25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” [Leviticus 19:18].
28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
29 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. 31 Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 32 Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 33 A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 36 What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
27 Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus.
31 In the meantime the disciples spoke to Jesus, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”
33 The disciples asked each other, “Has someone brought him food?”
34 Jesus said to them, “I am fed by doing the will of the one who sent me and by completing his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then it’s time for harvest’? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest. 36 Those who harvest are receiving their pay and gathering fruit for eternal life so that those who sow and those who harvest can celebrate together. 37 This is a true saying, that one sows and another harvests. 38 I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work hard for; others worked hard, and you will share in their hard work.”
39 Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.
The ethnic hatred between Samaritans and Jews was based on centuries of distrust. But Jesus saw them as “neighbors.” He told a parable about a Samaritan’s far-reaching mercy to relieve a Jewish person’s suffering. Jesus’ call was “go and do likewise”—offer profuse, practical mercy that costs something. In the hostile territory of Samaria, Jesus modeled a key spiritual vision for his disciples. “Open your eyes,” he said, “and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest” (verse 35).
Lord Jesus, teach me anew this week to recognize and value your image in myself, and in all the people, male and female, happy and hurting, who cross my path. Amen.
* Click here to see a 5-minute clip from the superb 2003 film The Gospel of John (using the text of John from The Good News Bible) which brings the story in John 4 alive.
As we consider today’s theme, I was thinking that my definition of “who is my neighbor” expanded dramatically this past week while I was on a Rez West Men’s Mission Trip to Honduras. Let’s meet a few of my new neighbors:
Aside: What is the difference between a guy on a mission trip to Honduras & a catfish? One has whiskers & smells. The other is a fish.
Our translators/drivers (Jorge’, Franklin, Rigo, & Ivan) constantly displayed Christian hospitality, kept us fed, & in constant supply of clean water.
We attended worship at the United Methodist Church in Ciudad. The praise music was energetic with 20+ kids dancing in sync for 50 minutes to open the worship service. Their enthusiasm was contagious & reminded all of us that worship should be joyful.
We had a luncheon with recipients of Juan Wesley School Scholarships & University Scholarships. It was fun listening to their interests & passions. It’s ironic that, just like kids here in the U.S., one of their favorite genres of music is K-Pop bands – South Korean pop music. It is a small, small world, indeed.
Aside: Considering Honduras’ occasional bumpy streets, I’ve heard that their official state ice cream is Rocky Road.
One of our tasks was to help paint the exterior of the Juan Wesley School with the students & faculty. With music blaring from a loudspeaker & all the kids helping, the painting job quickly became a raucous party. While we painted, we made a point to connect with the students to hear about their favorite subjects & their plans for the future.
We met 3 people who had participated in our entrepreneurship-training program & had launched their own businesses in Honduras, ranging from a small convenience store to a graphic design company. Seeing their passion & energy first-hand, I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to compete with these folks in the business world.
We encountered a migrant caravan escaping from the deplorable conditions in Venezuela to make their way to the U.S. border. They had traveled 1,700+ miles & were only halfway to their destination. Realizing they would be exposed to unscrupulous merchants & corrupt public officials at each point of their journey, we passed the hat &, with the help of our Honduran hosts, gave a group of 8 women (from one family) a donation to pay for lodging &/or a meal.
While building a concrete drainage tunnel & creating openings for windows in the concrete walls of the church in El Obraje, we worked with some amazingly skilled craftsmen. It was interesting hearing the stories about their families & how they had learned their skills.
We attended a Men’s Group gathering in El Obraje. It was awesome to chat with the men of the community who came to hear a message of how we are all united in Christ. Once again, we learned that men everywhere have a lot of the same concerns/fears & hopes/joys.
We were graciously invited to attend a Women’s Service in El Obraje as well. It was an inspirational service led by an amazingly talented praise band. (FYI, church lady groups in Honduras are similar to the U.S. – very organized & served some delicious snacks.)
Waiting at the airport in Tegucigalpa for our return flight, we met up with another mission team from Overland Park. Fortunately, we avoided a Jets/Sharks-type of rumble, ala West Side Story, & just compared notes. (Though it was tempting to play a game of one-upmanship: “Oh yeah? Well, I ate four Baleadas in one sitting.”)
And finally, on this trip I developed friendships with 7 other men in Christ, most of whom I had barely known beforehand. We shared poignant stories, powerful devotions, & lots of laughter. (Oh, and way too many comments about bodily functions.)
So what might this reminiscing mean for us today?
With Covid policies & political differences, it has been very tempting for us to righteously reduce the number of people we consider as our “neighbors.” But what if, starting today, we made a deliberate effort to shift gears & increase the size & scope of people we considered as our neighbors? As I told the boys as they progressed through middle school & high school, we shouldn’t try to replace or delete acquaintances, but rather we should always try to add friends as we go through life. Maybe we could all just mimic Mister Rogers & get in the habit of asking, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to unpack that 2023 Mayan calendar I bought for Doris. Wait. What? It’s blank. What a rip-off! (The Mayan calendar infamously ended on December 21, 2012, which is supposed to make this humorous – Editor.)