we can love:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. 1 John 4:16-21

To love God requires that we submit to His love. God’s love is steady, and His words and character are established in Heaven. When we understand God’s love for us, we can love others.

The lawyer lacked understanding of God’s love for him. This is reminiscent of the parable of the unforgiving servant. One servant was forgiven a great debt by his master but refused to forgive the much smaller debt of a fellow servant and was thrown into debtors prison.

We are loved greatly and perfectly by God’s grace which compels us to love others, giving grace and mercy. Whether we are deserving or not, God loves us. We love God because He loved us first, and we love others because of how we’ve been loved by Him.

The purpose of the parables is to stir our hearts and affections for Him. If you’re looking for something to hold onto in the midst of this chaotic world that won’t shift or crumble, it’s the love of God.


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