Kingdom Neighbors

Second in a series on “The Kingdom of God.”
Delivered August 3, 2003 by Rev. Thurman Williams.

Sermon Text:
Luke 10:25-37

Good afternoon. What a wonderful day we have had together here. I am just overwhelmed with joy as I look out and I see the faces of so many young people. I mean the rest of us are all right too, but it is good to see so many young people. I hope that you all don’t take that for granted, because that is a significant thing. And it’s a significant thing as we talk about the Kingdom of God and what God is going to do in the lives, not just of us old hens, but in the young people as well. So, I just thank you for the opportunity to be here. Many of you are familiar with our ministry down in Sandtown in West Baltimore. We have an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, which deals with the housing needs in our area. We have a job program. We have a school. We have a health center coming back. We have a Children’s Choir, which is an amazing choir and we preach the gospel, in word as well as in deed. We don’t argue about which one, we believe we got to do it all, because Christ is the king over everything. And we have come to celebrate that.

Now you are continuing in your series, looking at the Kingdom of God, and so today we are going to talk about what it means to be Kingdom Neighbors. Kingdom Neighbors, what does that mean? And if you have a Bible and you want to follow there, you can open to Luke, Chapter 10 and we will be looking at 25 through 37. I believe the verses are going to be up here as well. But, we are looking at a familiar parable,the parable of the Good Samaritan. How many of you kids remember that story? How many of you all have heard that? All right, and some of you older kids remember. We are going to look at that, and maybe we will look at it in a fresh way this morning, and if you would not mind I would like to open us with a word of prayer and then we will get started.

God we rejoice because this is a day that you have made, and we rejoice, and we are glad in it. Lord, thank you for all that has taken place thus far, and right now Lord we lift up the time that we look into theWord of God. Thank you God that it is not just some old crusty history book, but this Word is God breed, and it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And so Lord, we pray that by the power of your Spirit, you might do those things in us today. Lord, we want to be different people when we leave than we were when we came in. Show us what it means to be Kingdom Neighbors. We ask this in Jesus’ name, let the people of God say, Amen.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not say that my wife was here for this service. I am not going to have you stand up or sing anything honey, just wave your hand. Wave it again, so they can see it. There you go. We just celebrated our 6th anniversary yesterday. Yes. Amen. And as soon as we finish today, we are out of town baby. So that is going to ensure that I do not go too long.

One of the things that I was thinking about is that we have four children and our oldest two are kids that we are adopting and our kids ages are 6, 4, 2 and 7 months. So, you all pray for my wife,because not only does she have to deal with me, but she has to deal with these small children. But, anyway one of the things in our home is every night we come and we gather together and we read stories together and I wanted to share with you this deep wonderful theological story that we have been reading. It’s a nursery rhyme and it goes like this. Maybe you have heard it. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Maybe you have heard this. All the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men couldn’t put Humpty back together again. You see Humpty was doing all right before he fell off the wall and then he fell and he was broken. He was in great need, and what Humpty found was that there was no way for Humpty to put himself back together. He couldn’t do it. Even the king came and tried, but the king couldn’t put Humpty back together either. And all the kings’ men were called, but still all of these people together could not put Humpty back together again. And, I was thinking about that nursery rhyme and I thought that had a lot to say to the church. Now you are thinking, how does that have a lot to say to the church? Here’s how. Because all of us have Humpty’s that are all around us. In fact, all of us are Humpty’s, in that we have fallen and can’t get up like the commercial says on our own. All of us have fallen and we look around us and we see many people who have fallen and who are broken and in great need for whatever reason that might be. And they can try on their own to put themselves back together, but on their own they cannot. And they can look to other sources. They can look to the government. They can look at self-help. They can look at Oprah, but all of those things together cannot put Humpty back together. There is one thing that can put he Humpty’s back together in my neighborhood and your neighborhood and that’s a person. His name is Jesus Christ, and the body of Jesus Christ is the group that’s given the call and the power to come and put Humpty back together. And the way that the church, the body of Christ, us, the way that we put Humpty back together is by heeding the call to be Kingdom Neighbors. Kingdom Neighbors, what does that mean and how do we do that? And what does God need to do inside us, so that we live as Kingdom Neighbors? That’s what we are going to look at today.

Now, my church is also Presbyterian, so one of the things that means is that all of our sermons have three points, or at least it seems that way. So I have three points to share with you today, three things that we are going to look at as we talk about becoming Kingdom Neighbors. The first thing we are going to look at in this passage is the teacher’s questions. There is a teacher in the law who comes to meet with Jesus and what do we learn about being Kingdom Neighbors from his questions. Here in the Bible in verse 25 of Luke 10. It says on one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Now before we have even finished verse 25, we know that the expert in the law is in trouble, because he is standing up to test Jesus about the Word of God. He does not realize that Jesus is the Word made flesh himself. But he stands up to test Jesus. How does he do that? Here is the first question he asked. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Already we can look at that and see that his theology is flawed because he believes in a work righteousness. He believes that he can do something to inherit eternal life. You don’t do anything to inherit. You inherit based on who you are related to and based on the graciousness of the one who gives you the inheritance. But Jesus entertains this question. Jesus asked him, what is written in the law? How do you read it? And then the man answers. He quotes some verses from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. And these are verses that all the people in that time would know. He says, 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. Sounds simple enough, right? Jesus says, you have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.

Then verse 29 comes and we find out in verse 29 that the expert in the law is after more than what he has said so far. It says that he wanted to justify himself. Do you know what that means? He wants to be declared not guilty for his actions. And here’s a second question. Here’s a question. And who is my neighbor? Now that sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Who is my neighbor? But what is he really asking? Do you know what he is really asking? He is really saying, Jesus you know what, there are some people that I want to love and then there are some other people that I don’t want to love at all. But, I want to find a way to turn the law around to justify me not loving them. There are people who are not like me, and I don’t want to love them. And so I am going to look for a way to twist around the command so that I will not be guilty.

I will give you an example of what I mean. When I was a kid, even from an early age, I love football. Do we have football fans in here? All right! And one of the things that I look forward to was watching Monday night football. My parents would let me stay up and watch the first half. It was something that I looked forward to all week, and so I tried to time it so that if I got in trouble it happened between Tuesday and Friday so that on Saturday, Sunday and Monday I could watch football. But, one day I get into trouble on a Monday and so my mother says, “You know what, you are not watching football tonight.” And I was guilty. I was wrong. There was no justification for what I had done, but I thought and thought and thought how can I get around this command. And you know what I did, when Monday night football came on, I came and I sat right in the middle of the living room with my back to the television facing the china cabinet, because in the glass I could see the reflection from the television, and I could hear it and my mother looks at me and says, “What in the world do you think you are doing?” I said, “Mom, you said I could not watch television. I am not watching television. I am watching the china cabinet. You didn’t say I couldn’t watch the china cabinet.” She said, “Boy, get your behind up and get in your room.” She wasn’t having it. See, I was trying to justify myself. See we would much rather take God’s Word and try to change it than allow God’s Word to change us. And that is what the expert in the law was trying to do. Where might you be trying to justify yourself?

Well, he goes on and Jesus pulls it out further in the next point. The next point we look at is the master’s answer. And it is interesting here because Jesus does not get into a theological debate with him. He does not get into this philosophical argument about election and predestination and all this stuff. He told a story in verse 30. In reply Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho”. Now you have to understand something about this road, it was often called the bloody way. Now, how many of us know roads that people say, hey listen you do not want to be caught here after dark? This was one of the roads. It winded down through the mountains and there are lots of places for people to hide to jump out and rob and beat people up. And that’s what happened here in the story. It says a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. And they stripped him of his clothes. They beat him and went away leaving him half dead. Now, if you are listening to this, you think yeah, that happens all the time on that road. Now, here is what happened. Who’s going to help this man? Verse 31. Jesus said, “A priest happened to be going down the same road.” Now we think a priest, that’s good news. This is somebody who works in the temple and they help lead the people of God in worship. Surely the priest will stop and help this man in desperate need. Well, let’s see what happens. A priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. Next verse. Another person comes along, so too a Levite. This is another religious person. Another person that works in a temple. Another person that we thing would stop. What happens? A Levite when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. Now, it does not say why they passed by on the other side. Maybe they thought it wasn’t safe. If this guy got beat up, maybe the same thing would happen to us. Maybe they were afraid. Maybe they said, “well, we didn’t know him”. Maybe they said, ” Well, he should have been more responsible. He got himself into this mess, he should get himself out of the mess”. Maybe they thought, I don’t have time. I have got to get to the service. I am looking at my Palm Pilot and my day is just swamped and I can’t stop. It does not say why, but they kept on going. Well, here comes the dramatic turn in the story. Verse 33. Here is the dramatic point. But a Samaritan, now this is not a person they would have expected to stop, and we will see why in a minute. But, a Samaritan as he traveled, how did he respond? He came where the man was and when he saw him, he took pity on him. What that means literally is that he was moved on his inside. He saw this man hurting and broken in his heart and his heart broke for the man. He didn’t sit around debating whether or not this man was worthy to be helped or not. This man was probably somebody of a different race, a different class than he was. But none of that mattered. When he saw the hurting man, it broke his heart. But, not only was his heart broken, his broken heart moved him to action.

Look at the next verse. Verse 34. It says that he went to him and he bandages his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He got close to the man. He gave to the man. He gave of his time and his energy and his resources. And, then he put the man on his own donkey. So, now how is he going to travel? He is walking. He took him to an inn and took care of him. And then next verse, it goes on. It doesn’t stop there. Look at this care. Verse 35. The next day, he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Look after him and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have”. His love knew no bounds. He loved this man lavishly. He saw him in need and he gave and gave of himself to meet that need. This Samaritan in the story shows us what it means to live as a Kingdom Neighbor. This is what it looks like. But, I want you to know that there is more going on here than meets the eye in this parable. You see, picture yourself being the expert in the law and you are listening to Jesus telling the story. First, the priest and the Levite come by and you say, yeah, yeah, yeah, them, them, but next you are expecting Jesus to say somebody like you comes along and saves this man’s life, but instead what Jesus do? He says that the one that you hate the most, a Samaritan, Samaritans and Jews at that time were horrible enemies. They hated each other. A Jew would not be able to say there is such a good thing as a Good Samaritan. And, what Jesus does here is he shows us not only what kingdom neighboring looks like, but he showed the expert in the law his own heart and he showed him his own hatred for somebody else. And, the way that he did that is he made the hated one the hero.

I will give you an example of what I mean. How many of you all have ever seen the Jefferson’s? I know now it is on cable. It used to come on on Sunday nights and I would watch. There is one episode that I remember that George, the main character, who is black and short and very loud and obnoxious. George finds some flyers that say ‘come and come to our meeting. We have got a community meeting and we are going to talk about how we are going to clean up our building.’ And, so George gathers his neighbors and they go down to this meeting. But what George does not realize is this is really a Ku Klux Klan rally. It was just disguised. And, so George goes to the meeting and sits in the front row. And the leader is looking at him as if to say, “What in the world are you doing here?” But, he goes on with the meeting and he says, “We have got to rid our building of this riffraff.” George says, “That’s right we got to do it.” The man looks at him and keeps on going. He said, “These people are driving down our property values. It is not a safe place for our families to live anymore.” George stands up, “That’s right. I am with you brother.” And the guy looks at George and says, “I am talking about you.” And George, George is a hothead. He takes off his coat and he is ready to fight. And then the guy does an interesting thing. He begins to grab his arm and then he collapses on the floor and his assistant says he has a heart condition and he needs somebody to give him CPR or he is going to die right here on this floor. And, so he asked if there was anybody in the room that knows CPR. And everybody looks around. Nobody’s hand goes up. Finally, one hand starts to go up. Guess who knows CPR? George. And so George gets down and gives mouth to mouth resuscitation to the Klan leader and saves his life. And then as they are wheeling the man out of the room, he comes to and asks his assistant what happened. The assistant tells him he had a heart attack. Someone came and gave you mouth-to-mouth and saved your life and it was him and he points to George. And the leader looks and says, “It was him? He saved my life? You should have let me die.” And they wheel him out of the room. And the episode ends with all of the people becoming disgusted with this organization and walking out because of what happened. The hatred of the man was revealed for everybody to see and that’s what Jesus has done here with the expert in the law. He has shown him his own heart.

Now, the question for us is, what about us? Who is our Samaritan? Who is the one for us? That, if Jesus told that story to us and put a person there to be a hero of the story, who is the person that we would look at and say, “Oh no, not them. Oh no, that’s the last person that would be a hero.” Who is it for you? Who is our Samaritan? Jesus pushes us to answer that question. But the good news is he does not leave us there, because we go on to our third point and then we will be done. We have seen the teacher’s questions and we have seen the master’s answers. Now we look at the churches calling.

Verse 36. Jesus asked the expert in the law after he has told them the story. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands or robbers? Do you notice what’s happened? Remember back in verse 29, the man came to Jesus and said, Jesus who is my neighbor, but Jesus has changed the question. Now, he changes it from who is my neighbor, to who was a neighbor. You see, in the kingdom of God, neighbor is not just a noun, it’s a verb. It’s an action word. It isn’t who is my neighbor. It’s how do we live as neighbors. How do we love as neighbors? And as we go to the next verse, the expert in the law got the point. The Bible says the expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” You notice he can’t even say Samaritan? The one who had mercy on him. And then Jesus gave him and he gives us the call of kingdom neighbors as we end this passage. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” He is saying, as you have seen mercy, and as you have received mercy, now go and demonstrate mercy.

Now, as we step back and we think about what does that mean for us? What will it look like for us to go and do likewise? What does it look like for Central to go and do likewise? What does it look like for New Psalm to go and do likewise? Now, we could close the sermon right now and I know some of you are saying, hurry up and do it. But, I just want to take a minute because if you leave right now, I am afraid one of two things might happen. If we leave right now, I am afraid on the one hand that you might leave here despairing, going you know what, my heart has been revealed and this call, if given to, go and do likewise. But I look at that and I go, I can’t do it. I am not able to do it. So, there is no hope for me, so why even bother. That is one mistake. But the other mistake is the opposite. To walk out and say, I am so excited. Now I am going to go and do it. I am ready to be a kingdom neighbor. I am going to do it on my own. That is the other mistake, because if you do that you are no different that the expert in the law who was trying to justify himself in the first place.

So where does that leave us? Where do we find the power to go and do likewise? Where do we find the strength to go on? Where do we find the power to see our hearts change? This is the good news of the gospel. That the very one who shows us our sins, is the very one who saves us from it, Jesus, Jesus. Jesus is our hope. The same one who saw you when you were beaten and bloodied and left for dead by the side of the road and everybody else passed you by. The same one who came and gave everything to heal you and to give you life. This is the one. The Bible said that God made him who knew no sins, to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Isaiah said that he was bruised for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace, was upon him and by his wound we are healed. I am sorry. I know I am Presbyterian and we are supposed to be the frozen chosen, but there is a song that says when I think of the goodness of Jesus and all that he has done for me, my soul cries Hallelujah and I thank God for saving me. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus is our hope to live as kingdom neighbors. Because not only does he save us and give us the call, but his grace sustains us and empowers us to live out the call. It’s impossible without him. But with him, the Bible says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all that we might ask or imagine. According to his power that is at work within us. My prayer for us is that God would move in us in a might way, that we might live as kingdom neighbors and change this messed up city of Baltimore and the world for Jesus Christ. Let’s close in prayer.

Father, we are reminded of the writer of Hebrews, who said fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the thrown of God. Lord, we thank you for our Savior. We thank you for sending us the Holy Spirit who sustains us and strengthens us, and changes us from the inside out. Lord, I pray for each of us that you would examine each of our hearts, and Lord we thank you that you are a loving surgeon, that you show us what we need and you are also the one who is able to meet it and give us what we need. Lord, operate on us and move in us so that our light would shine before men so that they would see our good deeds and praise you, our Father in heaven, and Lord we ask this in Jesus’ name. Let the people of God say, Amen.