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Leaving a Trace of Grace

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
September 23, 2022 12:00 am

Leaving a Trace of Grace

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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September 23, 2022 12:00 am

As often happened during Jesus’ teaching ministry, many Jews were looking for a loophole in the Law, while Jesus was getting to the heart of the matter. When a lawyer asked Jesus a question about how to be right with God, Jesus knew that the man wanted to hear that He was already doing the right things. But with His divine perspective, Jesus defined what it means to love God and love others. To this day, Christians are set apart from the world when we follow this teaching.

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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. The Jewish world at this time believed, just as most people do to this day, that the heart was the center of emotion and desire, and the mind the center of cognition or intelligence. So get this, the greatest commandment in the law really wasn't a rule, it was a relationship. It means you love God with everything about you. During Jesus' teaching ministry, many Jews were looking for a loophole in the law.

They wanted to claim to follow the law, but without really obeying. Jesus focused on getting to the heart of the matter. When a lawyer asked Jesus a question about how to be right with God, Jesus knew that the man wanted to hear that he was already doing the right things. But with his divine perspective, Jesus defined what it means to love God and love others.

To this day, Christians are still set apart from the world when we follow this teaching. Stephen called this lesson, Leaving a Trace of Grace. Several years ago, CBS anchorman and reporter by the name of Hugh Rudd was mugged just outside his home in New York City. He was beaten and knocked down. He remained conscious, his eyes open but unable to move. He lay right there next to his doorstep and all he could do was moan. Hours later, after being rescued, he recounted the rather frightening scene from his perspective. He watched people walk past him in the darkness. He said that even the milkman came and put cans of milk down right next to him and heard him moan and looked at him and then walked away.

No one stopped until later that morning. I've read in recent days that even 911 professionals have been trained to respond to people who call in for help aren't always willing. One news report of a woman hiding in a store as an active shooter was on a rampage. She dialed 911 and whispered for help. Apparently, the operator scolded the woman for whispering and then hung up. Another 911 operator received a call from a terrified woman who was stalled in a flooded road. Her car was beginning to fill up with water. It had all happened so suddenly that she was afraid to open her door so water was rushing by, even roll her window down. She called to ask for a rescue.

In the meantime, advice on what to do. Instead of putting her on hold and calling for help, the operator began lecturing her on how foolish she was to drive in a storm. Didn't she know better than that?

She lectured on until the line went dead and the woman drowned. It's interesting, legislators and lawmakers have struggled with this issue of human responsibility, trying to determine when and how people should be willing to help. Sometimes you might even be afraid to help. You might make things worse. Every state in our country now has what they call officially good Samaritan laws.

You can look them up state by state as I did this past week. It's fascinating to me that the concept behind these laws comes from a conversation Jesus had with a lawyer. If you'll turn in your Bibles back to Luke, we're in chapter 10.

I want us to listen in on this conversation and I want to tell you ahead of time, it has direct bearing on your attitude and mine to this very day of how we treat and love people. We're now in Luke chapter 10 and verse 25. And behold, and look, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test saying, teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Now, Jesus could have embarrassed him by responding, you're a lawyer, you should know you don't do anything to receive an inheritance.

Somebody died, you're alive, they left you something, you just sign and have a nice day. This wasn't a legal question, though. This was a theological question. So asking, what do I have to do is the same thing as asking, how good do I have to be to get in? Now, we probably expected Jesus to rattle off the standard set of rules for getting in. Follow the traditions of your fathers, obey rabbinical teaching, observe the Jewish ordinances and ceremonies and he got a good shot at it. So what Jesus does here is he gives him a pop quiz in verse 26. He said to him, what is written in the law? Let's go back to the Bible. You've got a copy of it, you've been studying that Torah. How do you read it? So in other words, this is an open book quiz.

I loved those when I was going through school. Let's go to the Bible, open it up. What does the Bible say? Makes a person write with God. And how do you interpret it?

In other words, what does that look like in your life? Now, this is an easy quiz for this lawyer. In fact, he already has the answer memorized. In fact, he prayed the answer every morning and every evening before going to bed as a good Jewish man would have done. Came from Deuteronomy 6. Here it is recorded in verse 27. This is his answer. 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.

Now, stop there for a moment. The Jewish world at this time believed, just as frankly most people do to this day, that the heart was the center of emotion and desire. The soul was the center of consciousness and personality. Strength was the center of will and determination. And the mind, they viewed as the center of cognition or intelligence. So get this, the greatest commandment in the law really wasn't a rule.

It was a relationship. It means you love God with everything about you. But then the lawyer goes one step further. You notice he adds another passage. This is from Leviticus 19 verse 18. Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says in verse 28, you have answered correctly. You get an A plus on the pop quiz.

You go home and show it to your parents, put it on the refrigerator, whatever you do, you got it. A plus. Then Jesus says, and here's the kicker, now go and do this and you will live. See, it's one thing to quote scripture. It's another thing to apply scripture.

And here's the catch though. Jesus is so wise as he responds here. He could have asked the man at this point, well, do you love God with all your heart?

And the man could have easily said, well, of course I do. Then what do you say? It's invisible. That's intangible.

But the trouble is here, he added that little part about your neighbor. See, that's tangible. That's physical evidence.

You can bring that into the courtroom. Jesus can go knock on his neighbor's door and ask him, what kind of neighbor is he? See, it's one thing to say you love God.

It's another thing to demonstrate that love by loving people. And he's probably standing here thinking, why did I add that little part, you know, about loving my neighbor? And so what he does is he begins to look for a loophole, verse 29, but he desiring to justify himself, he knows he's in a cul-de-sac, said to Jesus, well, who is my neighbor? He knows the evidence isn't going to be all that helpful, so he's stalling for time, and he's asking Jesus for his definition of a neighbor. This might sound like a ridiculous question, but he's trying to minimize his culpability.

He's trying to whittle it down to the narrowest issue. You need to know that by the time of our Lord, the Jewish rabbis were defining a man's neighbor as a follower of God. In fact, let me read you something a famous rabbi wrote in his best-selling book.

He was born 190 years before Jesus. This is the standard rule of thumb, and I quote, if you do good, know to whom you do it. Give to the devout. Do not help the sinner. Hold back their bread. Do not give it to them. Give it to the one who is good.

They deserve it. But Jesus doesn't, of course, buy into the status quo, as you know. Instead, he begins to tell a story that is going to radically redefine who your neighbor is and what love really looks like out there in the traffic pattern of your life and mine. He starts telling the story in verse 30. Notice, 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. Now, everybody listening to Jesus would have immediately resonated with this scene because this story was in their newspapers every other day. In fact, so many people were robbed and injured or even killed on this stretch of road for the last several hundred years that by the time Jesus is telling this story, the road has been nicknamed the bloody road. I mean, who's going to travel that one without an armed guard? See, people listening to this story, as Jesus describes this man nearly beaten to death and robbed, would have been shaking their heads going, yeah, we know what you're talking about. In fact, we're wondering why in the world he was alone. Must have been an emergency. Jesus says in verse 31, as the tension rises in his Jewish audience and his lawyer, now by chance, a priest was going down that road, stop, that is in the same direction.

So now the crowd is going to brighten up. Oh, this is great. Here comes the hero of the story. This is a man who defined devotion to God. Jesus continues, and by chance a priest was going down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. That's startling to them. It's unexpected. If anybody is supposed to be good enough to get into the kingdom, it's a member of the professional priesthood. But he passed by on the other side.

He literally changed lanes. Why? We're not told. But here's a clue. Numbers 19, 11 were informed that during Old Testament times these days, anyone who came in contact with a dead body would be automatically unclean for seven days. So to this priest, he looked. It says he saw him.

So he's, you know, assuming he's dead, he looks dead, probably is dead. No need to go over and check his pulse and then have to quarantine for seven days. We know what a pain it is to quarantine for seven days. We're not going to volunteer for that. You don't make appointments, beloved, in your calendar to be a good Samaritan. You don't schedule convenient times for helping people.

You just show up. This lawyer had this Bible verse memorized. He was not about to have it exercised. Verse 32 says, likewise, a Levite also when he came to the place and saw him pass by on the other side, he changed lanes as well. The audience is going to be shocked here. The priest didn't help, but they definitely expected the Levite. They served as temple assistants. They had calluses on their hands. They got dirty. It was messy. They worked with the difficult portions of this labor. They're built for this sort of thing.

The Levite will take care of it. The language in this narrative gives the implication to us that he actually took a closer look to imply that he stood there for a moment or two, deciding what to do next. Again, we're not told why he walked away, but I want us to be careful not to point fingers too quickly.

Become one of them for a moment. Let's not downplay the danger. It's possible the thieves are still nearby. They might even be waiting for their next victim.

This could be a setup, a decoy. I have no doubt this Levite is looking over his shoulder for any sign of danger. For whatever the reason, he decided that the risk wasn't worth it.

Let me tell you, beloved, the amazing thing in this isn't that the priest and the Levite did not stop to help. This was a dangerous road. This was in the wrong part of town.

This was not the place to pull over. So I thought about this text. I remember when Marcia and I were living in Detroit, Michigan where I was earning my first seminary degree in Detroit, Michigan, a city well known for safety and low crime. Marcia had gone to a seminary wives' gathering one evening and on her way home, well after dark, our old beat-up car broke down once again. It was a green Volare. Any of you old enough to remember the beauty of the Plymouth Volare? The Volvo and the Volare are similar.

They both begin with a letter V. That's about it. Well, at any rate, Marcia decided on her way home to cut through a dangerous part of town to save time and that's when the car broke down. Came to a stop underneath a railroad bridge with no lights anywhere.

This is before cell phones, GPS. You can only imagine how afraid she was. She didn't know what to do.

No way to reach me. She wasn't about to get out and walk. But then a car pulled up behind her and a young man walked up to her window and asked if he could help and all she would do is roll down her window just an eighth of an inch and she gave him our apartment phone number and asked him to go call me. He explained to her that he was actually coming back from his wedding rehearsal dinner and he was getting married the next day. He wouldn't want, he said, his bride stuck here like she was and he reminded Marcia that she was not in a safe part of town.

She already knew that. So off he went to call me. During that time, Marcia saw another car coming her way. It slowed down a bit and then drove away. It was a police car but she didn't see him and he didn't see her because when he pulled up, she ducked down in the front seat of the car. A few minutes later, this young man returned, even brought her a cup of coffee and said I'm going to sit behind you in my car until help arrives. Well, after he called me, I called the seminary buddy who was home, obviously having his car available and I explained the situation and they didn't even take time to come and pick me up. They just both, he and his wife, hopped in their car and took off to go get her. The problem was they traveled the normal route between the seminary and our apartment, not the shortcut she had taken.

They couldn't find her. At one point, he made an illegal U-turn and wouldn't you know, a blue light began to flash behind him and he's pulled over. He explained what he was doing. When he said he was looking for a green Volare, the officer said, oh, I passed that car a little bit ago.

I know exactly where it is. That was the same policeman that had driven by. They all piled back in their cars and drove over to where Marcia was located.

We all lived happily ever after. I don't want to be too hard on this priest and Levi. They're in the wrong part of town. I wonder if I would have stopped to help. See, the more I think about this narrative, the surprising thing to me is not that these two men did not stop to help.

The surprising thing is that somebody did. Verse 33, but a Samaritan as he journeyed came to where he was and when he saw him, he had compassion. 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. One author commented that Jesus' audiences would have expected the Samaritan to show up and finish what the robbers started, not help. The implication of this story, of course, is that the beaten man is Jewish, now Samaritan showing up to help, which the contrast is remarkable. The Jews and Samaritans, as if you're older in the faith, older in the faith, you know that they hated one another.

This hatred had grown for centuries, so this parable now is about to take an unexpected turn of events. The lawyer and these people would have assumed that the third person to show up would have been a layman, an Israelite layman. So, you know, Jesus gets to dig in at the official religious leaders and look at just an Israelite who's not part of the clergy help.

That's what they're expecting. A Samaritan is unexpected. Would you notice again the Samaritan's compassion is comprehensive? He bandaged his wounds. He probably used strips of cloth from his own turban or tunic. He poured on his wounds wine that disinfected the wounds and oil that relieved them. By the way, Jews never purchased oil and wine from Samaritans. They thought it would be painted, corrupted, dirty, unclean. He sent him on his horse or mule, implying that he now walked, and he took him to an inn.

Now, get this. At this point, the average person in church thinks the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of him and then took off. That's not what happened. Notice again verse 34. And he sent him on his own animal and brought him to the inn and took care of him and took care of him.

And the next day, you know what that means? He took care of him through the night at the most critical stage of this man's survival. He didn't hand him off. He stayed up with him and took care of him. Then 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'll repay you when I come back. He effectively gives the innkeeper his master guard to cover the expenses.

Historians believe that this would have covered this man's room and board for nearly one month. That does not happen. That does not happen. The point is that somebody who truly knows and loves God should be the person that does make this happen. Now Jesus, by the way, isn't defining the plan of salvation, you know, if you want to go to heaven, go around looking for the accident victim and help them. No, just as Jesus responded to certain individuals in this Old Testament context, this is pre-cross, he knows their heart and he looks at that key element of hypocrisy or rebellion and he points his finger, he presses that button. To the rich man, what do you do?

Give all your stuff away, then you can follow me. To this man, this proud, prejudice, partial man, I'm going to touch that button. He turns to this lawyer and he asks him one more question. Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?

Get this, verse 37, he said, the one who showed him mercy. He can't even begin to bring himself to say the Samaritan. He can't say it. He can't get out of his mouth in a positive context, Samaritan. See, he's gotten the point, but he's not going to repent of his prejudice, his partiality, his pride. He wants to continue to claim that he loves God, but I'm going to hate the Samaritan. I got to tell you, a good Samaritan here is presented for us as a model, isn't he?

An unusual model. He had every reason to hate this Jewish man. One less Jew in the world, great.

I'll let him die. See, he presents for us a model, not for getting into heaven, the kingdom, but how to act like our king. We, by the way, found you hopeless, broken. Jesus saw us and had compassion on us. He stopped. He stooped to pick us up. He restored our lives and put us on our feet.

Then he paid for all the bills and then promised to come back. Everything he touches in your life and mine leaves the evidence of love and the trace of grace, and so should we. Stephen called this lesson, Leaving a Trace of Grace. It's the 12th message in a series called Into the Spotlight.

There's one more message left in this series, and we'll bring you that on our next broadcast. But in the meantime, we want to make sure that you've seen our monthly magazine, Heart to Heart. Stephen deals with a different topic each month. He helps you understand what the Bible says and how it applies directly to your life. The magazine also has a daily devotional guide. You can use that to spend personal time in God's word every day. This is a resource that we send as a gift to show our appreciation to all of our wisdom partners. We also send three free issues to anyone who asks. We'd like to send it to you if you haven't seen it yet. As soon as you get to, you'll notice a link on the homepage that will take you right to the signup. Join us next time for more wisdom for the hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-15 15:27:16 / 2023-01-15 15:36:15 / 9

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