Sunday, November 18, 2012

좋은 질문 The Good Question 良い質問 Хороший вопрос

The Parable of the Good Samaritan   Luke10:25~37
Parable #2 “Got a question for ya.”
   When I was working on Long Island, New York back in 1973-77, I came across so many teens with questions.  They, like their society, asked questions about everything.  Government, Viet Nam, Drugs, Sex, baseball scores, girls, why I was doing what I was doing…all sort of questions.  There were some questions I always heard and they started like this:  “So, OK, I got just one question…”  (That was after about 25-200 questions.)  I learned that if I’d answer that just one question, there would be a dozen more just like that.  For some of the teens, asking questions made them feel safe.  They felt they were in control. 

   I was learning about teen ministries.  I was learning about human nature. 
And after answering about 10,000 questions like that, I started to answer the question with a question.  “If I would answer THAT question, would it be enough for you to give yourself to Jesus?  In other words, was THAT question really sincere and were they really interested in hearing and following the answer.  9 times out of 10, it was not so.  In fact, one time, I told the questioning teenager not to ask Jesus into his heart because he was doing it with the wrong motive.  J-- wanted to get intimate with a young girl in the group and she would have nothing to do with him because he was not a “believer.”  As far as I know, J-- never followed Jesus.  As far as I know, the answers he had were really not that important to his life.

   I don’t think the man in this passage was like Jeff.  I believe he was serious and he was, from his point of view, interested in finding out the answer to his question.  Teacher, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?  He also was basing the question on faulty theology.  He believed that he could do something—works—to get God’s Salvation.  He was certainly not alone. Many then and many today still believe that they can DO something to inherit eternal life.  So he went to the One who certainly would know the right answer.  He was not ready for the real answer.  Let’s read it now:

John 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?
26 What is written in the Law? He replied. How do you read it?
27 He answered: “‘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, Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. Look after him, he said, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?  37 The expert in the law replied, The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  
After such a sermon, this was said to the pastor on the way out of Church…"私はあなたが私の隣人を愛するのを見てみたい!" "I'd like to see you love MY neighbor!"

   This is a fairly well known parable. I would like to take us as far as possible from the ‘normal’ answers so that this will be more alive for us.  Granted, the story is commonly known but there is very importance that we go deeper and come out with a deeper—more personal answer that could change the way we do life.  There are five questions here. The lawyer asks two and the Savior asks three.  Let’s look at the first one.

FIRST QUESTION:What shall I do to inherit eternal life?
   Here is what I am thinking.  This man wants to ask just the right question from the teacher.  You know the type?  Be the student that outshines the rest of the class.  He wanted to see if Jesus was a good as people said He was.  He tested Jesus with this question.  He stood up and just asked Him one of the most religious questions one could ask.  Do you really know what the Law of God says about Israel and how we figure into the Plans of God?  This ‘expert’ in the law, this lawyer, calls Jesus “Teacher”.  I don’t really feel he really believed Jesus was a Teacher at all.  He was not wearing the right kind of robes.  He did not have the right kind of attitude. Jesus was not from the right family of the Teachers of Israel.  I feel the lawyer was talking down to Jesus.
   And then Jesus turns the tables on him with two questions of His own.  He knew the lawyer’s heart.  He was not taken off guard.  It was one of those: “I got one question for ya!  Jesus asks His two questions—like you should know this one!  26 What is written in the Law? He replied. How do you read it?  Jesus is looking for scriptural support He knows the man knows.  The expert gives the textbook answer.  Almost with Bible verse accuracy & all!
 27 He answered: “‘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, Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. Do this and you will live.”
   One learns from being with smug, arrogant people how to see beyond their questions.  Jesus knows this and goes for the man’s heart.  His core need was not what the expert was asking about.  Jesus knew the lawyer was a spiritual snob.  He was like every other expert in Israel.  In other words, Jesus was ready for his second question.  29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus his…

SECOND QUESTION:  Not wanting to be misunderstood and to justify himself, he asks:   Who is my neighbor?” The expert tried to keep this subject in the classroom.  He would feel much more comfortable if he’d keep this dealing with this in the abstract—detached from real life.  The lawyer asks who his neighbor is in the hope that some people are not. Exactly where does his responsibility fall?  Does it have limits?  But Jesus would not allow this man to deal with the truth of God’s Word in a test tube.  Jesus would not define the term “neighbor” by doing a Hebrew word study.  He defined it by telling a story.  And you know the story.
   Jesus, again, is ready for this question.  He was a true teacher—just like what the expert called Him.  I got a story for you…listen…”.  Here there was a cast of four main characters and one supporting cast member. The scene was a seventeen-mile journey on the Jericho-to-Jerusalem road.  The “certain man”-the victim, was one.  The priest was the second. The Levite was the third and the fourth, the hero in the story, was the Samaritan.  At the end, there is the innkeeper but he is not important to the parable.

    The PRIEST—sure, people would have thought he would have stopped.  They knew priest personally and they would do that sort of thing—unless he would be afraid of being mugged.  Surely the priest would have stopped.  It was his job to help people.  He was the professional Churchman—or so people thought—but he did not stop!  For one reason or another, he kept on walking—away from the man in need.  He passed the hurt man by going to the other side of the road.  He kept walking.

   I can’t imagine what kind of feelings the hurt man had at this time.  This is a parable and Jesus lets us know just what He wants us to know about the situation.  Then he saw help coming in the form of a LEVITE.  A Good Guy, if there ever was one.  In the Book of Numbers, we learn that the Levites were in charged with ministering to the priests and keeping watch over the Tabernacle. (Numbers 18:2-4, 6, also from 1 Chronicles 6, you can read all about the family clan.)  They were the ones who received the Temple Tithe.  Among this group are some pretty famous men:  In fact, here is a chart showing where they came from.  Samuel, Ezekiel, and Barnabas in the New Testament. But this Levite shuns the man and walks away!  So two men of similar Jewish background have failed to provide aid.  They were unsuccessful being neighbors: they failed.
   As is often the case, the bother and discomfort of helping have kept the man dying on the road.  Getting involved is costly, and for many the investment is too high.  But to refuse to help is a moral failure.  But…

   Then comes a man from another group.   The SAMARITAN was the anti-hero.  No one in the crowd would be rooting for this man.  He was looked down upon as a real outcast as his ancestors were a crossbreed group from the northern part of their country.  The Samaritans (the keepers of the Law) were from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.  In 2 Kings, the Assyrian king sent people from other nations to live in northern Israel.  After a while, a group who had survived the exile and kept the traditions of the elders of Israel built a temple on Mount Gerizim, near Shechem. (see John 4:20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”)  They still today follow the Torah and give sacrifices of lambs and such.  There is a group of Samaritans in Israel today that numbers just over 700.  They are the smallest Religious indigenous group in the world.
   In any case, the Samaritans were disliked, persecuted, and almost feared. And yet, in Jesus’ story, not necessarily set in historical truth, this man stopped and helped the beaten man.  He not only helped him with the cuts and bruises, he also put the man on his mount and took him to what was considered a local medical unit—an inn.  He then gave what would be today equivalent to three weeks salary to have him properly cared for by a medical staff.  He went the second AND third extra mile for the Jewish man.

   Jesus then asks: Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands? The one who showed mercy toward him.”

   This lawyer did not even want to use the word “Samaritan”!  But he was right.  What do we do with that?
     Not that our ‘neighbor’ HAS to be someone we dislike…but we NEED to be looking for others to help.  Giving an answer for the faith you have.  Faith in action speaks louder than petitions.  Words without action is too loud.  Words without action is no action at all.  Where do you find your heart in the area of giving?  Of helping?  How can you and us as a Church show mercy?  As Jesus told the man: “Go and do likewise.”
   In this case, Jesus challenges us to ask ourselves whether or not we are good to neighbors who are in need.  We know that the Word of God is Truth and the Word is to be rightly understood and then rightly lived.  He is not interested in Sunday school answers.  He really intends us to demonstrate  His love to all we have contact with and beyond.  We need to beware that we do not just intellectualize the Truth.  We can’t afford to keep His Grace in the classroom: we need to live it out in our families …in our community …in our work place—so that the World will see and know that we are different because of what Christ did in us.  That we are different from the world.  Live life as ones who are filled with kindness and with gentleness so that they can experience the change as well. 
   It is often said that it is not enough to speak of the things of God, or to study them, but we must do it with appropriate tone.  When we speak of eternal life and of the things of God, we must be careful of how it comes across.  Life is fragile and so are the hearts of people around us.  We need to be careful how we appear.  We would do good to answer this question this morning: “Do I love God fully?”  That is a good starting point.  As we have said many times in the past, everything else grows out from that relationship.
   A real relationship with the Living God gives life.  It is the whole duty of Man. (Hosea 6:6) To respond to the Law means to love God.  To live by the Spirit of God means to love and to do acts of righteousness.  Romans 8:1-11 tells us that.  The lawyer was deathly confused—even though his answer was correct.  He still thought that eternal life was something he could earnit is notit is given to us by God’s Gracefreely.  And where does real help come from?   Is 41:10 I will hold you up with My victorious Right Hand. イザヤ41:10  "わたしの義の右の手で、あなたを守る。"
  The reply that was given was correct, so Jesus simply says, "Go and do likewise." Jesus' point: Simply be a neighbor. Do The Same! Do not rule out certain people as neighbors.  And this parable makes the point forcefully by providing a model from a group the lawyer had probably excluded as possible neighbors.
To love God means to show mercy to those in need.  An authentic life is found in serving God and caring for others.  This is a central principle of discipleship.  Human beings need to fulfill their created role—to love God and be a neighbor to others by meeting their needs.  Neighbors are not determined by race, creed or gender; neighbors consist of anyone in need made in the image of God.  So, I ask you: Who is your neighbor and how will you help him?