Have you heard of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If so, and you think that it teaches you to simply do good works, you are missing it and don’t understand the story! As we kick off our new series, “Retold: History Everybody Should Know”, Todd Wagner teaches through the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
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Retold: The Prodigal Son
Retold: The Beginning of the Church Part 2
Retold: The Beginning of the Church
Retold: Jonah and the Whale
Retold: Daniel and the Lions' Den
Retold: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Retold: David and Goliath
Retold: The Ten Commandments
Retold: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
Retold: Ruth and Naomi
Retold: The Good Samaritan
Have you heard of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If so, and you think that it teaches you to simply do good works, you are missing it and don’t understand the story! As we kick off our new series, “Retold: History Everybody Should Know”, Todd Wagner teaches through the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
Good morning. How's everybody doing? It is awesome to be back. It really is. I told my kids when we got back I was going to do what Chris Farley did when he went on The Late Show with David Letterman…start in the back and run through, touch everybody, and do cartwheels, and all that different stuff, and then I tried to do a cartwheel. No, I think I can do a cartwheel, but we're not going to put you through all that.
It is really great. That was a loud meet and greet. We're just made to be together, and I pray, by the grace of God, it makes sense for us to keep being together. We're going to continue to evaluate that. What we are going to do for the remainder of this summer is we are going to dive into the Book in a way that I think is going to really, really encourage you. I hope today kind of sets the course for you.
The series we're going to do is called Retold: History Everybody Should Know. The Bible is true. It's one of the things that makes it unique from every other book that claims to be the Word of God. It's not just a philosopher's account. It's not just a collection of wisdom sayings. The Bible alone, different than Hindu mythology, different than the Qur'an, different than the Buddhist holy writings, is anchored in history.
It is a telling of his story…his being the creator God who loves us and wants us to know him, because he knows in us knowing him we will experience life as he intended us to experience it, because we have bought a lie about who he is. You can go back and look at the way God worked through history. There's a reason God calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you're wondering how God is going to treat you, he's giving you his CV.
He's giving you his story and his résumé about how he interacts with rebellious, foolish, hard-hearted humans, and you're going to see it's with lovingkindness and grace, and he is slow to anger, but by no means will he let the guilty go unpunished. He doesn't want us to experience the judgment we deserve. He wants us to experience life and be reconciled to him and then be a source of blessing to others. So, the Bible is showing you what God has done, what he's doing, and what's going to happen.
There are some stories we teach the youngest…not members of Watermark, because you can't be a member of the church of Jesus Christ until you understand what makes you a part of the church, which is coming to an understanding of who God is and acknowledging what separated you from God, and then calling out to God for grace, that you might receive mercy through the provision he gave you, so you can be then reconciled to him, and you're called out of darkness into his marvelous light, and then you're a member of his body.
Most 0- to 4-year-olds haven't completely understood sin and death and judgment yet. That's why we don't do child baptisms, because the Bible talks about believer baptisms. But what you start to do, if you love people, is right away, you begin to teach them truth.
So, from basically 0 up until you move into our K-1 Race or the beginning of our ministry to our children, where we're ministering to our children, not just doing childcare… We're discipling them and calling them to a life of repentance until, when they get to our high school ministry here, our student ministry, we just love them and say, "Hey, you can continue to come be a part of this, but you have to make a decision about who this Jesus is."
There's no confirmation class, because there is what's called confirmation bias. I don't know…maybe you guys do…how many folks go through confirmation class and don't stand up there at the end of that semester and get their white Bible with their name engraved on it, with Grandma and Grandpa there, and they all go out and get a nice brunch.
The affirmation rate of kids in confirmation class is probably close to 100 percent. There are not very many kids who go, "I don't think I'm going to confirm what my parents believe and what I've been raised to understand at this moment." A lot of kids haven't been around a church, and they show up for a confirmation class, and then they go on.
But by the time they get to high school here, we're saying, "Hey, we're going to keep loving you and pouring into you, but it's time for you guys to decide if you want to follow Jesus. There's a membership class over there. You ought to go get a big ol' taste of it. And there's a thing called community, which you have to pursue. God has given you a gift if you're a believer, and you ought to employ it in serving one another." We call our students to membership.
If they're not members, we keep pouring into them, but we pour into them not expecting them to act like believers. We don't expect that kids who don't know Jesus, when they go off to college, to lose their faith. We just want to tell them before they go, "Hey, just so you know, just to be clear, it doesn't look like you have a faith. You've never embraced the faith. You've never been sharpened or admonished or encouraged. We love you. We're not going to be surprised when we hear you go off to college and don't experience what Jesus wants you to experience there."
We do something called the Bible Biggies for our 0- to 5-year-olds, and then we start to disciple them in the way of wisdom when they get to kindergarten all the way through fifth grade, where we talk about wisdom living and attributes of what it means to live the good life God shows you that you should live. By the way, none of us fully live that way, so here's why Jesus is the perfect example of the good life and why you want to know him and take his grace.
That's what we do in our children's ministries. Zero to 5: Bible Biggies. K through fifth grade: "This is the good life. There is no one good but Jesus. You ought to repent and follow him and then learn his ways." Sixth grade through twelfth grade: "Is he your Jesus?" What we're doing over the next 10 weeks is we're going to sync up with our 0- to 5-year-old Bible Biggies.
Parents, you are the primary disciplers of your children. You should know these stories…not just the narrative but the meaning. You're going to see Jesus is the star of every story, even the ones in the Old Testament. It all points to Jesus. Some of the stories we're going to tell are from the New Testament, some are from the Old, but it's always going to be about Jesus, because he is the visible image of the invisible God.
So, these are stories you think you know, but you may not know them the way you need to know them, because we don't just tell our kids stories. We're not just opening up Grimm's Fairy Tales. These are not just Aesop's Fables. This is God revealing himself. So, Retold: true stories from history that can change your eternity.
I have a tough job today. I'm going to tell you to stay with me while I tell you a story that is probably so familiar to you that you're going to have a hard time sticking with me, but I think you're going to be surprised. Last night, because I knew I was going to do this, I had my college-aged son sit down with me. I go, "Bro, have you ever watched The Sixth Sense?" He goes, "I don't think so." I go, "Okay. Stop what you're doing. Sit down. We're watching The Sixth Sense."
Now, I'm just going to tell you something right here. I'm about to tell you what happens in the movie The Sixth Sense. It's not just a spoiler alert; I'm going to ruin the movie. Don't tell me, "I was going to watch it tonight." It's 20 years old. Tune out if you want to and go watch it tonight. But the guy dies at the beginning of the movie. I mean, they shoot him, so it's not like I'm telling you anything you're not going to see. But the guy is dead in the whole movie.
What's so funny about this… My wife and I were told to watch Nate Bargatze, who's a stand-up comic, and he does a bit in there about marital fights and about the silent treatment. What was really funny is he talks about The Sixth Sense. He goes, "Let me just tell you how weird marriages are and how we kind of don't talk to each other.
We think it's so normal sometimes for couples when they are fighting to have the silent treatment that we watch a movie called The Sixth Sense, and the entire movie, the guy's wife isn't talking to him, and we think that's more normal than the fact that he was shot and was dead and is somehow still in the movie." It's pretty funny. He goes, "It's like The Sixth Sense is a marital movie. We think we're watching a marriage movie about marriage and awkward lack of communication."
Well, let me just tell you, The Sixth Sense is not a marriage movie, and the story I'm about to tell you today is not what you think it is. If you watch The Sixth Sense as a marriage movie, you're going to miss the whole thing, and if you take this story today to be something that teaches you simply how you are to do good works, then you're going to miss the whole story. It's the story of the good Samaritan. Let me read it to you. Stick with me, because I think you think you know the movie. I'm going to show you you may not.
Father, would you open our eyes? Would you let us see what it is that you want us to see from this text? Don't let us go, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. We know the story, Todd. There are three guys. The last guy does a good thing. Be a good Samaritan." No. Father, open the eyes of our hearts. Let us see you. Amen.
Before I read the parable of the good Samaritan, I want to tell you why Jesus told parables. This is really, really important. He tells parables because he is trying to do two things that seem to be completely at odds with one another. I'm going to read to you from Matthew 13:10-17. This is why, when you get to the New Testament, Jesus speaks a lot in parables. About 40 of them if you're curious.
There's an old statement that says, "If you want somebody to know something, you tell them. If you want somebody to understand something, you tell them again. If you want somebody to love something, you tell them a story." Jesus wants us to love truth, so he tells a lot of stories. But here's what he's doing when he tells the parables.
What you're going to see is Matthew 13 shows up in all of our Bibles right after Matthew 12, and Matthew 12 is a very important section of Scripture. In Matthew 12, the leadership of the nation of Israel, like the leadership of most of our country, goes, "We're still all about being God's people and putting 'In God we trust.' We're still saying our little Pledge of Allegiance, 'One nation under God,' but by and large, we're not under God and we're not really about what God wants.
In fact, if you tell us, Jesus, you are going to be the one we need to know in order to know God, we reject you. We think you're a blasphemer. We think you're a devil. We think that what you're doing that's amazing that we've never seen done before is not done by the Holy Spirit; it's done by an unholy spirit, and we reject you. I don't know what we're going to do, but we're not doing it with you." That's Matthew 12.
So, in Matthew 13, Jesus starts telling stories. Now, here are the two reasons Jesus tells a parable: to reveal truth and to hide it. Is that not the craziest thing you ever heard? How do I know that? Well, here's why: Matthew 13:10-17. Jesus answered the question, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" Well, I'm going to tell you.
"To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [the ones who just said I'm not the way, the truth, and the life, that I'm not doing this by the Holy Spirit in relationship with the Father as the incarnate God who is here with you] it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him."
Does that sound like a gracious God? "To the one who has I'm going to give more. The one who doesn't have, what they do have is going to be taken away from them." Now, he's not talking here about material possessions. What he's talking about here is understanding. That makes sense. "If you understand that I'm here to teach you more about the Father, you're going to lean in and you're going to want to know more about what I'm teaching.
If you've rejected that the Father is revealing himself through me, that I'm the exact representation of his nature, that I spoke through the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament, but now, at the fulfillment of time, here comes the final and fullest revelation of God… The Word is made flesh. If you reject the Word, even your basic understanding of God is going to be diminished, and you're going to pervert and destroy the Old Testament the rest of your life."
Do you see what he's saying? So, now he's going to tell you a story. He says, _ "Therefore I speak to them in parables…" _Parables. I come alongside to explain. That's what it means. _ "…because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." _ Then he's going to quote from Isaiah 28.
"In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, _ _ 'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them .'"
"And I would have loved nothing more than to heal them, but they don't want to be healed because they don't even think they're sick." Let me just tell you this morning, there are some people who will sit in here, and they don't think they're sick. They think they're going to hear a story, and they're going to despise certain people in the story and think they're better than those people, and they don't understand what Jesus is saying is, "You're more like those people than you are the one who's the hero of the story. You're sick."
You need to know how sick you are, so you run to a physician, the Divine One, who will heal you from being beaten and left for dead and without hope. There is somebody who has come and stolen from you. He has tried to kill you, and he has killed you, effectively, in relationship with God. He has destroyed life as God intended, and he has destroyed your relationship with God, and there is no chance for you to ever, on your own, recover and be made well again.
If you don't understand that's your state, sinner, all of us, then this story is not going to mean much to you, and you're going to think Jesus is giving you little tips and techniques so when you stand before God and the scales of justice are weighed, there's more Good Samaritan in you than there is bad actor and you'll slide in. There's no sliding in. You need salvation, and salvation comes through Jesus alone, not through you being a good Samaritan.
Some of you are going to hear this story, and you're not going to get it because you don't think you're sick. Jesus is trying to help a guy who he tells this story to. "No, you're sick." Not "This is how you can make yourself acceptable." Told you. Told you you haven't been watching the right movie. Jesus does what he says in Matthew 13:10-17 because of Matthew 11:20-24. Matthew 11:20-24 says this:
"Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent." Even though there was an abundance of revelation. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon…" Let me let you into this, because those are names you may not know anything about.
Jesus hung out in and around the Sea of Galilee most of his life. He never traveled more than 70 miles from where he was born. Seventy miles. Most of what he did he did about 15 to 20 miles from where he was born over there around the Sea of Galilee in a town called Capernaum. It was kind of his home base of ministry.
Right next to Capernaum, just a half a day's walk, is Bethsaida and Chorazin and other communities he would go to and perform a lot of miracles. Farther up the coast where the pagans were were Tyre and Sidon, and farther down the coast where the pagans were were Sodom and Gomorrah.
"…it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."
In other words, the more revelation you have, the greater your judgment. I've talked about this in the past. I don't know if the judgment is actually going to be hotter. I don't know how it can be any hotter than a lake of fire, but I think one of the things that's going to be true is when you're there and you've been given revelation, you've been given the answers to the test, and you suppress the truth in unrighteousness, not just through general revelation and the loud voice of conviction in your heart but also through the teaching of special revelation of the Word of God…
You're at Watermark week in and week out, and you hear us talk about regular attenders being irregular believers and repentance and availing yourself fully to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you're just a good person, a religious person. You're a "go to church" person. You're a "get along" person. You're a Good Samaritan person. Careful, because Good Samaritans don't go to heaven. Christ-followers go to heaven.
People dependent upon Jesus Christ alone as the means that they can be saved go to heaven. We don't teach this story to your children so they can learn to be nice to their other siblings and not be monsters in preschool, which is always a good idea. We teach this to the kids to let them know about the righteous standard of God, if we're teaching it correctly. I hope our children's team is listening.
You need to understand the context of the story. In Luke, chapter 10, where the story appears, Jesus had sent his disciples out to go and do good works which make good room for the good news and to declare that the kingdom of God is at hand. They come back and they're rejoicing, and there are all kinds of celebration that people are open to the fact that the Messiah is here and that the kingdom of God is going to come. Jesus gets away, and in verse 21 he says this. This context is important.
"At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit…" Which is the source of all our rejoicing. "…and said, 'I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.'"
Now, when you hear that, you go, "Oh man. This might be a good place to stop and pray that the Son would reveal to me the justice, holiness, and mercy of the Father this morning." This would be a good spot for you to go, "Wait. I can't know who the Father is unless, Jesus, you show me who he is?" That's what he just said.
So, here's a good move on your part. You can reject it later, but I would recommend to you that you take a position of humility, because God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. This might be a really good place for you to say, "O God, would you show me what it is you want me to know? Would you reveal to me why you told this story?" Just right now, in the quietness of your heart, you might want to pray that.
Father, may your Spirit go to work in the lives of folks who are listening with me.
"Turning to the disciples…" Turning now to my fellow members of the church, those of you who are here to whom God has revealed the truth of who he is and your sin. Jesus said it to them privately. I'm going to say it publicly. Blessed, Watermark members. Blessed, true followers of Christ. "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see…"
The ones who heard about the coming Messiah, the coming rescue of God, the coming goodness of God. They longed to see when that day would come, and you've seen it if you were alive when Jesus was there and if you're looking back at what Jesus has done. These guys didn't see it. They didn't hear the things you hear, but you've heard it.
This would be a good time for you to pray with me that you understand how blessed you are and that you are living in a moment of history where there has never been a greater revelation of God unfolding who he is. Guys, I love the fact that America is seeing the brokenness of its dead, God token-honoring ways. I love that there's chaos that is seen because there has been a lot of chaos that has not been seen, and it's making people go, "Man, this doesn't look right."
It has not been right, and this is a church problem, because the church is the one that is to give us the solution to that which is causing all of the problems instead of every now and then doing a Good Samaritan little bit of work, sliding frozen turkeys into oppressed neighborhoods. God wants us to know there's a systemic problem in our hearts, and it's sin, and it manifests itself in policies and in prejudice and in all kinds of vitriol toward one another.
I'm so glad we're kind of going, "This doesn't seem like our Father's world." It's not. So, Christian, speak into our Father's world and give people hope. Today, in the message Jesus gives us, we're going to find how to turn it all around. Will you do what you're supposed to do? Let me just insert something here so I can make myself share the punch line in just a little bit to this whole story.
I went to lunch this week with some friends around here. There were five or six of us, and we went to grab a little bit of lunch. We went to Blue Sushi. One of the guys there liked sushi. I'm like, "I don't know. I'm all in." So, Blue Sushi down there on Walnut Hill. While I was there, like I always do, I'm engaging in building a relationship with the person who's serving me. I asked her her name, and she told me her name was Genesis. I mean, come on. Like, layup.
I try not to be completely corny right away. I go, "That's a beautiful name. I like that name." She goes, "Yeah, it's a really unusual name." I go, "Do you know why your mom named you that? You know what it means, right?" She goes, "Oh yeah. It means beginning." I go, "Right. It means beginning. Why did your mom choose that?" She kind of went on and told me. I said, "Tell me about your faith. Do you have a faith? Do you have a story?"
She said to me, "Well, I go to a church." She mentioned the name of another large church in our area. I go, "Awesome. So, here's what we're going to do, Genesis. Let's just talk some more. I know you have some other tables you're helping out, but I want you to do me a favor. You're hanging out at a church, and you like it, and I'm sure they teach you how to have a relationship with God.
So, before our meal is over, I want you to tell me if I wanted to have a genesis to my relationship with God, what's the first thing I need to do. Deal? Can you do that sometime in the next hour and 15 to 20 minutes I'm going to be here? At some point, I'm going to come… I'm telling you the quiz. 'Hey, Genesis, give me 30 seconds. If I wanted to begin a relationship with God, how would I do that?'" She goes, "Oh, okay." So off she went. Stay tuned.
If you know how to have a relationship with God, you're blessed. Do you live in that blessing? Do you respond to that blessing? Do you know why you've been blessed? Do you know what you're supposed to do with that blessing? Some of you think you're supposed to just do this story and this story is there to tell you what you're to do once you've been blessed. No. This is a story to tell you that you need to be blessed.
It's true if you're blessed you're blessed to be a blessing, but you'd better not think you being a blessing to others is going to bless you when you stand before a holy God, because you're watching the movie the wrong way. So, hanging out when all this is going on (verse 25), a lawyer. Now, this is not a John Grisham lawyer. This is not a Supreme Court lawyer. This is not a civil lawyer. It's not a judge. This is not a criminal defense attorney. This is not Perry Mason. This is not Johnnie Cochran. This is not that kind of lawyer.
This is an expert in Old Testament Law. This is a guy who studied Genesis all the way through the Pentateuch and the Torah, and he studied the Mishnah, which is just rabbinical explanations of the Pentateuch, specifically the book of Leviticus, and explaining to you how to follow the law God gave you. That's what this guy did for a living. When people wanted to know, "What does God want me to do?" they'd go to this guy, and he would tell them.
That guy stood up. He stood up not because he wanted to be blessed or not because he thought Jesus was a blessing. This guy stood up because he wanted to test Jesus. He wanted to put him in an awkward position, because he was going to see how this young hotshot rabbi answered. "Hey, sum up the whole law for me." This is not a difficult thing for Jesus. He knew the book. He had a lot to do with writing it. He passed the test with flying colors himself when he was asked this.
In fact, let me just tell you, in Matthew, chapter 22, there was another Pharisee who had come up to him, and they asked him a question in Matthew 22 to test him. That's what it says in verse 35 of Matthew 22. It says this guy came up to Jesus, a lawyer in effect, and he said, "Hey, what's the greatest commandment?" Jesus is going to respond this way. Watch. This is Matthew 22:
" '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."
If you go back and look, in fact, at the Ten Commandments, you're going to find out that the first four of the Ten Commandments largely have to do with the way you love God, and then five starts with "Honor your mother and father," because they're the ones who are going to teach you the law of God, according to Deuteronomy 6, and then six, seven, eight, nine, and ten are how you love your brother. You don't murder, you don't commit adultery, you don't steal, you don't bear false witness, and you don't want what they have for yourself.
So, the Ten Commandments are broken up that way: love God and love others. Jesus says that's basically the whole thing. That's Deuteronomy 6:4. That's Leviticus 19:18. That's the whole Law: love God, love others. That's what he says. Now, I tell you that, because when you go back with me to Luke 10, you're going to see that this rabbi, this lawyer, knew what Jesus knew, but he was missing a huge point, and you don't want to miss the point this rabbi missed.
If you want somebody to know something, you tell them. If you want them to understand something, you tell them again. If you want somebody to love something, you tell them a story. I've already told you twice what you need to know, and I'm about to tell you a story, because I want you to love your Jesus.
"And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" I love this. This is the most important question you can ask. He asked exactly the right question to exactly the right person. If you're not asking that question, you have no sense. "What must I do to be right with God?"
"Genesis, how do I begin a relationship with God? I want to know. I don't care what kind of sushi you bring me. If you can't tell me how to start a relationship with God, this food is just going to have me live a little longer before I face certain judgment. So give me the food that leads to everlasting life, Genesis. Go think about it and come back. You're a churchgoer. Surely you know."
By the way, there are people all around you who expect you to serve that up when you're with them. That's why you're here on earth: to serve people that information. The blessed ones who have heard it should give it. You are blessed to be a blessing. You have received mercy to give mercy. Are you doing it? With all the chaos this week, are you offering up the answer to the chaos or are you just glad it's not chaotic in your neighborhood?
Jesus responds. "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" Jesus did this a number of times when he talked in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount, this Pharisee, this Sadducee, this lawyer, if he had been paying any attention, six times… Last summer, we studied the Sermon on the Mount, and there is a teaching mnemonic specifically in Matthew 5 that explains to you what Jesus is doing in Matthew 5. Maybe you'll remember it.
In Matthew 5, Jesus says this six times: "You have heard…but I say to you…" "You have heard…but I say to you…" "You have heard…but I say to you…" Finally, way down there in Matthew 5:43-44, he says, "You have heard it said," and then he quotes Leviticus 19:18. Watch this. I'm going to read it to you in Matthew 5:43-44.
" You shall love your neighbor _ _ and hate your enemy." _ That little part that is not in block letters that way because is not a quote from the Old Testament. We're never supposed to hate our enemy. In the very same chapter where we're called to love our neighbor, we're to love the stranger. Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, '_ You shall love your neighbor _ _ and hate your enemy.'" Which is crazy. "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…"
"What's written in the Law, man? How does it read to you? What do you think it says?" "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 _…'" That's Deuteronomy 6:4-5. That is a 100 on question one. _ "… and your neighbor as yourself __ ." That's Leviticus 19:18. That's exactly what Jesus says in Matthew 22. That's a 100 on question two.
Jesus goes, "You have answered correctly. Well done. Perfect." But here's the problem. The guy didn't say what he should have said when he quoted that. What you and I should say when Jesus says, "Todd, read your Old Testament. Read the Law. How does it read to you?" is "It reads like I haven't got a chance. That's how it reads. It reads like there is no way I can be that guy. In fact, I know I'm not that guy."
What I should do when I read my Old Testament is go, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." When Jesus kept saying, "You have heard it said, but I say to you," and he wraps it up in Matthew 5:48, "Hey, here's the summation of the Law: be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect," we should go, "Uh-oh!" When I tell you, "Here's God's standard: be perfect," do you go, "Okay. Tracking with you. What else?" Or do you go, "Uh-oh"?
"But wishing to justify himself…" That's the way you know the guy is a lawyer. He's about to tear into this thing. He's going to go, "Well, who's my neighbor?" It's kind of like when Jesus says to Pilate, "Everyone who is of the truth knows who I am" and Pilate goes, "What's truth?" and then he walks out and talks to the Jews. Pilate didn't go, "Everyone who knows truth is right with you? Tell me what truth is, Jesus." Pilate didn't do that. He goes, "What is truth?" "Who's my neighbor?" Jesus replied and said, "Well, let's see if I can't tell you a little story."
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…" Do you know this one? Have you ever heard this story? Do you know why he's telling it now? Have I kind of told you that you're dead? This is not a marriage movie. This is not how to have a better marriage and improve your communication with God. You're dead in your trespasses and sins. You don't love God, and you don't love your neighbor the way God says you should.
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…" That's about a 3,000-foot drop. Just to show you, here's a little map. That's Jerusalem up there on the left. You take a little dip down to the Kidron Valley. You walk up the Mount of Olives. It's not a big mountain. It's Flag Pole Hill, if you're a Dallas guy. You go down the shoulder. You walk about 17 miles and you get to Jericho, which is about 1,000 feet below sea level. It's about a 17- to 20-mile walk. It is a windy road. It is through a cavern.
It is through the Judean wilderness. There is nothing but crevices and cracks and caves, and it is called the Way of Blood because the rocks are red and because thieves and bandits hid on this road. To this day (I've been on this road), you get on that road, and you'll see where they go, "We think this is maybe where Jesus was referring to when he told the story of the good Samaritan." Everybody knew you didn't want to walk on this road alone.
So, he's telling a story. Everybody can place themselves into it. They knew what was going on. "…and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead." You're more than half dead, but let me just leave it there. You're not all the way dead yet. You're mostly dead. You're dead in your trespasses and sins, but Miracle Max can give you life. But it's appointed that after you're dead dead, judgment is going to come. So, mostly dead people, pray that you have ears to hear and that you're revivified by the gospel.
Verse 31: "And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side." Right now, you're reading this going, "That dadgum priest. What's he doing? I'm so much better than that priest. If I saw a guy beaten and bloody on the side of the road, I'd at least dial 911." "Likewise a Levite also…"
I'm not going to talk about the priest too much, other than to say this is a guy whose job is to be a mediator between God and man, to talk about mercy and grace. A Levite is a guy who worked in the temple and was there all the time. So, if Jesus were going to tell a natural story, he would say a priest (the most holy class), a Levite (a guy who worked in the church), and maybe just a normal Jew. But he doesn't do that. There's a twist here.
In verse 33 he says, "But a Samaritan…" A what? A Samaritan? Are you kidding me? "…who was on a journey…" This is the man who is the least likely to be a neighbor to anybody, because nobody is a neighbor to him. He's hated and despised. Who were Samaritans? They were Jews who lived in Israel after the Assyrians came and judged and wiped out Israel so God could get their attention.
Some of them stayed behind. It wasn't a perfect ethnic cleansing. So, there were some Jews who were there, and the occupying Assyrian forces came in, and they started to marry and give themselves to them, and they bred themselves into the Assyrian nation. They lost some of their faithful Jewishness or, if nothing else, the bloodline wasn't pure, so when there was the return from exile, the Jews said, "Oh, you can't love God because your blood is not pure."
They wouldn't even let them come down and rebuild the wall or rebuild the temple with them. So they built their own temple up in Samaria because they still wanted to worship God. Now they thought, "Man, they're racially compromised. They're religiously compromised. There is nothing good in Samaria." In fact, if you look at what the Jews said about Jesus in John, chapter 8, when they really wanted to curse Jesus, they said, "You're a Samaritan and a demon-possessed one!" There was nothing worse you could call somebody, if you were a good Jew, than a Samaritan.
It says, "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." Let me just say this. I could go through this a little bit. Look at what he did. This guy gave not just money, but he gave time and money. He spent the night with him.
"On the next day he took out two denarii…" Which is more than a day's wage. We know because we found some boards with writings on them from archaeology that take us back to about this time and age, that these kinds of inns… This is not the Four Seasons. This is like a hostel. The dregs of the earth would stay there.
So, if you give a guy two denarii… An inn was welcome to all people, and anybody could stay there, and it cost you about 1/32 of a denarius. So, this guy showed up. He put the guy on his animal, and he went out of his way to care for him with his time and his money. He left his journey to care for this brother, and he gave him 60 days worth of provision.
Then he goes to the guy who runs this inn that were notoriously probably not the highest ethic people, and he said, "Take care of this guy. I'm going to go, and when I come back, if you had to do more for him than I've given you money for, tell me; I'll make you whole." If there was ever a chance for somebody to take advantage of you, that was it.
This is such abundant care and provision that when Jesus is telling this, they're like, "Oh, come on! A Samaritan? That's an enemy to the Samaritan there. That guy in the ditch hates the Samaritan, religiously, racially, every single way. And he didn't just go over there and call 911. You're telling me he took a detour from his business trip and gave two months of hotel service, and then he went back and said, 'I'll pay for whatever else'? I mean, who does that? Who loves their neighbor like that?" That's what you should say.
But you go, "No, every now and then I give the guy… I don't give people money because they might use it for drugs and alcohol. I'll go to McDonald's and buy them a #2, and I'll give them the drink and the fries and the burger, and then I'll say, 'There you go.' That's what I do." First, I'm not sure that's loving, but what would be loving would be to say, "Hey, man, come on. Live with me."
I have stories of members of our body who are doing that right now, where they're saying, "Bro, you want out? Come on. I'll get you out. We'll work together. We'll get to know you. We'll deal with your trouble. We'll deal with your sin. I'm going to have a relationship with you, not just do something that makes me feel better." And not just people who are homeless literally but people who are spiritually homeless who are their friends, where they're loving them and getting yelled at and cursed at, but they keep on ministering to them.
At the end of the story, Jesus answers this question. He says, "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" This is now the question. The question was, "How do I inherit eternal life?" and the guy answered correctly. Then Jesus says, "Hey, you've answered well. Go and do this. It's going to be awesome if you do what you think you're supposed to do." "Well, who's my neighbor?" And Jesus tells this story.
So, Jesus now asks the question, "Which of these do you think proved to be a neighbor?" "And he said, 'The one who showed mercy toward him.'" Again, notice he didn't say, "But, Lord, I've never showed mercy to anybody like that in my life. That's so otherworldly. That's so supernatural." "You have heard that it was said, ' _ You shall love your neighbor _ and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…"
"I don't do that. God, I'm a wretch. I'm nothing like the God of the Old Testament, because the truth is I'm somebody who has cursed God. I'm somebody who has been stolen from and killed and destroyed and left in the ditch of sin. Unless God rescues me, I can never be rescued. I'm that guy. I'm an offense to you." He doesn't say that.
By the way, the story doesn't tell us what the lawyer did, because it's, at this point, not really about the lawyer; it's about you and me. We should do what the lawyer never did. So, let me just give you something. What's going on here is that Jesus is coming into this situation, and he's trying to tell the guy a story to push away the fog of his self-righteousness.
This is the first major point: the key to eternal life begins with putting to death your internal lawyer, your defender, your justifier. You have to go, "I'm guilty. There is no defense. I am not righteous. I don't love God. If I loved God, I'd love people the way God loves people." Martin Luther was once asked what he would do if he was God. He goes, "If I was God, I would kick the vile, wretched earth to pieces." That's what I'd do to earth. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't you do that? Wouldn't you go, "Enough!"
But God puts a bow in the clouds and says, "I'll never destroy the earth by flood again. I'm going to destroy it by fire, but before I destroy it by fire, I'm going to pull out folks who are destined for the fire, and I want them to know that I love them." The key to eternal life begins with putting to death your internal lawyer, your defender, your justifier, and admitting your guilt.
This is Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn over their sin, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle and the meek who live underneath the guidance of a God who redeems them, for the earth is going to be theirs."
How about this? True children of God, true children of the kingdom, are those who are poor in spirit, who realize they do not and cannot meet the standard of the law. Nobody loves the way that guy loved, and not just one guy but everybody you meet all the time, because you love God all the time. Do you love God all the time with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength, with all of your mind? Your mind never runs away after self? Is that you?
You don't even do that, but Jesus says, "I'll just use the neighbor with you." It's kind of what he did with the rich young ruler, by the way. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus goes, "Don't murder. Don't commit adultery. Don't steal." The guy goes, "All right. I haven't done that."
Now, he wasn't with Jesus, apparently, when Jesus told them, "You've heard it said, but I say to you that murder is not just killing somebody but saying, 'I hate you' to somebody," but when the rich young ruler said, "Oh, I've done all of these things," Jesus said, "Well, there's one thing you still lack. I'm going to show you that you don't love God with all your heart. Go sell all of your possessions and follow me."
It says the guy went away sad because he loved something more than Jesus. I'm not telling you that you need to go sell all of your possessions if you love Jesus. I'm telling you if Jesus tells you, as an example, to show how much you love him you should sell all of your possessions, you should sell all of your possessions. What Jesus tells you to do with your possessions is steward them as if they're not yours, because they're not.
So, church, you don't need to give away all of your possessions, but you do need to steward them as if they're not yours, and you need to quit acting like tithing is a tax. The New Testament doesn't talk about tithing; it talks about being as generous as you can to advance the mission. How are you doing, church? Do you love something more than God? We all do. I do. I love me some me, and I need Jesus. I want to become more like him.
True children of the kingdom are those who are poor in spirit, realize they do not and cannot meet the standard of the law, and cry for mercy. Because they've received mercy, they purpose to be merciful to others. See, there is a little application there about being merciful to others, but it's not so we can earn salvation; it's because I want to be like my Jesus. I want to be like my God who is merciful to me.
Let me give you a quick comment on that real quick, because it's overwhelming. There's this thing out there that scientists study called compassion fatigue, where you see so many needs that are out there you get frozen and don't know what to do, so you post a black square on Instagram, because that's going to be your big contribution. What I would encourage you to do, if you want to be merciful like Jesus is merciful, is just care for your Genesises. Care for those you're around.
Start by loving your neighbor. Start by making sure everybody in your neighborhood knows, "Hey, I'm here, and as weird as it sounds, I want you to know I'm Jesus' ambassador. He has embassies all over, and the embassy here, this address in your neighborhood…this is where Christ followers live, and I'm here to love you and serve you and tell you about who our God is, not just by preaching at you but by loving you and making this neighborhood different because I'm here and I know Jesus." Start there.
Here's a quick little application on that. Just do for one what you wish you could do for all. Don't get compassion fatigue. Just do for one what you wish you could do for all. Sign up with our service opportunities. We're trying to make it easy for you. We have service opportunities for folks who don't want to go someplace because of COVID. You can write notes and do things, and we have people who can go places and do things. At least start there. Just do for somebody something.
Just because you can't do everything for everyone doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything for anyone. There are more people beaten, bleeding, impoverished, and suffering in our world than we could ever care for as a body, but let's at least care for those we walk by and we're in conversations with. Amen? So there's the application. Not so we can submit our résumé but because we follow the Righteous One.
Jesus did what nobody else could have done. Jesus went to the cross and did for us what we could never do. We are beaten and bloodied and left to die, and he rescued us. He did more than give us an abundant provision; he gave the only thing that could be given. In John, chapter 13, verse 36, when Jesus has just gotten through instituting Communion as a remembrance of his broken body and shed blood…
"Simon Peter said to Him, 'Lord, where are You going?' Jesus answered, 'Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.' Peter said to Him, 'Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.'" Jesus says, "Well, first of all, Peter, you're going to lay down your life for me, bro? No. I say to you, a rooster is not going to crow today until you deny me three times.
You don't know how to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, Peter. I know you want to, but you can't. By the way, even if you could follow me to a place where you'd be sacrificed for your faith, it wouldn't be enough, because you're a sinner, and all you'd be doing is offering your own life for your own sin. I'm going to go someplace you can't go."
Where was Jesus going? He was going to a cross where the holy, sinless Son of God, who had never sinned and was without sin, could stand before a holy God and give to that holy God what a holy God demands, which is a holy and perfect sacrifice. He says, "Peter, you can't go here and do that because you're not holy, but I can, and when I go there and I make provision for you, you can follow me into the presence of the Father, but you have to acknowledge you don't love God and you need me."
The problem with this lawyer who sought to justify himself is he didn't think he wasn't good enough for God. He thought he was plenty good for God. God was saying, "Oh, baby, you don't know how sick you are. You don't love your neighbor like you think you do. And I'm telling you don't just love your neighbor; love your enemies. You don't do that. You throw your shoe at your TV when CNN is on. You don't pray for them."
Jesus did what nobody could have done but him, and you need to do what nobody can do but you: to confess your sin before a holy God and say, "God, I'm a sinner. Have mercy on me." John 1:12 says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood…" In other words, you don't become a Christian because you're the son of a Christian.
"…nor of the will of the flesh…" You don't become a Christian because I want you to be a Christian. "…nor of the will of man…" You don't even become a Christian because you want to be a Christian. You're born of God, because when you prayed a little bit earlier in this message that the Son would reveal to you the Father, he's always going to do that if you'll just ask him, and then he gets all the glory.
I don't know why you're listening this morning. I don't know why you're here today other than grace. He has brought you to this story so you could see you don't love God. You don't love your neighbor. But you have a Savior who is not a Samaritan with a demon; he's the Son of God with the Spirit of truth, and he gave himself for you. You run to him and you run with him and be gracious to others, but not so you have a résumé but so others will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven, so people will know you're his disciple.
So, Genesis comes up to me. She's hoping I forgot, but I didn't. I go, "Come on, Genesis. Lay it on me. What do you do?" She goes, "Well, I've been thinking about it. Here's what you do. You can't really love people until you love yourself, so I think what you need to do is you've got to make peace with yourself. And once you're at peace with yourself, you can be at peace with others and treat your family the way you should, and then I think that's the way we get good with God. So, the first thing you've got to do is just be honest with yourself, be true to yourself, and when you're true to yourself, you can truly know God."
I said, "Genesis, thank you so much for sharing that. Do you mind if I share with you, if you asked me that question, how I'd respond? It breaks my heart. This is why I invited you to come hang out where we are, because I want you to know what God wants you to know. Let me tell you, I think you've got it right in this way. You have to start by being honest to yourself. So, let me ask you a question, Genesis. You're really nice to me, but are you somebody who is good all the time?
Genesis, are you somebody who loves everybody? Do you treat your fellow workers here with great kindness? Are you more excited when they get a big tip than you? Are you loving your family well? I mean, you talked to me about your little son. You have a baby daddy. How's your relationship with him? Did you even love God more than you loved what you pursued with that guy when you pursued it? I mean, Genesis, let's just be honest with yourself. You don't love God with all of your heart.
So, if you're honest with yourself, you and I would both agree that you're a sinner. Would you agree that you sin, Genesis? I do. Would you agree that you're a sinner?" She goes, "Well, I guess. Yes." I go, "That's the first thing you have to do. That's the beginning of your relationship with God. Jesus said, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit.' Genesis, you don't get honest with yourself and get right with people so God can put up with you. You acknowledge there's nothing you could ever do, and then, Genesis, what you do is you run to God's provision and take his gift for you, a sinner like me.
So, here's what I'm going to do, Genesis. In a minute, we're going to leave, and I'm going to give you a tip. I'm going to give you a 20 percent tip. You've done a great job. That's pretty normal for a good job. And on that little bill, I'm going to write down your tip. That's what you've earned. The wages of you serving me well is on that tip. So, you're going to get it and you're going to take it.
But next to it, I'm going to put a $20 bill. It's there. It's a free gift. It's not something you've earned or deserved, but I'm going to put $20 right next to it, and you don't have to take it. You can leave it there on the table if you want to, but it's my gift to you. God has offered you a gift for your sin. It's the sacrifice of his Son for your wretched, eternally damned soul. But you have to take it when someone gives you a gift."
I said, "Genesis, I'm going to put this twenty down here, and if you don't take it, do you think one of your other waiters or waitresses would come by and take it?" She goes, "Oh yeah. They'll take it." I said, "What do you think they'd say to you if they asked, 'What's that twenty?' and you went, 'Oh, that's a gift a guy left me; I don't want it'? What do you think they'd say to you?" "They'd think I was crazy."
I go, "Can I just tell you something? You're even crazier if you don't pick up the gift Jesus offers you. But you have to take it, not just know about it. It has to be yours. You have to own it, and you have to be thankful for it." I just took a little picture. There's the bill. There's the tip. Romans 5:8. I put Romans 6:23. I put John 3:16. I put Romans 8:1. "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I just left it there for her, and I took off. I hope she's watching this morning. I told her to come on.
But this isn't about Genesis. It's not about the lawyer. It's not about the Good Samaritan, the priest, or the Levite. It's about you. Are you still trying to justify yourself or are you ready to be justified? Retold: History Everybody Should Know. Do you know what this movie is about? It's about God redeeming you from the pit and you wholly surrendering to him, not so you offer him a résumé but because you see his way is beautiful and true.
Father, I pray somebody in this room would run up here and go, "You know what, Todd? I have been a dead 'religiositer.' I've just been somebody who has danced around stories like this. I try to be a good Samaritan, and still, if you ask me what makes me righteous in God's eyes, I'm going to basically give him my résumé. I'm going to tell him what I've done. And I need to repent, because I know what I've done. What I have done is I've sinned against God and man."
I don't love people with lavish, generous, always, never-failing love, and I don't love you that way, God. My heart, my soul, my mind, my strength are given to other things. I'm a sinner, and I thank you that you are filled with lovingkindness to thousands of generations. I thank you that you are a God who is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, but, Lord, I know that by no means will you let the guilty go unpunished, and I profess my guilt.
The wages of my life are sin and death. Maybe not as bad as others' sin. There are Hitlers and Dahmers out there, but, Father, there is a Todd Wagner out there who needs a Savior, and I don't want to justify myself. I am overwhelmed that you have been the provision for me that I might be justified. So I come, and I see how deep the Father's love is for me, and I confess my sin, my poverty of spirit, and I thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, and raised from the grave for me, and I put my hope on him and nothing less.
Then, Father, help me to learn his ways and to love as he loved so that men will know that I'm your disciple and they can see my good works, this church's good works, and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. Father, help us to wholly surrender. In Jesus' name, amen.