INTRODUCTION TO MAY LESSONS
Bible scholar Kenneth Bailey described Jesus as a metaphoric theologian. Beyond that, Jesus was a storyteller without equal. In this second month of lessons from Luke, we focus on Jesus’ parables from the travel narrative section of the Gospel (chapters 9–19). Jesus’ stories begin in reality but move to fictional analogy as they subvert our ideas of neighbors, riches, God, and prayer.
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Unit: Luke (Part 2)
Theme: Jesus the Storyteller
Lesson Text: Luke 10:25-37
Supplemental Text: Leviticus 19:9-8, James 2:1-11, Romans 13:8-10
Aim: Go and show mercy.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_May1_2022.
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By Mark Scott
TV’s Fred Rogers made famous the refrain, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” This warm and endearing ordained minister made us feel neighborly toward one another. But it was Jesus who blew the doors off any definition that would limit the scope and intensity of loving one’s neighbor.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is probably Jesus’ second or third most popular parable. But it is the first parable in the travel narrative of Luke 9–19, a section of Scripture that contains 18 such stories.
The Neighbor in Question
After Jesus had set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), he multiplied his ministry by sending out the seventy-two on a short-term mission trip (Luke 10). Later, after the seventy-two had returned, Jesus had an encounter with an expert in the law (Jewish law, at least, and perhaps even Roman law).
The law expert wanted to test Jesus, and later he wanted to justify himself. When we want to test Jesus, we are doing what the devil did with Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). When we want to justify ourselves, we will remain stagnant in our faith and ultimately become idolatrous.
His question was not bad (i.e., it dealt with eternal life), but how he framed it up (What must I do . . . ?) might be indicative of his pride and legalism. The Master Teacher asked the lawyer a question. Jesus is interested in how we read his word. The lawyer knew the answer to the most important part of the law, love God and love neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:1-4 and Leviticus 19:18). For the moment, all sounded good. Jesus challenged him by saying, “Do this and you will live.” But the lawyer had a question about who should be classified as his neighbor.
The Neighbor in the Ditch
Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a story rather than a dictionary definition. This parable began in reality, for there really was a road that went from Jerusalem to Jericho referred to as “The Bloody Way.” But for a Samaritan to help a Jew on that road? That was the point at which the true-to-life parable veered into fictional analogy.
The people listening to Jesus might have been only slightly interested in a story of a man being stripped, beaten, and left for dead on that famous road that descends 3,700 feet in 17 miles. Was it nighttime? Was the man alone? Jesus said religious leaders (a priest and a Levite) came down that road, saw the needy man, and passed by on the other side. Since they were coming “down,” helping the man would not endanger their ability to worship, unlike if they were going “up” to the temple. The title of the lesson is “The Story of the Neighbors.” Notice that “neighbors” is plural. There are two neighbors in the text. This first one is in the ditch.
Q. Who is our neighbor? A. Anyone in need.
The Neighbor with a Strange Face
The whole parable turns on the phrase, “But a Samaritan. . . .” And, for effect, Jesus used the same verbs. He came, he saw, and . . . oops . . . he took pity on him (he had compassion in his gut for the injured man). This Samaritan was from the wrong race, the wrong place, and certainly had a strange face. We might wonder, How did the neighbor in the ditch feel about this particular neighbor helping him? The injured neighbor’s thinking probably underwent a metamorphosis.
The Samaritan’s compassion moved him to action. Sympathy was not sufficient. He went to the injured man and cared for him with the goods he had (oil and wine). He relieved suffering as best he could. The bloody man on the bloody way was . . . bloody. Mercy can be so messy at times. The Samaritan transported him to the nearest inn and took care of him. The next day means the Samaritan spent the night with the man—now that was extravagant care! It might have been terribly inconvenient to the Samaritan’s schedule. Before leaving, the Samaritan put up the funds for the man’s long-term rehab.
This is an interrogative parable. It ends with a question: “Which man was a neighbor to the man in the ditch? Notice the turn. The first neighbor in the text was the man in the ditch—he had the needs. The second neighbor in the text was the Samaritan—he showed mercy. The lawyer could not bring himself to say, “The Samaritan,” so he said, “The one who had mercy.” As the conversation ended, the interrogative parable turned into an imperative parable—“Go and do likewise.”