The Christian needs radical love!
Luke 10:25-42 ESV
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back. ’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.
Today we continue a short series of messages on the theme “Radical”. The idea came from some reflections on the book Radical, but this series is by no means a repetition of that book. We are using the word radical in this way: Jesus came to bring people to a fundamental and extreme change in our relationship with God and our way of life before God.
Here is a list of the subjects we have looked at from Luke’s Gospel to this point:
True Christianity is based on the Radical Redeemer – everything depends on Christ and the gospel
Women can be radical followers of Christ
Christ calls all his followers to radical faith
Following Christ’s example, we should use meals in radical ways
For today let us meditate on a spiritual grace that is necessary to follow the Radical Redeemer on the mission he calls us to pursue. To fulfill our mission, we need radical love. This entire section can help us know more about it. And so I ask you to hang in there with me through this whole section, so that you don’t pick up incomplete and wrong ideas.
I. A question and answer from a religious man
As we speak for God, people will ask us questions from various motives. Some will be curious about what we believe. Others, usually after we have developed some degree of friendship, will ask questions sincerely to learn our thoughts about God and life. And then others might truly want to know God. But other people will ask out of evil motives, like the law expert in this account. He wanted to test Jesus, which is not wise. We should be prepared to answer all types of questions, since we will get them all.
A.The law expert questions Jesus out of his own viewpoint. We need to remember this in conversations, though sadly we forget it, and answer back with “Christian-speak”. If we do that, we will not really help the person asking us questions. We need to know where they are coming from in order to give them meaningful answers.
1.This man understood the law covenant and its promise of life for those who would keep it (Lev 18:5; Deut 30:15-16; Neh 9:29; Ezk 18:9; 20:11; Gal 3:12)
2.But he failed to understand that no sinful human could keep the law (Gal 3:10-11; Rm 3:9-20). Nor could the law covenant provide sacrifices to take away sins (Heb 9:6-10; 10:1-4). He was a selective reader of the OTS.
B.Jesus sends him back to the law covenant for the answer to his question.
1.The law expert was able to provide a concise summary of what the law required for life: love for God and love for one’s neighbors. These are the two great commands, and all other commands hang on them. Everything else, like the sacrifices required by the law or care for the poor, was a practical expression of the two greatest commandments.
2.The law expert was unable to measure up. He had knowledge but lacked love (1 Cor 8:1-3; 13:1-3). Here is a fatal trap that people who are serious about religion or spirituality can fall into. Knowledge of facts about spiritual matters and knowledge of skill about how to be religious or spiritual can lead people to think that since they know, they are good and pleasing to God or at least a very spiritual person. You can hear people make that assertion all the time in our culture. This man could correctly quote the commandments about love. He had that knowledge. But he lacked the knowledge of God as a person, who is love and who wants us to love people. He knew about love, but he didn’t love. For example, you can know about marriage, but not be married. There can be a great gap between love and knowledge.
Apply: It is insufficient to know religion and yet not know God (cf. Jn 17:3). It does you no good if you know about Jesus and yet not love him (1 Cor 16:22). Religious or spiritual talk is not the same as knowing God and loving God. Seriously ask yourself if your knowledge of God is better than that of this law expert.
II. A story to answer a religious evasion
The law expert suddenly realizes that he has not kept the second greatest command. (People encounter a sense of their sin and guilt in different ways. Whatever the law expert thought about his love to God is not the issue at this point. For some personal reason he knows that he has not loved at least some other people.) So his conscience looks for a way out of guilt. (People follow this pattern: sin, guilt, fear, and hide.) He looks for a place to hide. So he asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Compare this with Cain’s question to the Lord (Gen 4:9). He wants to hide in the assumption that some people are not his neighbors. This attempt is part of the foundation of ethnic hatred and prejudice; it is to suppose, “All people aren’t my neighbors, especially those kinds of people.” As we have said before, hatred and prejudice comes in various flavors: educational, economic, ethnic, etc. Jesus answers this prejudiced man with a story.
A.There was a man with a serious need. He was attacked, robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead. Here is a scene that ought to stir compassion in any human heart. It is an opportunity to love one’s neighbor. Surely, those concerned to keep God’s law will help him!
1.Two men in the religious establishment avoid acting in love toward the man in need. Both were men who should have known God’s law and acted in conformity with it. Yet they do not. Their religious knowledge did not cause them to act in love. You can have knowledge yet lack love.
2.Jesus doesn’t give their reasons for not caring for the injured man. No self-justification could excuse them. God requires that we act in mercy toward the needy. Other considerations do not matter. Jesus consistently acted according to this principle (Lk 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6).
B.A despised man helped the injured man. We must remember that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along. There was ethnic hatred on both sides. Yet this Samaritan dared to cross the ethnic divide to act in love toward a needy Jewish man.
1.He did everything he could do to care for the injured man. He gave him first aid, he took him to a place of safety, and he paid the bill to provide for his recovery.
2.Though this man didn’t have the correct biblical knowledge of the priest or the Levite, he had something that both lacked. He had love for his neighbor. Now their problem was not having knowledge. It is good to know the Scriptures. Their problem was that they lacked love for their neighbor. Their knowledge of the second greatest commandment did them no good; in fact, it added to their guilt. Knowledge without love is insufficient.
3.Jesus applied the story to the law expert’s question. He asked him which one was the neighbor. The law expert gave the right answer, and Jesus told him to go and show mercy wherever you happen to meet them.
Apply: We should have the radical kind of love that Jesus expects in this story. It is a love that changes our way of life from the core of our being. Radical love leads us to cross the barriers of ethnic hatred, makes us get involved, and opens us to use our resources to help others.
III. An event showing the practice of true religion
This event is recorded only by Luke. Remember that Jesus did many more things than are recorded in the Gospels. Luke selected this one to be in this place as he tells us the story of Jesus. We have heard about the two greatest commands and a story enforcing the importance of the second great commandment. But what of the first great commandment? Are we also to be radical about it?
A.Martha on the surface is intently involved in keeping the second great command.
1.She does a number of commendable things. She opened her home to Jesus, which probably involved an invitation to the apostles and the women traveling with him. This was very generous and included much work on her part. Notice Luke’s comment about “all the preparations that had to be made”. She is using her culinary skills to provide nourishment to those in need. She undoubtedly also wanted them to feel welcome and special. So besides the meal, she also has to prepare the dining area. I think we can understand why she was distracted. I also think that we can safely say that the Lord Jesus knew what was happening inside Martha. The Lord is never a passive bystander in our lives. He has his hand in the details. He is letting this situation develop for his glory and for Martha’s and our good.
2.At first glance, Martha appears to be doing well. But the mounting pressure (from herself and the preparations) is leading her away from love. Suddenly, she strikes out at the Lord and her sister, breaking the two greatest commands in the process. Though Martha is a believer in Jesus, she is still a sinner, and every sinner can quickly lose their way when it comes to love. For love is not simply doing; it is also knowing! Yes, love must know the truth and act in conformity with it. Knowledge and truth are not rivals, but friends, and we must not separate them. And in the process of trying to show love, Martha forgot about loving the Lord and her sister.
3.How did this happen? Martha forgot that Jesus is Lord, and that listening by faith to his word is more important than food (Lk 4:4). She forgot that life is more than food (Lk 12:23) and all the preparations included with it, and that some things can simply wait.
B.Jesus tenderly corrects Martha.
1.He unmasks her sin of worry and its ruinous effect on her. Sin was leading her to turn a time of joy (a meal!) into a time of bitter accusations. Her sin was dividing people, when God’s gift of food is intended to bring them together. Martha needed to trust the Lord so that she can love God and love her neighbor.
2.He tells Martha to invest in what is better instead of worrying about what is good. He vindicates Mary for choosing what is better and promises that she will not lose her reward for making the choice to love God first.
Apply: In our time, we have many Christians interested in social justice. That is good. Christians need to act in love in such matters. But we must not be so fired up about the second great command that we forget or functionally forget the first.
Apply: Radical love is very difficult, because it is very comprehensive. It requires us to think according to God’s word, and then to mix that word with faith, and so love God and our neighbors. So then, how radical is your love?
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.