Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, August 15, 2014

Love Your Neighbour - Jesus in Words VS Jesus in Action

Compare Luke 10:25-37 with Matthew 15:21-28

“Jesus in Words” - Passage 1
Luke 10:25-37
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”


“Jesus in Action” - Passage 2
Matthew 15:21-28
Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.


Discussion Questions
Jesus was being directly addressed in both situations.
In each story:
Who was addressing Jesus?
What did they look like?
What mood were they in?
Why did they choose to talk to Jesus rather than someone else?
What need were they bringing to Jesus?
What would an answer from Jesus solve for them?
What were their qualifications to be questioning Jesus?
Which one needed an answer most? Why?
Which question was more important? Why?
Which person left satisfied? Why?
Which person was Jesus’ neighbour?


Love Your Neighbour - Article

The Good Samaritan, as the perfect poster child for altruism, has leapt off the page of Christianity and gone viral. It’s the international phrase for helping those who cant help themselves.

Jesus told great stories. But what about His actions? When was the last time you heard someone say, “You really know how to feed dog-food to the ladies, Mate!” It just fails, on so many levels. Jesus’ response to the Gentile woman is desperately different to the answer he gave the Jewish legal expert. It doesn’t even seem possible that the same man could have said both things. What Jesus was saying and what he was doing… Well, they were different! Right?

Jesus was the best teacher to ever walk this Earth. And if He was the best teacher, then we need to allow Him to teach. Far too often we get caught up in trying to make Jesus politically (and emotionally) correct for the 21st century rather than exploring the context in which He lived. Political correctness was the furthest thing from Jesus’ mind and mission. In fact, His lack of it played a part in getting Him crucified.

What must I do to be saved?
When Jesus asked the Jewish legal expert what the Law of Moses says, He wasn’t asking a rhetorical question. Jesus was probing the depth of the man. The standard answer, which every Jewish schoolboy could recite was the first few lines of the Shema found in the preamble to the Deuteronomy presentation of the 10 Commandments. “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

The man’s answer must have made Jesus smile. It was brilliant in both its new beginning and its new ending – together revealing a singular purpose. The man left off the all-important beginning: (literally) “Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is One.” And added “Love your neighbour as yourself” which is an excerpt from Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am Yahweh.”

Do you see it? Where previously, the Shema at the core of the Law of Moses had been used to incite love for Yahweh (by putting His name at the beginning), this Jewish legal expert combined and quoted the two sources in such a way that Yahweh’s name did something new to the heart of the listener. For those, like the expert and Jesus, who had memorised their scripture as a child, the missing beginning of the Shema would have been playing on their minds all the way through the Expert’s answer and the juxtaposition of texts would have been all the more sweet when he stopped, leaving the next phrase unspoken (but in the educated listener’s mind the memorised morsel, in the way of oft-repeated things, would fill the silence) … “I am Yahweh.” In this legal expert’s mind, love for his neighbour was, indeed, love for God. And Jesus smiled.

The Jewish legal expert had done amazing things to the Jewish story through his deft use of Scripture. Now he invited Jesus to do likewise. “Who is my neighbour?” he asked.

Jesus’ answer, much like the expert’s use of scripture, caused the listener’s lips to twitch. This time, not into a smile but a grimace followed by a grunt.

The answer was obvious. It was, as they say, in the question. Again, unheard that day but clearly written on hearing hearts and minds, the answer was in the source material. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am Yahweh” (Leviticus 19:18). Your neighbour, whom you are to love, is your fellow Israelite. Anyone with ears that day would have heard exactly this.

Until Jesus told His story.

A gentile woman approached a Jewish Rabbi and said, “Good teacher, my daughter is…” no.

A non-Jewish woman approached a Jewish Rabbi and said, “Good teacher, my daughter is…” still, no.

A non-Jewish woman approached a Jewish Rabbi and said, “Son of David, my daughter is…” not quite.

A non-Jewish woman approached Jesus and said, “Son of David.” Bingo!

A gentile woman called Jesus “Son of David.”

Have you ever been watching a play and seen an actor mouthing the words of another actor, like it was the part they wanted but didn’t get? That’s this woman.

You can hear the disciples, “This Gentile woman has heard about Jesus and because she has a sick daughter, she comes running!”

“Yeah, she’s using our lines ‘Son of David’ – like she even knows what that means!"

“As if she’s even read the prophets!”

Jesus plays to the script. First, He ignores her. Then, he responds with the callous response of a Shema-believing Israelite because, according to the cultural script, the Jewish people get a Messiah because they’ve been waiting patiently and playing nice with the neighbours.

Jesus sighs, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

So, she falls to her knees in worship and says the sinner’s prayer, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus, the timeworn Master of divine delayed-gratification, stays on script even though it breaks His heart not to answer such a prayer immediately.
“It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

“I am a dog!” She knows she’s off script and she doesn’t care. “Dog’s get crumbs after you share with your neighbours. I’m not your neighbour, I know that. I’m a dog under your table! Please just drop a tiny piece of your Son of David flavoured, Messiah seasoned, life giving bread!”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

Jesus asked the man, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” (Luke 10:36).
Notice Jesus didn’t say, “like a neighbour.” Jesus isn’t looking for similes or metaphors … He’s looking for the real thing. The bandits and beatings are real enough. Now it’s time for the love of Yahweh to show up.

Two of those three men were neighbours of the burgled and beaten man. One was a foreigner. There were rules for helping neighbours and there were rules for helping foreigners. Jesus didn’t change the rules, He just let us know we have new neighbours. Neighbours who have been beaten by bandits. Neighbours who are under our table because we’ve convinced them they are dogs. Neighbours shouting “Lord, save me!”

The follower of Jesus asks, “If I am saved, what kind of neighbour am I?”
The expert replies, “One who shows mercy.”
Jesus says, “Yes, now go and do that.”