Saturday, January 25, 2014

Who is my Neighbor?

I love the continuity of scripture.

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 follows on the heels of the seventy disciples returning from their Yeshua-given mission, filled with joy at all they had seen.

Yeshua then rejoiced that God had hidden kingdom mysteries from the wise, and revealed them to simple babes (the disciples - who were ordinary men, not scholars).  Proverbs 30 shows the great desire of wise men to know God’s mysteries:  Agur asks beseechingly,
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know??

As we head into the parable of the Good Samaritan, the narrative now jumps to the other side.  Enter the expert in the law.  The "wise one." 

In Luke 10:25, this teacher of the law asks Yeshua what HE needs to do to inherit eternal life.  (In other words, he is asking how he can work his way to justification).

Yeshua, in typical Hebrew fashion, asks him a question… What is written in the law... how do you see it?

The law expert gives the two greatest commandments - love the Lord your God with all you've got, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus says yep.  And then He waits.

The law expert continues.  Wanting to justify himself, he presses on and asks who constitutes his neighbor.

I need to pause here for a moment and describe what is behind that question.  This question had been debated by the Jewish teachers of the law ever since the command had been given on Mt. Sinai.  Who exactly is my neighbor?

Leviticus 19:16-18 says, You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

The context of neighbor in the Torah is one’s fellow Israelite.  The man wanted to know if he had to love all the Jewish people, or just the ones in his circle.  The ultra-orthodox?  The Hellenized?  He would not have even remotely meant a Gentile, and especially not a Samaritan. 

The Torah is about to be amplified.  The Messiah is preparing them for the change in the law. 

The progression of Priest - Levite - common man was a typical Hebraic form of thought.  For example, the order of reading from the Torah would have been priest, then Levite, then the common man.  However, Yeshua changed the third character to a Samaritan!  He also changed the law expert's question at the end of the story.  Not who is my neighbor, but which one acted like a neighbor?

The law expert couldn’t even bring himself to say the word Samaritan, but grudgingly said the one who had mercy.  (It reminds me of the way many Arabs today cannot bring themselves to say Israel, but instead say that Zionist state).

Under the surface, we find a picture of Yeshua and the Body of Messiah in this parable.

Yeshua is the good Samaritan; the only one able to show unconditional love, in spite of rejection.  The Samaritan is highly rejected by the Jews, and Yeshua is also the stone that the builders (such as the law expert) rejected.

The Jericho Road was a rough place.  Even today, one can picture how it might have been thousands of years ago.  The route ascends 4000 feet going up from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem.  It is dotted with Bedouin tents, some of whom are descendents of robbers that used to lay in wait for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.

The Jericho Road is our life.  It’s tough.  We are the ones laying at the side of the road of life, and this road beats us up.  There are robbers and a lot of things on the road of life that cause the hurts.  We lay there beaten, robbed, naked, and half dead, and we need the Merciful One.

What does Yeshua do?  First, He binds up our wounds (He binds up the brokenhearted – see Isaiah 61:1, Psalm 147:3, Luke 4:18).    He then pours oil on us (which represents the Holy Spirit).  Isn't that a wonderful picture?  He takes care of our wounds, but He doesn’t stop there… then He pours out His spirit on our lives.  The third thing applied to our wounds is wine.  Wine represents joy!!  Joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.

This is what the Merciful One does when He finds us.

Then, just like the Good Samaritan, He puts us on His beast of burden so we don’t have to walk.  In this way, He carries our burdens.

The wounded man is taken to the inn, which represents the Body of Messiah, the congregation, the church.  He gives the innkeeper 2 denarii and then departs, promising to come back.  (Each denarii represents a days wages…. and in Hebraic thought, a day projects to one thousand years.   2 Peter 3:8 confirms this:  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.)

In this way, He gives us what we need to minister at the inn, and then He departs for two thousand years.  He brings the wounded person into the care of the congregation, and says, “When I return, I will reimburse you for any expense.”  The reimbursement is the rewards we earn for ministry in the Body of Messiah.

Jesus is preparing the disciples for New Covenant Law… we must love everyone, not just those in our own circles or nationality.  The symbolism in the priest and the Levite walking by represent the passing away of the Sinai covenant.  The priest and the Levite will no longer be able to help (and in fact, most were put to death in 70 AD when Jerusalem was sacked by Rome).   The book of Hebrews describes the new and better covenant 15 times.  The former law was all based on the system of the priesthood and Levites.

So, back to the law expert's question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"  There are no works which will qualify us. We must have the Merciful One find us on the road of life.

Welcome to the Inn!

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