Week of Sept. 27

Act Locally but Think Globally

Read: Haggai 1-2; Psalm 129; Luke 10

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
Luke 10:36, ESV


The “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” we must remember, was not first used by Jesus to promote crisis center ministry! I certainly have used it in devotionals for the Baptist Center for Global Concerns’ Mary’s Table ministry, but I am well aware of its deeper significance. If you are like me, then you sense that Luke has a specific purpose in mind when he places this teaching-story in this place. Teaching! One Bible scholar notes that more than forty percent of this section of the gospel is unique to Luke (9:51-12:48; HCBC).

There are seventeen parables in it that also includes teaching. We dare not overlook the “journey” that Christ was on in this portion of the book. Luke does not record a direct linear path to Jerusalem, so he had a different type of travel in mind (cf. 9:51; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:28, 41). Luke was keen to show the road that Jesus traversed on the way to the cross. The point of conflict on this path is seen increasingly to be Judaism (13:31-35). Jesus was showing a new way to God that was not embraced by much of Jewish leadership. Let’s situate ourselves within this key passage today and make application to our current lives.

A Biblical Lens

Our context provides us with a clearer picture of why the parable was employed and how it may strengthen our Christian lives. The immediate context is determined by a question from a lawyer that was intended to put Jesus to the test. This point of confrontation fits into a broader pattern of opposition that led ultimately to the cross. I will enlarge upon this issue in a moment but, for now, the antagonist in the account was a lawyer who wanted to justify his own view of how one attains eternal life.

The wider background is also important for our understanding. Luke has used the better part of the chapter to provide us with the remarkable mission of the “seventy-two” disciples and their successful mission debriefing with Jesus (10:1-24; cf. the Apostles’ similar mission in 9:1-6). This section hints at the coming mission of the church following the resurrection and Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:8). Our parable is couched, as I have stated previously, within this broader context where Jesus teaches his followers the basics of discipleship: “mission, commitment, love for God, love for one’s neighbor, devotion to Jesus and His teaching, and prayer” (cf. HCBC). This section should instruct us as to the content of serious discipleship. There is more.

Notice that Jesus’ disciples have been blessed by the receipt of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ (10:21-22; NAC). Luke’s Christology shines brightly in this chapter. In fact, his emphasis on the nature of the Son of God reminds us of John’s teaching in his gospel (John 3:35-36; 5:19-30; 10:15; 17:1-5; NAC). Luke teaches that Jesus is uniquely the Son of God and shares an exclusive relationship with the Father. God’s kingdom is revealed in this chapter, and the new age has arrived. Therefore, it does not surprise me in the least that there would be conflict from the Jewish establishment. Ah! We cannot fix the lawyer, but we can certainly invite Jesus to fiddle with our own inner resistance to his path.

Look. The Savior was on God’s mission, so he brought about a restoration of biblical accuracy AND a reformation in its application. We see in Luke 10 that Jesus does not sever all ties to the core principles about a caring Father that were rooted in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). The great commandment was a part of Jesus’ teaching, as it was in rabbinic Judaism. This lawyer uses it, with underlying malice, in order to trap Jesus in his response (10:25-28). He is not satisfied with the answer that Jesus gave, so he seeks to justify his prejudice (10:29). He wanted to know what qualifies a person for being loved as a neighbor. He had shifted the onus of love onto the back of the other person; one had to be lovable (i.e. worthy)! Let me turn our attention to a moral case before I provide Jesus’ response.

A Moral Pathway

What moral obligation do Christ’s disciples have to outcasts? The lawyer in Luke 10 reveals much about our own internal resistance to Christ’s commands to enter into the “harvest” wherever he sends us (10:2). I know. He sends us to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Actually, the uttermost parts of the earth are being relocated here to the United States.

Despite the political back-and-forth over immigration, our nation has become a gathering point of the nations. Pew Research Center writes: “The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants. The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants” (August 20, 2020). In Ashlock speak, “The intersection of Luke 10 and our current culture calls for us to think globally by acting locally.” Some of us are not on the same journey with Jesus, even though we are doing many good things.

All right, we need to return to our Biblical text. Jesus uses the word “neighbor” in 10:36, but it is not to be interpreted in the same way as the lawyer used it (10:29). There is considerable moral significance to its use here because the term “neighbor” provides a necessary key to opening the doors of kingdom membership and entering. Jesus’ disciples will show more concern that they are neighborly than asking the question “Who is my neighbor?” (10:36). Neighborliness means that those who need mercy will receive it from our Christ-directed attitudes and actions. This form of discipleship bears witness to whether we are truly Christ’s followers.

For Your Journaling

1. We will likely be challenged in different ways about this passage in Luke. So, pick your Samaritan and ask God to shed light on your true definition of “neighbor.” Who have you excluded? Make changes as needed.

2. Churches have spent countless billions of dollars on “go and tell,” which I have endorsed fully throughout my Royal Ambassador lifetime. The pandemic sure has opened my eyes to the world of people that are driving through the food giveaway lines at our churches and crisis centers. The world is here. Our global theology needs to be shaped by our local ministry. How will you re-focus your “neighbor” ministry as a result of Luke 10?

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock