Community Group Study “Luke 10:25-37 Who is My Neighbor”
Read Luke 10:25-37
There are some questions that are honest questions and then there are ones you ask when you’re in a heated argument or debate and trying to prove a point. We find the latter example in our passage today. A expert in the Old Testament Law is trying to trap Jesus by asking “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). This is one of Luke’s favorite questions to highlight showing us 4 times when this question was posed between the books of Luke and Acts (Luke 10:25, 18:18, Acts 2:37, 16:30). In Luke 10, Jesus turned the question back to the lawyer, “how do you read the Law”? This was hotly debated area of theology in the days of Jesus. There were over 600 commands in the Old Testament legal code ranging from “you shall have no other gods before me”, to the just way to repay a neighbor when you accidentally killed their ox, to the size of the curtains in the tabernacle. Many wondered if there were certain commands that you should prioritize over others or if some commands helped you make sense of the other 600. The lawyer responded with a great and precise theological response; love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself (Deut 6:5, Leviticus 19:18). Yet, as the passage moves forward we see that even though his theology was correct there was a gap between what he knew and what he believed and how he lived it out. You can know the right thing, but that does not mean you will do the right thing.
Jesus affirms the Lawyers answer and ends this first question with saying, “do this and you will live”. People who inherit eternal life are people who love God and love others. We know this is only possible through faith in Jesus and being reconciled to God. The lawyer, instead of embracing the truth of what he said, doubles down and in an attempt to justify himself. He tried to get Jesus to be more specific with who he has to love asking… “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).The spirit of his question is an attempt to limit who he is required to love under the second greatest commandment. Whether we realize it or not, we can easily fall victim to this heart attitude and try to narrow down what we have to do instead of seeing the opportunity we get to be part of.
Instead of just giving a straight answer, Jesus tells a story and leads the Lawyer to a conclusion in order to make his point (Luke 10:30-35). There is a stretch of road that runs 17 miles from the hills of Jerusalem down do the valley and the city of Jericho. This journey would take a full day to walk. Many priests and Levites lived in Jericho, so the road would often be populated with folks going to and from the temple in Jerusalem. However, this specific road was known to be really dangerous since it wound through the mountains and the area also had caves and spaces to hide out. People often traveled in groups as a deterrent though the occasional solo trip would be required. One man, traveling alone, fell among some robbers and was beaten and left “half dead” and without help he would have died (Luke 10:30). A priest passed by and saw this man, but went to the other side of the road to avoid contact. Next a Levite, who was a member of the temple service, saw the man and passed by on the other side. Finally, a third character arrived and saw the man, but instead of passing by this man he instead was filled with compassion. The plot twist happens in verse 33, the man who stopped to help was a Samaritan. Jesus purposefully chose a character that the Lawyer would have found annoying at best, or hated at worst. The Samaritan’s love is costly and time consuming. He binds up the wounds of the hurt man, takes him on his donkey to an inn, pays his way and promises to return to make up for any additional cost he accrued. Loving your neighbor is not convenient.
The Samaritan would have been unexpected because the Jews typically looked down on “those people”. They were of mixed ethnicity group and had pluralistic religious practices based on years of combing Jewish religion with other practices. It could all be traced back to when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and mixed different peoples into the land. Over time they became a new people with a new religion and a new place of worship, Mount Gerizim. For the observant Jew, nothing good could come from a Samaritan, and they were certainly not heroes or people to be loved. Yet, two people you’d expect to help pass by, whereas the Samaritan stops to risk his life and his time to help the wounded man.
The story ends with Jesus challenging the Lawyer about what it means to be a neighbor. Jesus seems to assume the answer to the Lawyer’s question in Luke 10:29, “Who is my neighbor?”, is obvious. Your neighbor is anyone in your life, at this moment, who is made in God’s image. Your capacity to love ought not be limited by outward appearance, ethnicity, culture, age, hobbies, similarities or any other metric we might use to measure worth. The real question is, “how can you be a neighbor?” and that is what Jesus challenges the Lawyer with. Luke 10:36-37, “who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” The answer is: the one who showed mercy. How can you be a neighbor? Live a life marked by showing mercy.
The beauty of it all is that Jesus tells this story about the Samaritan but it points to Jesus. He was a neighbor to us! Jesus saw us in our need and drew near to show compassion. His death on the cross paid for our sin and made a way for us to be united to God and reconciled so we would not be left dead but have new life. Likewise he promises to come back, to fulfill what he promised and to redeem the world fully from the effect of sin and death.
The challenge for many followers of Jesus is that we naturally drift towards loving those who are already like us. However, faith in Jesus will produce supernatural love and mercy to those God puts in our lives. Follow Jesus, put into practice what he teaches and show holy and godly love to those who are your neighbor.
Jesus challenges his people to love their neighbor as themselves and fulfill the second greatest commandment. Followers of Jesus will be distinct because of their love for those who are different1.
Take a few minutes and describe the attitude of the Lawyer in this passage.
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Leviticus 19:9-18. What is the greater context of these passages. What do you think Jesus means when he affirmed the Lawyers’ answer of “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and what does it really mean to “love your neighbor as yourself” based on the original passages?
Describe why it is tempting to love people who are just like you? How does that limit Jesus’ command for his people to be “neighbors” to the world? How does the church model loving those who are different?
Why does it seem so difficult to obey this clear simple command? Have you had experiences where you’ve been like the Lawyer in Luke 10, asking questions to try and get off the hook or justify yourself? What was that like and why does that seem to be part of human nature?
Who is the person God has placed in your life right now that you’re called to be a neighbor to? How can people in your group pray for you and that relationship?