The Right Questions Yield the Right Answers!
Dear Father in heaven, so often my mind is cluttered with questions—questions about spiritual matters and earthly matters, family matters and personal matters, big matters and small matters. I know that I truly need Your wisdom to find proper answers, for my human understanding is so incredibly limited. Send Your Holy Spirit to instruct me this day, so that I might comprehend Your will and enjoy Your guidance. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
God’s will is not difficult to discern or understand. It is revealed in His Word! Everyone who listens to Him and keeps His commandments will enjoy His blessing and favor!
Paul here prays for the Colossians, asking His Father to fill them with wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that they might walk worthy of the Lord having been redeemed through the blood of Christ!
Text: Luke 10:25-27
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and 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.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed,he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
In Christ Jesus, who answers life’s most pressing questions, dear fellow redeemed:
In the children’s sermon this morning I asked the little ones: “Are you a good neighbor?” That question may well have confused the children, for our early understanding of the word “neighbor” suggests someone other than ourselves—maybe someone who lives across the street from us or in the next yard over. Furthermore, our understanding of a good neighbor may be someone who simply keeps his lawn mowed or waves as she drives by. Jesus uses the word “neighbor,” however, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan to mean something entirely different. The Good Samaritan was “good,” because he helped the man who had been beaten and robbed. He put his life at risk to save someone he did not even know. To be a good neighbor, therefore, means to be someone who will go out of his way to help rather than to hurt someone.
Today I want to take you beyond that question and have you consider the four questions which frame this parable. Two were asked by the lawyer in our text, while two were asked by Jesus. I would suggest to you that the lawyer asked the wrong questions, for his questions were based upon false presuppositions which could not lead to truth—to right answers. Jesus’ questions, on the other hand, were based upon true presuppositions and so could and indeed do lead us to right answers—to revelations of His divine truth. As we consider these four questions, therefore, we will see that THE RIGHT QUESTIONS YIELD THE RIGHT ANSWERS! This in turn leads to a life based upon Scriptural revelation rather than upon self-deception! This also leads to a life viewed as an opportunity to serve rather than an obligation to help!
In our text we are told that “a certain lawyer stood up and tested” Jesus. This type of testing was not uncommon in Jesus’ day. The lawyer in question would have been a specialist in Jewish religious law. These specialists would often engage rabbis in what we might call a “contest of wits” simply to demonstrate, if possible, their superior knowledge of Old Testament law, while at the same time affirming the rabbi’s abilities. He did so by asking Jesus a question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Think about that question for a moment. It is straight-forward and seeks an honest answer, but consider its presuppositions. It is a question based upon the concept of work-righteousness rather than upon an understanding that salvation is a gift of God given by grace and received by faith. It suggests that man, while not perfect, is still good enough to merit God’s favor and fully capable of doing something to earn his way to heaven. It suggests that this man at the very least thought that he had a good grasp of the truth and only needed a little more information and then he would be just fine on his own without the need of a Savior from sin. None of these presuppositions were true and, therefore, the lawyer was asking the wrong question and consequently could not thereby reach an understanding of the truth.
How was Jesus to respond? He could have simply told the lawyer that he had it all wrong and gone on to correct him, but how effective do you think that would have been? What happened the last time you tried to correct someone with an equal or even better education than yourself, suggesting that he or she had it all wrong and you would like to enlighten them? No, Jesus did not choose that direct route. Rather, He responded to this lawyer with a double-question of His own: “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” Jesus directed this man to Scripture. Why did He do so? What were His presuppositions? First of all, Jesus recognized that the Old Testament scriptures were divine truth revealed by God. Those Scriptures reveal that man has a deep-seated problem regarding sin. That problem, which is our problem, is not merely a matter of lack of information as suggested today, for instance, by the religion of Islam. Nor is our problem something we can blame on the influence of the society that surrounds us. Rather, the Old Testament scriptures together with those of the New Testament reveal that man’s entire nature is fallen—that we are by nature “dead in trespasses and sins” (cf. Eph. 2:1, 5) and that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (cf. Gen. 8:21). That problem cannot be corrected by a little information, first of all, because by nature man does not understand God’s truth and so without the aid of the Holy Spirit cannot comprehend those truths (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14) and, secondly, by nature man is in rebellion against that truth (cf. Rom. 8:7-8). Through His questions Jesus wanted this lawyer to come to grips with the deep and troublesome problem all men face—sin and its fruit, death, which in turn would lead then to an understanding of man’s deep need and God’s great solution.
The lawyer, however, failed to understand Jesus’ desired point and so simply quoted a key passage of the law, which summarized man’s duty to God and his fellowmen—a duty he assumed he could fulfill and therefore a reflection of the false presuppositions we have discussed: “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.” Jesus responded in an attempt to get the man further to examine himself: “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” Jesus’ point was that he could not do this, and so would not live if it were up to him to gain life through the keeping of the law. Who among us can love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind? No one can do so—not truly as we ought! Who among us has loved our neighbor as himself? Oh my, how easy it is to examine our lives and see our failures! THE RIGHT QUESTIONS YIELD THE RIGHT ANSWERS! What does Scripture say concerning God and man’s relationship with God? What does it say about sin and the judgments of the law? Knowing the truths of Scripture, as revealed by the Holy Spirit leads to a life based upon Scriptural revelation rather than upon self-deception!
THE RIGHT QUESTIONS YIELD THE RIGHT ANSWERS! This also leads to a life viewed as an opportunity to serve rather than an obligation to help! Unfortunately, the lawyer in our text did not examine either his heart or his life. Rather, he felt somewhat foolish. Jesus had led him to repeat what any Hebrew child could have recited in any synagogue on any Sabbath. Our text tells us that “wanting to justify himself,” the lawyer asked another question of Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
We all know the story, so I will not reread it but will simply summarize it. A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho—a distance by road of about 17 miles. Along the way he was met by robbers, beaten, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead. Two religious men happened to come by—a priest and a Levite, but both upon seeing the victim hurried by and went on their way. Finally a Samaritan happened to come by—a man the Jews would love to hate, because his ethnic background was mixed and his religious views incorrect. Yet this Samaritan apparently with no thought of personal danger or expense, stopped, helped, and secured the safety of this stranger. Jesus then asked His second question: “Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
Consider those two questions once again and the presuppositions behind both. The lawyer asked: “Who is my neighbor?” His underlying presupposition is two-fold. First, not everyone was his neighbor. He wanted to distinguish between those who were and those who were not. Second, his ultimate obligations therefore over against others were limited. He was obliged to help his “neighbor,” for this was God’s command, but he was obligated to do nothing beyond that to secure God’s favor and thereby gain his salvation. But what were Jesus’ pre-suppositions? His underlying pre-suppositions were also two-fold. First, the child of God is obligated to do nothing to merit salvation—it is a gift of God’s grace received only by faith, which is itself a work of God the Holy Spirit within our hearts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3). Just as the man beaten and robbed by the thieves did nothing to merit the kindness of the Good Samaritan, but rather was the pure recipient of his mercy and compassion, so we are the pure recipients of the greatest of Good Samaritans, Jesus Christ. He found us on the road beaten and robbed by Satan himself. He placed Himself at risk by entering this world and taking on Satan in the flesh. He paid the ultimate price of death on the cross in order to secure our eternal welfare. He was neighbor to us. Consequently, the issue is not—who is my neighbor, but to whom can I be a neighbor, just as Christ was neighbor to me?
Jesus’ second pre-supposition is that our opportunities to serve others are limitless. He does not limit our opportunities to the people who live across the street from us, or who live in the next yard over. Rather, God has placed us in this world, at this particular time to represent Him among all those who surround us. To whom can you be a good neighbor? It may be the one with whom you share your bed—your husband or wife. It may be the ones with whom you share your residence—your children, siblings, or parents. It may indeed be those people who live in close proximity to you, but it could also be a complete stranger. People all around us are in need of our help. Opportunities abound to show our compassion and to reflect the grace of God in our relationships with others. At times such help may be quite dramatic, as in the case of the Good Samaritan, while at other times—quite frankly at most times it will be in ways that go unnoticed by most, but which will bring a certain amount of sweetness and joy into the lives of those whose lives we touch. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS do indeed YIELD THE RIGHT ANSWERS! This leads to a life viewed as an opportunity to serve rather than merely an obligation to help! My dear friends, do you see what a difference our pre-suppositions make in our entire approach to life? Scripture-based pre-suppositions free us from self-deception! Those same pre-suppositions open our eyes to a life-time of joyous service as we look forward to spending an eternity with the One who served us so wondrously and who inspires us so to serve! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting