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Series: Meet Jesus: Pictures from Luke and Acts by Dave McMurry
Date: February 7, 2016
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
Title: Jesus Meets a Theology Professor
Good morning again! If you have a bible you can open it up to Luke 10. If you don’t have a bible, we have some spread around and you can see a black bible nearby. We will be on page 869 if you want to follow along with us and track the story as we read through the text. We are continuing our series called, Meet Jesus. The purpose of this series is to challenge those of us that already know Jesus, to reevaluate if we are drifting from seeing and savoring just how great Jesus really is; these are good reminders for us, helping us to grow in our faith and our knowledge in him. For some of us, we really have never been introduced to the Jesus in scripture, so this is a great opportunity for those of you who have only heard myths, stories and Sunday School tales about who Jesus is, to actually see what the primary records tell us about Jesus.
This week we are calling it, Jesus Meets a Theology Professor. The word in the Greek is namacos, which is translated, depending on your bible, as teacher of the law, scribe, law teacher or lawyer. What this means is that this guy had the equivalent of a PhD in the Old Testament. This guy knew the Old Testament upside down and backwards. He was the top expert of his day in the bible, so he would have been what we call a professor or an expert, someone who had published, written and knew all the right answers. It’s going to be a challenging story. The other thing that is interesting is that this is one of the most famous parables in the bible. It’s one of the most well known parables in the bible, sometimes known as the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:25-37 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, (Jesus asked) do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Let me pray for us and ask God to help us with this text today. Lord, we ask for your help and we pray that you would meet us here. This is a favorite story for a lot of people and some people have never heard the story. God, for all of us, we pray that you would give us open hearts and open minds that your spirit would help us to hear from you. We thank you that you are a God that speaks and you speak to us through your word. We thank you for not leaving us without instruction, without words. We pray that you come to us this morning and help us. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This was really interesting timing. This week as I was preparing for this sermon and my mind was filled with these ideas of someone who was very smart, being tempted by thinking that they would be saved by being very smart. I was kind of percolating on this idea. There’s this temptation we all have to think that we are saved by the stuff we know. I got a phone call from someone and the secretary came to me and said there was someone on the line that said they want to speak to a pastor. I hate to say this, because you might call and need to “speak to a pastor” but I kind of immediately have negative thoughts when I have that kind of phone call. Usually, when it’s a happy conversation, people call and want to speak to “Dave” or to “Stephen” or another on staff and they know us. But this one was kind of vague and usually that means it’s a salesman. Sometimes when it’s not a salesman it means it’s someone that has a gripe and they want to pick a fight with someone over the phone. It turned out this was the latter; it was someone that wanted to pick a fight over the phone. I didn’t know what it was going to be, like I said, my first thought was kind of negative but I just immediately prayed, “Lord, give me an opportunity to share more of you with this person.”
The guy that called me was a Jehovah’s Witness, which is a sect of people who are really offended by our belief that God is one God in 3 persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are very offended by that belief. This guy’s method of dealing with me was to test me and show me my failure of having the right answers. Again, this was fascinating timing to me that that’s what I was studying this week, that there is this guy testing Jesus, not that I’m Jesus by any means, but this kind of testing attitude, who saw his duty as pointing out, “Hey, you don’t have the right answers but I do.” I was really taken aback by the conversation because I have people debate with me quite often but he was a lot more aggressive than normal. I was just surprised by that, surprised that his goal was to tear me down and make me doubt myself and to show me all the stuff he knew. He kept talking about the Greek and Hebrew and I’m thinking to myself, yes I have been to seminary and I do know the Greek and Hebrew for these words. It’s not like I’ve never studied this before but he was just hammering at me; we talked for about an hour. It was really interesting. Pray for him when you get a chance. I think we parted ways, not really having gotten anywhere. My next appointment came in and I had to tell him I had to go. As the conversation moved on it got more personal and more attacking, like he just wanted to show me how smart he was and how dumb I was. That was clearly his primary goal.
I think sadly that any of us can fall into that, especially those of us who really value God’s word. Because we think God really has spoken to us in his word; we value it and study it. There is something that can slip where we begin to love what he says more than him. Jesus talked about the Pharisee, saying that you think you get eternal life from the scriptures but you miss me, the one that the scriptures testify about. We need to make sure that we are more in love with Jesus than in the things that we know about what Jesus said. I’m not sure that makes sense, but that’s the kind of confrontation that Jesus has with this theology professor. We have to beware of any kind of self-justification; “I’m saved because I know stuff.” No, you’re saved because God is good and he is gracious of Jesus. You’re saved because of what Jesus has done, not because of what we have done.
The Professor’s Test (Luke 10:25)
The first thing I want us to see is this test that the professor gives him. It’s in the first verse and it will be a little short point and then we will move on from here. Luke 10:25, And behold, a lawyer (teach of the law, expert of the law) stood up to put him to the test, (the word is Peirazo, which is the same word we would use in the New Testament for tempting/testing. James made it clear and we looked at this back in the fall, where James says, “God isn’t tempted towards evil or tested towards evil – there’s this distinction, but the word can be used of God but it’s always used positively of God. The way I would explain this is that generally this is a negative word and generally when people are doing it, it’s bad. God can test someone but it’s only in the sense of testing someone to see his or her faith, like testing for success. We see that sometimes in what God did with Abraham. He was giving Abraham an opportunity to display his faith, but in general, James is making it very clear that God never tests someone toward evil or try to entice someone to do something that is wrong or to demean or tear him or her down. Here, it was pretty clear that this guy’s goal was more of the negative human use of this word – the negative use of testing, tripping, trying to tear him down) saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? So, it wasn’t that he really wanted to know the answer, because he already knows all the answers. He wants to trip up Jesus; he wants to show that Jesus doesn’t know the answer or Jesus misunderstands the answer.
This reminded me of the literary background I had. I was a really well educated child and I watched a lot of these shows as a kid; this character Wile E. Coyote and The Roadrunner! Wile E. Coyote thought he was really smart but he kept getting one-upped by the Roadrunner. He was always trying to set a trap for the Roadrunner based on how intelligent he was but it never really worked out. This shows you what a literary rich heritage I come from that this was the first thought I had of this guy trying to trap Jesus; there he is trying to light the rocket so he could chase the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote accidentally lights his tail. That’s kind of the same thing we have happening here with this professor, this expert in God’s Word. He lays out a test for the whole purpose of trapping Jesus; that’s the context here.
One of the things I think is important for us to think about here is how do we interact with people and specifically how are we interacting with God? Are we interacting with God? Are we interacting with Jesus from a position of critical doubt, testing, trapping and trying to trip him up, trying to prove that he’s really not good, that he’s really not gracious, that he really doesn’t have our best interest in mind or do we approach with an open mind?
Another application I would like us to think about from this is that as teachers and leaders; all of us teach somebody, even if you are not a public school teacher, not a commander or professor, you have some area in your life where you are leading someone; maybe as a parent or maybe as an older brother to a younger brother, but in some area of your life you have an opportunity to teach and lead other people. What I want you to think about and remember is that the best teachers and leaders always recognize that they have something to learn. We see just in this first little point that this guy is coming at it from the wrong angle, seeing himself as the expert that has it all figured out and he’s trying to trip up Jesus. We will see as the story unfolds how he is trying to show how much he knows so that he can trap and trip up Jesus. Obviously sometimes as a teacher you know that the person you are teaching doesn’t know the thing and you need to teach it to him. It’s a very common sense level of, yeah, it’s your job to teach him stuff, but they have that attitude of “I’ve always got something to learn.” Even from my beginning student that maybe doesn’t know anything, they are made in the image of God and I have something to learn here. I think that is an important thing to remember.
The Professor’s Heart (Luke 10:26-35)
We will move on now and look at the meat of the story which is Jesus dealing with the professor’s heart. The professor’s heart is really the issue in this story. Jesus aims for the heart. What I want you to see here as we seek to understand how Jesus deals with people is that Jesus aims for people’s hearts even when they don’t offer it. We have all been in those kinds of relationships where people hold back. They don’t let us know what’s going on. They don’t tell us their real motives. They don’t share what’s underneath and what they’re thinking. Jesus is always going after people’s heart, even when people don’t offer their heart to them. Look at verse 26. He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” That’s Jesus answering his question by asking a question. This is a beautiful example of how Jesus interacts with people. So, how Jesus teaches a person is by aiming for the heart and primarily starts off by asking questions.
One of my favorite teachers is an apologist named Francis Schaeffer, who died in the 80s. He had a great ministry in the 60s to people who doubted the faith. He did a lot of ministry in Switzerland. I guess you might say that he was a hippy evangelist. He was a weird dude with a funny beard who wore knickers and lived in the Swiss Alps. He had this ministry to people who doubted the faith. They would come to him and just work out the questions they had about the bible and about the faith in this kind of weird commune place in Switzerland. He had some great wisdom. Francis Schaeffer said this multiple times, he said, “If you only had one hour to share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone, what you should do is ask questions for 55 minutes and then spend 5 minutes explaining the gospel, telling them who Jesus is.” Fifty-five minutes of asking questions and 5 minutes of explaining the truth. The truth is really very simple. We can explain the truth of the fact that we are sinners. Jesus is our Savior. He died on the cross and took our sins upon ourselves. He gives us his righteousness, end of story. I probably just did that in 15 seconds; probably don’t even need 5 minutes. He’s saying to ask questions for 55 minutes and explain the truth for 5 minutes. This is not some kind of parlor trick where you ask people questions for 55 minutes and you’ll wear them down and then they’ll be open to what you are saying; that’s not what he’s saying. He is saying to actually want to know what people are thinking. You should actually be interested in their heart. Where are they seeking salvation? Why are they saying what they are saying? What is the gripe that they have? Where did that come from and where did it start? Honor people and give them dignity; that what they think and what they believe matters and just listen to them. Only then will we be able to show them how the gospel fits into their story.
Another interesting thing, Jerram Barrs points this out in his book, Learning Evangelism from Jesus. He says that Jesus constantly asked questions when he was sharing the gospel with people. We think of sharing the gospel as saying these things, this is the good news and this is who Jesus is. You’re a sinner, he’s a Savior and he died on the cross for you. We think of it in that little very compressed story which is the heart of the gospel. When Jesus shared the gospel with people he would ask questions again and again; this is just one instance of it. Barrs charts it out, he says, “In the book of Matthew, Jesus asked questions to people 94 times; in the book of Mark, 59 times; in the book of Luke, 82 times and in the book of John, 49 times.” I mean it’s just overwhelming that this is Jesus’ method. He aims for the heart and asks questions. Here, again, he starts with a question, “What is written in the law, how do you read it? He is saying, “You tell me, what’s your answer? How do you find eternal life? I want to hear your side of the story.” That’s where Jesus starts the conversation. 27 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.” This was a common understanding; the summary of the law, the same summary of the law that Jesus would give. He would use slightly different words and that’s an important thing to notice. As we read the bible, it’s okay that in one place it gave a list of 4 ways to love God and in another place it gave a list of 3 ways to love God. Don’t let those kind of things freak you out. He is saying to love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the summary of the law. That’s the summary of what it looks like to walk with God, to have real eternal life.
This guy gives the same answer that Jesus gives elsewhere. It’s the same answer that would have been commonly understood by the Jewish people. 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” He is like, “Okay, good answer. See you later. Moving on.” But it doesn’t stop there. 29 But he (the professor, the teacher of the law), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” He wants to clarify so he can be clear, “I do have eternal life and I am an expert and I do know the right things; who is my neighbor, according to you?” So here’s another way that Jesus focuses on the heart. He gives him a story that focuses on action more than theory; he doesn’t give him the wiggle room of debating these expert PhD ideas about the law but he actually talks about action. He also engages the imagination. Jesus does this often. He uses parables. He uses stories to kind of come in the side door. We can sometimes hold things at arms length and not deal with what God wants us to do when we talk about it in abstract idea form, but when there is this concrete story, sometimes it just kind of slips in the side and Jesus is able to address his heart this way. So he tells a story.
30 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. I just want to stop there for a second and recognize first of all the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a rough place. Commonly this is where bandits would hang out. I don’t know where you came from but there were probably neighborhoods that your mom taught you not to go to. When I was a kid, it was Killeen. I was told not to go to Killeen. It’s true, that’s how I was raised! There were these rough places that you were told that bad things were going to happen there. Be careful. Don’t go downtown at night or don’t drive on the street by yourself. You have all learned those kinds of things. Here, he is saying that’s where this happened. It happened in a place where you expect these kind of bad things to happen. So this makes sense. This guy gets beat up. He’s in the wrong place. He’s in the wrong part of town. Robbers beat him, strip him and leave him half dead. The priest was going down the same road and walks over on the other side. A priest would have had good reasons to do that because it would have made him ceremonially unclean to get involved. The way I would say this is that it would have caused him great discomfort. It would have caused him a distraction from his other duties of helping people. But still, Jesus is still very pointedly showing that this guy who is a professional “people helper” decided not to help this person so he could help the abstract people that weren’t present. This is hugely convicting for me. I’m also a professional “people helper” and I can fall under the circumstance of thinking that I have more important things to do. I don’t have time for you. I need to write a book about helping people. I can’t help you right now, you that’s bleeding and half-dead in front of me. This is replayed again with the Levite. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. There is not a really straight one-to-one comparison, but just to be general or rough about it, it would be like saying a pastor and a counselor or maybe a counselor and a deacon of the church. In general, he is saying that these are 2 people that everybody expects are going to stop and help him and they don’t because it’s going to inconvenience them and it’s going to cost them money and time. It’s going to mess up their life so they don’t do it because they have other theoretical people they need to help.
This is like the zinger in the story, 33 But a Samaritan (He just said a bad word, I want you to understand that. Jesus just said a bad word, Samaritan), as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. So, when we refer to the story as the parable of the Good Samaritan; that is an oxymoron to Jews; to us it’s not. Most of us are not Jews. We are gentiles. We don’t care about their issues of race and religion in the first century, so we are far removed from this issue. This was like saying, “A good Nazi walked up and had compassion,” and we just think how grotesque and repulsive that is! This is a repulsive story. It was doubly so for the Jews of the first century. It was a racism issue and it was a religious cultish issue. The Samaritans had a religious problem – they were basically cult followers. They didn’t really faithfully follow the God of the Old Testament, they mixed it with the other religions of their day and they were also of the wrong race. They had mixed with other people, other races and other tribes. So, they were doubly looked down upon. Again, for us, we have cultural distance. Jews would have had problems with us racially, those of us who are non-Jews. The Jews would have had a problem with us religiously as worshipers of Jesus. We have a distance here but just understand that Jesus is introducing someone that they thought was a bad guy and he is saying, “He had compassion. He was neighborly and loving.” So, this is that kind of side door into the heart.
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
So, we have a story and an example of love, concrete love. This is what love looks like, but again, don’t forget it is shocking. It is a shocking story and he’s engaging this man’s imagination. He is coming in a side door to his heart to address the prejudices that this theology professor had as well as his definition of what love was and what neighborliness is. Again, I believe Jesus is doing all of this because Jesus actually loves this guy, this smug self-righteous guy that thinks he’s saved by being smarter than Jesus. Jesus loves him by giving him a tough story, a hard story, by drawing out what’s in this guy’s heart. Doctors will often listen to your heart with a stethoscope. Have any of you ever been to a doctor and they listen to your heart with a stethoscope? This is a way the doctor can find out what’s going on inside of you. He doesn’t want to just look at the outside of you. He wants to do what he can to understand what’s under the surface. I think we have a beautiful example here of Jesus listening to this guys heart, drawing out what this guy thinks. Sometimes we talk about it as the question beneath the question. Sometimes we think about it as the sin beneath the sin. If you had a bad experience with the church, tell me about that. What was that like? Let’s understand it. Let’s work that out. Get it all out on the table. If you have real questions about God, whether or not you can count on him. Let’s talk about it. Don’t just answer that by, “No, you’re wrong – here’s the truth.” Ask people to share. Why? Why do you feel that way? How did you get to this place? Tell me your story? He is drawing this out and he’s listening to this guy’s heart.
My question for us is, do we deal with people’s heart or do we just try to keep it at an abstract level of truth? You know, like, “Here’s the facts, see you later, take it or leave it.” Or do you take the time to get to know people. This is really interesting; there’s a parallel here – he’s telling a story of someone who took the time to really care for someone concretely in a way that cost him a lot. Jesus is doing this and at the same time Jesus is caring for the professor’s heart. He’s taking the time to dig down deep, to get to know, help him understand, show him new things, to surface his heart issue.
Again, the 3 things that I think Jesus does here is he aims for the heart by asking questions more than telling him stuff. Secondly, I think he aims for the heart by focusing on action more than just abstract theory. Theory matters but he’s focusing on action here. Then, he aims for the heart by engaging his imagination by telling stories. Another way that we might say it is that we are not going to be able to just make up cool parables like Jesus, but again, just talking about life history, talking about favorite stories. Why do you love that song? You know, just getting into people’s heart, mind and imagination.
The Professor’s Response (Luke 10:36-37)
The next thing we see now is the professor’s response. In these last 2 verses we see a response or lack of, we might say, 36 Which of these three, (Jesus asked,) do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Again an interesting thing to see in his response is he couldn’t even say the word Samaritan, because again, that was a bad word. Jesus had said a bad word. “Jesus, we don’t talk to these people. Jesus, we don’t hang out with these people. Jesus, we don’t even walk through Samaria.” I mean, the Jews literally, from historical reports that we have of the first century, they would literally walk around it. It would be like saying, “I need to go to Hillsboro but I’m going to go around Waco.” Which I guess makes sense because the highway is so terrible! But, imagine the highway was good right now, and you’re like, “No, I’m not going to drive through that town because I don’t even want to be around those Baylor people; they disgust me! I’m not going to even drive through that city.” That’s the way the Jews were with the Samaritans in this time period. So, he couldn’t save the Samaritan, he just had to save the one that showed him mercy. The guy that loved him was the guy that loved him. Who acted like a neighbor? The one that showed him mercy. Who was loving? The loving guy was the loving one in that story. He can’t even really get the word Samaritan out.
I was just reading a book a couple weeks ago on preaching. The guy that wrote the book on preaching was talking about how whenever we come to the bible text we have what he calls near applications and far applications. Here in this story we have a good example of this. We have a very near application of what Jesus is actually doing as he deals with this guy’s heart? The near application is that Jesus is actually getting this guy “unsaved;” that’s the near application. We usually run to the far application, which is, “What does it look like to love people?” Well, it looks like you don’t care what race they are. You spend your own money. You give them your time. You have compassion. All those things are true. All those things are absolutely true. That’s the kind of love we want to exhibit in our community but let’s not jump to that before we deal with the near application. The near application is that Jesus is dealing with someone here and telling him or her, “It’s not working out for you. You think you’re saved by knowing the right stuff. You don’t actually love people.” We need to deal with that near application first. I would say it works in this order; we have to recognize that first of all, Jesus just gave an example in this story that is impossibly generous and repulsive. He kind of just slammed him again. Coming in the side door with the story, he slammed him from two sides. He’s like, “Whack! Whack!” Jesus said, “The way that you inherit eternal life is perfectly loving God and perfectly loving all people, all the time, no matter what, at great cost to yourself, give away everything that you have. There are no limits. That’s how you’ll be saved.” I hope you see there that that just “unsaved” us.
If you have a guilty conscience this morning, if you are entrapped in this cycle of thinking that, “God is pleased with me by how well I loved my kids today. God is pleased with me based on how many good things I did today,” this is utterly devastating news to you. I just want you to stop and recognize this; that it’s actually gracious because God is helping you to see that you cannot save yourself and that overpowering guilt that you feel, “I’m a failure. God is disappointed in me because I’m a failure.” Jesus wants you to see that you can’t actually be saved by loving your kids perfectly all the time, because nobody does that. Don’t jump to the second application of perfect love all the time and say, “Okay, that’s Jesus’ whole point, is that we need to be perfect all the time. Let’s go do it. Okay, let’s go do it church. Let’s just be positively perfect all the time and never make a mistake and then maybe if we do it hard enough and long enough, God will like us.” Jesus is "unsaving" him here. He’s showing an impossible bar. It’s a story that’s repulsive, talking about Samaritans. It’s a story that’s impossibly generous. So, he’s getting him “unsaved.” We do have an example here of what it should look like so don’t miss that either. We should love people. We should be generous.
This is a picture of a multiethnic, generous, no boundaries love that the church should be marked by but we are marked by it because first we went through the proper process of getting unsaved and recognizing that I can’t save myself because I don’t love people all the time and then being saved because now I have had to throw myself at God’s mercy and I have had to recognize that Jesus is my only hope. Once you really understand that Jesus is your only hope, then that pushes your heart out of being all obsessed with that and trying to save yourself by being perfect and feeling free to actually love people. When you’re thinking that you can save yourself by doing all the right things, it’s crushing and it cripples your ability to actually love people because it’s all about you. You’re always evaluating yourself. You’re always measuring yourself up to other people. You’re always comparing yourself. Recognize the grace of the near application. The first application here is that Jesus is "unsaving" this guy. He’s saying, “You have to come to terms with your own rock bottom, that you are the pinnacle of Jewish society and that’s still not enough.”
I have a picture here of a broken ax. I was trying to think of a concrete example of this. It would be like Jesus saying, “Eternal life is found in you chopping down trees.” I know the ladies are wondering what I’m talking about and the guys are like, “Yeah that sounds cool.” So, eternal life is found in chopping down trees and Jesus is having a conversation with you about it. Jesus says, “Show me your ax.” We respond, “Well, it’s broken Jesus.” The picture I have here is an ax that the head came off. The guy is halfway through the log and the head broke off. That’s what this conversation is. Jesus says, “You are going to find eternal life by chopping down trees - show me your ax.” But it’s broken; none of us has an ax that works. The guy here is like the best of the best. He probably has a chain saw! But it’s broken; it doesn’t work. It’s interesting that sometimes you can use tools for different things. If you are trying to hammer a nail, you can use any broken tool for that, right? But there are specific things that you need the tool to work properly for. We have all had the experience of trying to use a tool to do a specific thing and it doesn’t work. Jesus is here confronting us with that issue. He’s saying, “Okay, eternal life is to love God and love people perfectly all the time. Now, let’s inspect your love. Let me look at your love tool. Let me look at how you love people. Let me look at how you do that in your life.” We say, “It’s broken, Jesus.”
There is this really interesting dynamic here. Jerram Barrs talks about this in his book, Learning Evangelism from Jesus. He says, “Do we have enough faith to trust God and be like Jesus is in this moment where we show someone that they are not making it, that they are not saved and we don’t even give them the memorized gospel.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me, you who are now weary and heavy burdened.” He just leaves him hanging. Are we willing to leave people hanging some time? Now, again, we are not Jesus and granted we are going to mess this up left and right. We can’t make up awesome perfect parables. We can’t always know people’s heart. Obviously, there are limits, but I do think of Jesus as someone who is both fully God and also fully man. He is an example for us to follow. He shows us how to deal with people according to their heart. Jesus shows us in multiple other places that he is willing to leave someone hanging. He is willing to leave someone hanging with the reality and the tension of, “I’m not saved,” so that they would be hungry to know, “Well, how can I be saved?” I think sometimes we rush to the punch line and we don’t allow people to really wrestle with their need. People need to see their neediness of Jesus before they are willing to hear that Jesus is the answer.
Again, this is a very sensitive thing. I don’t know how we know this. I don’t know how we know to do this like Jesus did, apart from just prayer. “God, help me to have that kind of wisdom, that I would know when to leave someone hanging.” That sounds terrible. For me, I am a preacher, so I would just compulsively want to be like, “But Jesus loves you. He died on the cross for your sins” and then just run away. I wouldn’t want to just leave him hanging, I haven’t finished the story, but Jesus is totally willing to do that. That’s a question for us. Are we willing to leave people hanging the way that Jesus does? Again, Jesus does it because I believe he loves him. He is helping him get to that place where he is willing and ready to hear the rest of the story.
I want to just wrap up thinking about a lens to look at the story through. We kind of talked about seeing it through the lens of Jesus. How does Jesus deal with this guy? How does Jesus love this guy who is trying to trap him? Then we talked a little bit about seeing it through the lens of the theology professor as well. Are we sometimes like this guy that thinks we are justified, trying to justify ourselves by knowing the right answers, by tripping people up.
A third lens I would like you to think about is seeing it through the lens of the victim. I think really when you stand back and you look at the broader gospel story, that’s where we really see the gospel and see Jesus highlighted in this story. In this story and the way we understand our own spiritual condition is because of our own sin and because of other people’s sin again us we have been beaten up and stripped and left for dead spiritually. We are broken. We are the ones lying on the roadside unable to fix ourselves, unable to save ourselves. In this story, Jesus is the one like the Good Samaritan, who comes and has compassion on us, who loves us, who binds up our wounds, who deals with us graciously, who spends everything he has. The story goes that not only does he spend his time and his money and his effort to care for us and to put us back together, but he was actually broken for us. He was actually beaten for us. He was actually stripped for us. He was left for dead for us but the good news is that he didn’t stay dead; he rose from the grave, conquering sin and death once and for all, showing that he is the good one. He showed compassion to us. Now, we have this response of recognizing all the goodness that Jesus showed us, and that should motivate us to want to be good, to want to love others.
Let me pray for us and we will respond in worship together.
God, we thank you that you that you love us and you have shown us grace in Jesus. God, this is in many ways a tough story so we pray that you help us to wrestle with both the near and the far application of recognizing sometimes that people need to come to terms with seeing their own system of righteousness, their own self-justification is not working. God, help us to deal graciously with people’s hearts. Help us to lead people to seeing their own need of you in a loving and kind way. God, we also thank you that you are the one that showed that ultimate kindness to us, that when we were beat up and we were broken, you came and showed mercy to us. We thank you for that and we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.