“Which of these three…was neighbor?” (Luke 10:36, NASB).
Did you hear about Lizzie Velaquez from Austin, Texas, a.k.a., “The World’s Ugliest Woman?” who was searching YouTube and stumbled upon a video (which had been viewed over 4 million times) urging her to kill herself because she was so ugly?
She decided to leave her self-pity behind, and parlayed her new-found fame to become an anti-bullying advocate all over the nation! What an admirable way to turn the tables on her bullies!
Jesus was also known to turn a few tables, and I don’t mean in Joseph’s shop.
A man once asked Jesus “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus asked the man what he thought the answer was (Luke 10:26). The man said to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).
He answered correctly. But, this wasn’t the real question. What he really wanted to know was how Jesus defined the term “neighbor.”
There was a long-standing and divisive debate among Jewish teachers about what “loving one’s neighbor” involved (Leviticus 19:18). This man knew that Jesus’ reputation might rise or fall with some folks, depending on how he defined the word “neighbor.”
Unfortunately for this man, Jesus was terrible at taking bait.
Instead, he offered a short (and powerful) parable about a man who is beaten and left for dead, passed over by the religious elite (a priest and a Levite), and was eventually saved by a Samaritan (Luke 10:25-35).
Someone said that the priest and Levite said to themselves, “What will happen to me if I do something?”, while the Samaritan said, “What will happen to him if I do nothing?”
When he finished, Jesus asked the man to answer this question: “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man?” (Luke 10:36).
Watching Jesus’ enemies squirm is like watching a car accident – it’s uncomfortable, but you can’t seem to look away. He replied with the only answer anyone could give in good conscience: “The one who showed him mercy” (Luke 10:37).
The man sought to expose Jesus and got exposed.
That’s how it works. Jesus’ opponents always ended up looking foolish.
However good the Carpenter of Nazareth might have been at building tables, he was far better at turning them.