Who Is My Neighbor? – Helping those in need

Nehemiah, going to work in Jerusalem over 1000 miles away, begs the question that the expert in the Jewish law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In the Biblical account found in Luke 10:25-37, an expert in the law asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life. In reply Jesus asked him what the law said. The man quickly quoted the Old Testament:

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 you love yourself.

  Jesus told him that he was correct and that he should go and do it. But the person, no doubt being embarrassed, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” This caused Jesus to respond with an amazing story of compassion. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.
 The road to Jericho was well known by Jesus and the people he talked to. Jericho was about sixteen miles or a five-hour walk from Jerusalem. It was at the bottom of the foothills, part of a water route of which Jerusalem was the center. Going down a mountainside meant that the trail would have switchbacks with plenty of places that thieves could ambush someone.  It was this road that Jesus used to illustrate a person being robbed and left to die.
 Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the person that met the hurt person’s need. A feud between Jews and Samaritans had been going on for centuries. It was the Samaritans that tried to stop the rebuilding of the Temple during Zerubbabel’s governorship and an army of Samaritans that likewise tried to stop Nehemiah from rebuilding Jerusalem. When Jesus spoke this parable, centuries later, there was still friction between the Jews and Samaritans. In fact in Luke 9:51, just one chapter before Jesus tells the parable, the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus to their village. Jesus sent people ahead to get things ready for Him but the passage says:

The people there did not welcome him there, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord do you want us to call fire down from Heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them and they went to another village.

  What then is our conclusion? If Jesus was deliberate in answering the question from the expert of the Law, could it be that Jesus was saying that even four or five hours away, if I come across someone in need, and even if that person is someone who has a different background than I do, that he or she is my neighbor?
 What would Jesus say to those of us from local churches that have resources and yet only forty-five minutes away from our pews, there are neighboring congregations with many needs? Perhaps in that location the people are different ethnically, perhaps the way the people worship is a little different than the way we do. Jesus is saying that this should not matter. We are called by God to help those in need, just as much as Nehemiah was called to help Jerusalem; just as much as the compassionate Samaritan felt called to assist one ambushed on the road to Jericho.
 Jesus was dead earnest when in Luke 10:36-37, He asked the expert in the law:

 Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?

The answer is convicting:

 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

  Jesus’ response is a mandate that we too must hear. Jesus said:

  Go and do likewise.

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