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Pastor John Montgomery's Weekly Sermons:
May 23, 2021
“Whatever it Takes to Serve Others.”
Series, ““Growing Together in Spiritual Growth”
John W. Montgomery, D.D.
This week we are going to see how we can do whatever it takes to serve others, which we call ministry. Perhaps this is an area where you have the most room to mature and grow. We are going to look at a passage that we are probably all familiar with – the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In a moment we are going to focus on the parable itself, but first let us think about the reason Jesus tells this parable. In fact, we are not really sure if this is a parable or an account of a real event.
In this passage we read about a lawyer who comes to Jesus. At first, he seems to have a genuine interest in finding out what it takes to gain eternal life. But as the conversation with Jesus continues, it becomes pretty obvious that this lawyer is not as interested in doing what it takes to gain eternal life as he is trying to find a way around his responsibilities.
This lawyer knew the law very well, he knew that the Bible commanded him to love God and to love his neighbor. But, as a Jewish man, he was trying to suggest that the definition of neighbor was rather narrow – that it only included others that were like him. Jesus told this parable to illustrate the importance of serving others – even others who might be quite different than us. And in this passage, we find five principles or requirements that we must meet if we want to serve others in a way that would be pleasing to God.
5 REQUIREMENTS FOR SERVING OTHERS:
Awareness, Luke 10:25-32
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, ‘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.’ ”28“ You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”
The first step in serving the needs of others is that we need to develop an awareness of the needs of those around us. Interestingly, in this parable, all three men, the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan were aware of the man alongside of the road. In each case, the passage is quite clear that all three men saw the injured man alongside of the road.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a narrow, windy road that descended about 3500 feet over 17 miles. If you look at the picture of this area on the screen, it is easy to see why it was frequented by robbers who could find many places to hide. You can imagine that as each of these three men traveled the road, they were very aware of their surroundings and there was no way they were going to miss a beaten, injured man alongside of the road.
It is not always quite so easy for us to see the needs of people around us, though. If we really want to become the kind of people who minister to the needs of other people, we have to develop a consciousness or awareness of those around us who have needs. For some of you, you are great at noticing the needs of people around you, others seem to be oblivious to them.
I am not talking about physical needs here. Those are often easy to spot. But people have emotional and spiritual needs, too. And those are usually much harder to discern.
Unfortunately, in this story, only one of the three men followed up once they became aware of the need. Both the priest and the Levite saw the man in great need, but they failed to do anything about it. I have often wondered why these religious leaders did not stop to help. Maybe they were on their way to the temple and were afraid they would be defiled by the man’s blood. Maybe, they were afraid that if they stopped to help, they might suffer the same fate and be robbed and beaten themselves. Maybe they were late for the worship service and figured their duties there were more important than meeting the need right in front of them. Maybe they figured it was someone else’s duty to tend to the man.
But before we are quick to condemn those men, we need to realize that we often fail to get involved in the lives of others for very similar reasons. While being conscious of the people around us and their needs is a great first step, it is not enough by itself. We also have to have…
2. Compassion, Luke 10:33
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity (Compassion) on him.”
Unlike the priest and the Levite, the Samaritan had compassion on the injured man. I am sure that the Samaritan knew this was a Jewish man and he was certainly aware of the fact that the Jews and Samaritans despised each other. That animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans is also obvious in the account of the woman at the well in John 4. But this Samaritan man was willing to look beyond all that and to merely see another human being who had a great need and he had compassion.
The word translated “compassion” (“took pity”) in this passage is used eleven other times in the New Testament. Twice to describe God’s compassion in forgiving and saving sinners and nine times to describe the compassion of Jesus as a motivation for healing. Let us face it; God did not save us just because he had some emotional feeling towards us. In fact, God is repulsed by the sinful condition of our lives. I am sure Jesus did not necessarily have some emotional attachment to many of the people he healed either. But God the Father and God the Son had compassion on us. They looked at our miserable state and they made a conscious decision to use all the resources at their disposal to help us up out of the muck and mire.
That is what compassion is all about. It is seeing someone else with a need and then being willing to do whatever we can to help the person with his or her need, not because the other person deserves it, but because God has put us in a position to help with those needs. He has put us into the life of another and he has provided us with resources that we can use to meet those needs. True compassion is not just an emotional feeling; it is an act of the will. It is a decision on my part to serve the needs of another regardless of how I feel about that person.
I think that is where the lawyer who came to Jesus missed the boat. He was only willing to be a neighbor to those people that he liked, those that were more like him. But as we talked about last week, anybody can love the people we like. The measure of love is whether or not we love the unlovable.
But even if the Samaritan would have been conscious of the needs of this man and he had compassion, but did not do anything else, that still would not have been enough. He also had to have…
3. Contact, Luke, 10:34
“He went to him” and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.”
Here is where the process breaks down for a lot of us. We see a need and we even have compassion for the other person. But we are not willing to take the next step. Because the next step is that I actually have to have contact with the other person. And sometimes that is not real comfortable.
If the Samaritan was going to help this poor man, he had to get involved, he had to make contact. And that meant he was going to get dirty and bloody. It meant that he was exposing himself to the risk of getting robbed himself and to the risk of disease from this stranger. And it meant that he would have to associate with someone he despised and with someone who despised him.
This week, I went back and read several of the accounts of Jesus healing various people. And I was amazed at how many of those accounts include what I would call the “Jesus touch”. Although he certainly had the power to heal without contacting these people, it is interesting that Jesus chose to reach and touch them as part of the healing process:
• A man with leprosy
• Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever
• Two blind men
• A man who was deaf and dumb
• The coffin of a dead young man
• The servant of the high priest
That does not even include all the people who were healed just because they reached out and touched Jesus or his garments. The list of people that Jesus touched reads like a “who’s who” of all the people anyone in their right mind would avoid contacting – many of them were ill with contagious diseases, most were the outcasts of society, and one was the servant of a man who was going to call for the execution of Jesus in just a few hours. But Jesus was willing to take the risk of contracting all these people so that he could meet their needs.
The kind of contact I am talking about here is more than just physical contact. Perhaps a better word than “contact” might be “involvement”, but that does not start with the letter “C”. For the Samaritan and for Jesus, the physical contact was just one indication of their willingness to get involved in the lives of others.
What if this parable happened today? Who would be the person by the side of the road that needed us to be a neighbor to them? A single mom, a homeless person, a homosexual, a Muslim, or a liberal?
Would we be willing to make contact, to get involved in their lives in order to serve their needs?
Maybe the priest and the Levite had given their offering at the synagogue and they figured that when they got back, they would send a representative of their benevolence ministry back to help the injured man.
Sometimes, maybe that is all we can do, but there is no substitute for the human touch that accompanies our contact and involvement in the lives of others.
But being conscious of needs, feeling compassion, and even making contact are still not enough. I still need to…
4. Care, Luke 10:34
“…and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.”
The Samaritan quickly assessed the situation and then he immediately began to care for the needs of the injured man. He saw that the man was badly injured, so he tended to his wounds and then he transported the man to an inn where he could receive further care.
If I am going to care for the needs of others, then the first thing I have to do is to determine the real needs of the other person. Sometimes, like in this case, the needs are obvious. That is usually true when it comes to the physical needs of others. If someone is hurt or hungry, or needs clothing, we can usually determine those needs pretty easily. But sometimes, when the needs are more emotional or spiritual, they are not quite as easy to see. That is where we have to go back to that very first step and work and being conscious and aware of the needs of others. That is another reason the whole idea of contact and involvement is so important. The more time we spend with other people, the greater the likelihood that we will be able to discover their deepest needs.
Then, once we determine what the needs are, we have to use whatever resources we have at our disposal to meet those needs. All the good intentions in the world are no substitute for taking an active role in meeting the needs of others.
Next week, we are going to talk more about meeting the spiritual needs of others, but based on the example of Jesus in the Scriptures, it seems to me that before we can address the spiritual needs of people, we first have to be able to care for their physical and emotional needs. Many of the times when Jesus healed people, it was just the first step in also addressing their spiritual needs.
James was undoubtedly influenced by watching his half-brother, Jesus, minister to the needs of people. It is not surprising that he emphasized the importance of caring for the needs of people in his epistle:
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? James 2:15, 16 (NIV)
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins.” James 4:17
When God brings us into the lives of others and gives us the resources to meet needs in their lives and we fail to care for those people, we not only rob the other person of the help God intended for us to provide, but we also rob ourselves of the blessings that come from serving others. No wonder James says that is a sin.
When I am conscious of the needs of others, when I have compassion, when I am willing to make contact and care for their needs, I will always incur a…
5. Cost, Luke 10:35-37
“The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ’Look after him,’ he said, ’and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
When the Samaritan man stopped to help this stranger, he incurred several costs. It cost him his time, something that the priest and the Levite apparently were not willing to give. It cost him a great deal of effort. And it cost him some of his resources. He took his wine and oil and used them to treat the wounds. And when he got to the inn, he provided the financial resources to make sure the man would get the continued treatment that he needed. The two silver coins he gave to the innkeeper represented two days wages for a typical worker, so it was not just some token gesture in his part.
Whenever we choose to serve the needs of other people, there is always a cost involved. Sometimes our time, sometimes our emotions, sometimes our financial resources, and often all three.
Which one are you - the Priest, the Levite, or the Good Samaritan?
Message Preached at
Cedar Creek Baptist Church
Jacksonville, Florida 32205
May 23, 2021
Sermon Notes is a Ministry of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church,
1372 Lane Avenue South, Jacksonville, Florida 32205,904-781-9151 - Johnmontgomery@ccbaptist.org