WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

WEEK FOUR, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK FOUR THEME: SERVING

DAY THREE THEME: THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS

SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:51-10:42 (CEB)

“As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, he determined to go to Jerusalem.  He sent messengers on ahead of him.  Along the way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrivel, but the Samaritan villagers refused to welcome him because he was determined to go to Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to consume them?’ But Jesus turned and spoke sternly to them, and they went on to another village. 

As Jesus and his disciples traveled along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’  Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One has no place to lay his head.’ 

Then Jesus said to someone else, ‘Follow me.’  He replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead.  But you go and spread the news of God’s kingdom.’ 

Someone else said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say good-bye to those in my house.’  Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.’ 

After these things, the Lord commissioned seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every city and place he was about to go.  He said to them, ‘The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers.  Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest. 

Go!  Be warned, though, that I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves.  Carry no wallet, no bag, and no sandals.  Don’t even greet anyone along the way.  Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house.’ If anyone there shares God’s peace, then your peace will rest on that person.  If not, your blessing will return to you.  Remain in this house, eating and drinking whatever they set before you, for workers deserve their pay.  Don’t move from house to house.  Whenever you enter a city and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you.  Heal the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘God’s kingdom has come upon you.‘ 

Whenever you enter a city and the people don’t welcome you, go out into the streets and say, ‘As a complaint against you, we brush off the dust of your city that has collected on our feet.  But know this: God’s kingdom has come to you.’  I assure you that Sodom will be better off on Judgment Day than that city.  ‘How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin.  How terrible it will be for you, Bethsaida.  If the miracles done among you had been in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed their hearts and lives long ago.  They would have sat around in funeral clothes and ashes.  But Tyre and Sidon will be better off at the judgment than you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be honored by being raised up to heaven?  No, you will be cast down to the place of the deadWhoever rejects you rejects me.  Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’ 

The seventy-two returned joyously, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit themselves to us in your name.’  Jesus replied, ‘I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  Look, I have given you authority to crush snakes and scorpions underfoot.  I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy.  Nothing will harm you.  Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the spirits submit to you.  Rejoice instead that your names are written in heaven.’

At that very moment, Jesus overflowed with joy from the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and shown them to babies.  Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.  My Father has handed all things over to me.  No one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.’  Turning to the disciples, he said privately, ‘Happy are the eyes that see what you see.  I assure you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn’t.’ 

A legal expert stood up to test Jesus, ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do go gain eternal life?’  Jesus replied, ‘What is written in the Law?  How do you interpret it?’  He responded, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’  Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered correctly.  Do this and you will live.’ 

But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’  Jesus replied, ‘A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death.  Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road.  When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way.  Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way.  A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was.  But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion.  The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine.  Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the inn-keepper.  He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 

What do you think?  Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?’  Then the legal expert said, ‘The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.’  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.’ 

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message.  By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, ‘Lord, don’t your care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself?  Tell her to help me.’  The Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.  One thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the better part.  It won’t be taken away from her.'”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: There are lots of moving pieces in these scriptures that all point to the life of a follower of Jesus.  The common follower of Jesus sees their Christianity as a thing of availability rather than a privilege and duty of the utmost importance.  If I’m not comfortable, or if it is not a good time for me, then my involvement will need to wait.  My agenda and my comfort are much more important than the need at hand, and there are others that can surely do all that needs to be done until I am available and comfortable and therefore willing. Until then, I have a pass from God’s calling and can wait until the shoe is a better fit.  …or do I???

I do believe that God is patient with us to a point, but the more we put off our involvement, the more we are missing in the development of the Kingdom of God, and the more used to that we become.  There are many good reasons and time constraints that we are bound by.  But sometimes it is also just easy to put ourselves and wants and needs in a place of importance rather than be the servant that God would have us be. 

Jesus is never distracted by a person’s acceptance of him or their lack thereof.  When the Samaritans didn’t want to show hospitality toward him and his band of followers on their way to Jerusalem for their own political reasons, Jesus simply kept going.  James and John wanted to punish them, but Jesus kept his focus.  Dwelling on the opinions or acceptance of others simply gets in the way and distracts from what needs to be done. Jesus never let such things get in the way of his movement in God’s direction. 

Jesus makes it clear that following him is not a bed of roses.  There may not be places to sleep or food to eat, but the mission at hand is the most important thing.  Winning others for the Kingdom of God – being vessels of mercy and grace – that is more important than where you will sleep and what you will eat.  Jesus doesn’t even promise that you will always be warmly welcomed to destinations.  They may reject you, but like Jesus you simply move on, even shake their dust from your feel. 

However, at that point their rejection is to their detriment and could be ultimately their judgment as well.  In the parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, it is clear that sticking to religious laws is not important at all when it comes to meeting human need.  In those moments, all boundaries are broken down and the human need becomes most important over all other obligations or religious practices. 

With Martha and Mary, Jesus is clear that being involved in the Kingdom of Heaven – learning and understanding (soaking it in) – is more important than rules of hospitality.  Martha was caught up in proper hospitality while Mary was focused on the teachings of Jesus.  I think that it is important to note that Martha wasn’t being a bad person and Mary being a good person, Martha was distracted by social correctness and Mary was focused on Jesus’ message and knowing God, soaking in more and more.

Each minute of our life we have choices to make about what is important and what is not.  If Jesus came to my house would I be more distracted by how my house looked and what I was offering for nourishment and comfort and miss the opportunity to be present in the experience with Jesus, developing unbelievable personal growth through it all.  One is performance, the other is growth. 

In Christianity, we relate to or are intimidate by the Good Samaritan parable that Jesus offers to help the legal expert grasp who his neighbor is. In Jesus’ analogy, the neighbor is any other human who is in need that we cross paths with. In our day and time, we grapple with whether or not to give money to the person on the side of the road – do they need money for the necessities of life or do they want drugs or alcohol. We’ve all experienced enough to be uncertain. But in this instance, I think Jesus is telling me that when I cross the path of one in need, in that moment, my Kingdom response is much more important than the accountability of the one involved. For me to take time and sum up whether the one in front of me is truly in need or an addicted person that I don’t want to enable is wasting time. For all the Samaritan knew, the man he helped in the ditch that day, would possibly resent the Samaritan for even touching him because of their racial or political differences and traditions, rather than be grateful that any other person at all would stop and take care of him in such a dire situation! The Good Samaritan did the right thing without concern for any such problems afterward or personal inconvenience or financial circumstances. The Good Samaritan saw “another human” in need and did all that was in his power to comfort and restore that other human. This is the Kingdom of God. We may see a difference our involvement makes or we may not, but we have certainly put aside all other selfish indulgences to be a vessel to our Father and enhance the Kingdom. The recipient is then left to decide his or her response to the heart of God. To follow or to reject is on the recipient and the giver is at peace in the Kingdom of God within their heart.

If I came across a person in need, would I think of my own inconvenience or personal status or insecurity, or would I risk providing the help needed at any cost personally or financially.  Do I concern myself more about things that I have no control over that might get in the way of what I feel called to do for God’s Kingdom some day or am I spontaneous to God’s call and will handle what may come up accordingly.  There have been times of my past where I have felt the nudges to make a call or provide something for someone burning in my heart and have not listened / ignored, only later to experience great regret. It is so very easy to get all caught up in my own little world of shoulds and should nots that the opportunities to serve and bless others for God’s Kingdom’s sake may be overlooked. 

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord to follow you eagerly, becoming the vessel you have created me to be! 

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