In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Luke 10: 25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is follow-up to a conversation Jesus was having with an “expert” of the law, one of those leader types who were know-it-alls during the time of Christ. The “expert” is asking Jesus to defend two questions: What must I do to inherit eternal life? And, who is my neighbor? The first question is about the message of Jesus and the second probes the mission and ministry of Jesus.
To the first question, Jesus replies by affirming the “experts” own answer to the question by his stating the greatest and second greatest commandments, “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.’” But, to the second question, Jesus backs him up against a wall of conviction with his parable.
The parable is pretty simple. It’s about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he is stopped in his tracks by a band of robbers. They strip him of his clothing, beat him, and then leave him half dead in the middle of the road. Then, there are three individuals who come upon the stricken man in the road and are confronted with a choice: do I help him or leave him to die? First, a priest happens upon him, but he passes by and walks around on the other side of the road. Secondly, a Levite comes toward him, and after seeing him lying in the road, also passes him on the opposite side of the road.
A third traveler, this time a Samaritan (often hated by the Jews, who would bristle at one being portrayed in a positive light), comes upon the man and took pity on him. He bandages his wounds, puts him on his donkey, takes him to an inn, pays for his care, leaves him in good hands, and even follows up on his needs during his return trip home. So, when Jesus asks the know-it-all to acknowledge which character in the story most depicts a loving neighbor, he’s forced to answer “the one who had mercy.”
Mercy is the big idea in this parable. Jesus is filled with mercy. The Samaritan is filled with mercy. All who love the Lord with heart, soul, strength and mind are to be filled with mercy toward their neighbor. Jesus’ outstretched arms of love are demonstrated through the gift of mercy. Mercy’s best descriptors are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, forbearance, favor, charity and blessing. Mercy is most extended toward those who don’t deserve it, but who are in desperate need of it. To be merciful is to be willing to extend an embrace of love even when it’s inconvenient to do so.
To love God is to love mercy. For when we were most desperate we received mercy. Behold God’s merciful kindness; believe the transformational gospel of mercy; belong to those who are willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of mercy; and become a Jesus-follower who’s a repository of mercy.