3. JESUS TRIED TO SEE THE GOOD IN THE LOST PEOPLE HE ENCOUNTERED.
In Luke 10, Jesus and an expert of the law had a discussion. The expert (or lawyer) asked Jesus: "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus deferred to him and said in effect: "You know the law. What's written in it?" Jesus encouraging him to answer the question may have flattered him. He may have thought to himself: "This rabbi is not so bad; He realizes my expertise." And so the lawyer said - "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27).
Then Jesus responded by saying - "You have answered rightly.' He then proceeded to drop a verbal bomb - "Do this and you will live." Jesus' response may have shocked the audience. It seems as if He was implying that the lawyer had not been loving the Lord with all his being or his neighbor as himself. The fact that the lawyer wanted to "justify himself" lends credibility to this possibility. He then asked Jesus - "And who is my neighbor?" (10:29). Jesus then told him the parable of the Good Samaritan which we have studied before (cf. the archived lesson from ).
After sharing the parable, Jesus then asked the lawyer in Luke 10:36 - "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" The expert in the law responded correctly by saying - "He who showed mercy on him" (10:37). Jesus then said: "Go and do likewise." He would not let the lawyer off the hook. He is going to have to treat his neighbor like God wants him to. It wasn't pleasing in God's eyes to use the excuse: "Well, this person doesn't live near me so he isn't my neighbor."
The point I want you to see is this: When Jesus chose someone to illustrate how to treat a neighbor He did not pick the chief priest. He did not pick one of the Levites. He did not choose a master of one of the synagogues. He did not choose one of the scribes. He did not choose one of the better-known rabbis. He didn't even choose a Jew. He called attention to one of their neighbors, the Samaritans, who were despised by the Jews. They hated the Samaritans so strongly and felt such contempt toward them that if a Samaritan sneezed in the direction of a Jew, then that Jew was considered ceremonially unclean for three days (of course, that was one of their traditions, not the law of God). But, even though the Samaritans were generally reviled by the Jews, Jesus made a Samaritan the good neighbor in His parable. Samaritans weren't all bad, at least not according to Jesus!
Today, if we were to update the parable, we might say there is a Christian who has been beaten, robbed, and left to die. Along comes a preacher, but he passes by on the other side. He has a Bible study to lead so he cannot stop to help him. Then, along comes an elder in the church, but he has an elders' meeting to attend and cannot stop to help him. Finally, along comes a Chinese Communist or perhaps an atheist. Jesus would have him being the helper to the Christian who had been beaten and robbed.
What are you trying to say, Stephen? Simply this: Jesus saw the good in people, even in a despised class in His culture. Are we able to do the same? Can we see good in homosexuals and alcoholics, for instance? We must if we want to maximize our influence with them. Jesus certainly wasn't prejudiced and He rejected stereotypes (e.g., John 4:39-42). What about you and I? Do we see good in the people of the world or do we only despise them and look down upon them? If we can see good in them, however small, we will be better able to reach them because of an improved attitude. It will be easier to see good in others when we purposefully remind ourselves of our own shortcomings.