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Who is my neighbor?



The good Samaritan story is one most are familiar with. It's so entrenched in society that there are even "Good Samaritan" laws requiring people to help others in grave danger.


The story holds special significance to me because in my very first dream of Yeshua, He referenced it. It was about seven years ago at a time of much stress and it has stayed as fresh as it was then.


In the dream, there was a Man in my kitchen. I was there with my children and this Man had with Him these clear waters all around His feet. The water was clean, moving and alive. How can water be alive? I don't know, but the water was alive and obeyed Him. Now that I think about it, it reminded me of the water in Moana how it was sentient. In the dream, the water did what He wanted without Him even speaking aloud. The home base of the waters seemed to be around His feet but in the dream it flowed around my kitchen, cleaning it. It wasn't regular stagnant water, it was different.


There was one moment where the water flowed under my oven and I was nervous what would be found there because I never moved my oven to clean it, not even for Passover for chametz (leaven) like you're supposed to. Not because I'm lazy, but because I was worried it was attached to a gas pipe and would explode or something. But the waters went underneath and I watched as crumbs and things came out with it, nothing too bad like I thought.


When it was all done, the Man who I did not recognize, but felt curious and perplexed by, began to leave. I didn't want Him to. I had this this sense of "Who are you and how have you managed to do all of this?" He was so interesting and unlike anyone I had ever met. I felt no unease around Him, in fact, the opposite, I felt safe and covered. He had power, too I could feel it even as He made not big displays other than the curious waters. I wanted to know who He was and for Him to stay.


All I could think to ask Him however was, "Where are you going?" I mean to keep Him with me but He answered, "To see your neighbor."


I became curious, nosy really, as to who He was going to go visit next and asked, "Who is my neighbor?"


And then He smiled a knowing, warm, smile, turned without answering to go and I woke up.


There's another detail in the dream concerning one of my children that isn't relevant to the story.


This was around the time I was becoming a believer and follower of Yeshua. In the dream, I did not know who He was until I woke up.


Later, when reading, I found a verse with someone asking the exact question I'd asked of Jesus. "Who is my neighbor?"


You see, one day Jesus was talking to his disciples and a man asked Him a question. People often did this when He spoke- asked questions- and many of them weren't asked in good faith but to trap Him or test Him. It must have been annoying, but He never wasted an opportunity to teach.


Luke 10 starting at verse 25 tells the story. It's the start to the story of the Good Samaritan.


"And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him (Jesus), 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?'


What you need to know here is that the word for "lawyer" doesn't mean a civil lawyer, but means a Jewish person who is very learned and studied in both Torah and the oral law. Jewish Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience. The only person who isn't Jewish in the story is the Samaritan.


What is also important is that the man who asked the question was most likely a Pharisee, a specific type of religious scholar with a high standing in religious society. These men saw themselves as the moral gatekeepers of society and were treated with respect, but were often the target of Yeshua's verbal lashings for the hypocrisy in their ranks and the neglect of the spirit of the law in favor of human extrapolations that made life unnecessarily difficult for the regular people.


We can guess this man is a Pharisee because unlike Sadducees, another sect of religious leaders who also knew the law well, he asks about eternal life and Sadducees didn't believe in a resurrection of any kind.


"But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"


This learned, educated man in high society who knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was right before God and man because of how He lived and what he abstained from, asked "Who is my neighbor" to, as the verse says "justify himself."


As part of their religious life, Pharisees were very conscious about who and what they kept away from. Obviously kosher food was a no, but it went further than that, to people. They often criticized Yeshua for spending time with people from lower levels of society because to do so was to defile oneself. Never mind that Yeshua was not eating with the "wrong crowd" to engage in the thing they did, but to call them out of that life through Him, simply being seen with them was disgusting and wrong to the religious upperclass.


In fairness, the average person had no business with the people Yeshua was dealing with but for the Messiah who saves lives from darkness, this was His entire business.


So this man of the law asks Yeshua, "Who is my neighbor" because he wants to justify himself and his practices. "Am I excluding the right people? Surely, my neighbors are the ones who I've deemed worthy of my good treatment, my company, my time, my respect, my love, my help so I'm good."


Then Yeshua tells a parable about a Jewish man who needs help; is left dying and bleeding in a ditch. The man is both seen and ignored by a priest and a Levite- the highest members of society.


A priest (also called a kohen) is a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Aaron was the first high priest of the people of Israel and chosen by God. There is honor and duty to this family and their descendants as they are appointed by God to lead, guide, and facilitate the right standing of the people of Israel before God by fulfilling temple duties and sacrifices.


Every priest is from the tribe of Levi, making them a levite, but not every levite is a priest (from the family of Aaron), but even so, all levites carry respect as they also were set apart by God for duties.


Some levite were temple musicians, others did construction, others were guards. They were all separated as the keepers of the holy temple where the presence of God resided and the place people had spiritual access to Him and were made right, justified, before Him via prayer and most importantly, sacrifices of both grain and animal.


The respect and honor of such a holy calling is carried down to this day. A person with the last name Cohen or Levi is recognized for the lineage in many ways. For one, in synagogue on Shabbat, when it is time for an aaliyah (readings from the Torah) it is a kohen who is given the honor the first reading, then a levite for the second reading, then anyone can read the third reading.


But in this parable, both a priest/kohen, and a levite both walked past the man in the ditch. In fact, they cross the street and walk past. Because they were cold-hearted? Not necessarily.


Temple duties forbade contact with dead bodies which cause spiritual uncleanliness. This man was alive, but if they helped and he died, or if he was already dead and they touched him, they risked not being able to perform their religious duties for the community for the day.


At the same time though, it's easier to walk by than to help. In modern Jewish law, there is a rule called Pikuch Nefesh that places the life of a human above all religious observance. It's in the Talmud (Mishnah- oral law) and based off of Leviticus 18:5 where God says we are to "live by" the law.


The Samaritan, however, didn't just see. He saw and helped. He picked up the man, put him on his animal, brought him somewhere he could get medical attention and rest, put him in good hands and paid for it all. He sacrificed his time, attention, and resources for a stranger..a Jewish stranger which makes the story even more wild considering the tension between Jewish people and Samaritans.


At the end of His story, Jesus then asks the educated, religious man of the law.


"'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 the end it wasn't the levite or cohen who saved that man from certain death but someone who no religious standing, in fact, an outcast religiously and politically speaking, who saved this man's life and took care of him. Speaking to the audience of His own, Yeshua turned the hierarchy of who is deserving of respect, honor, help, and love on its head with that parable.


The neighbor was the one who showed mercy and love, not the one who had the right name, came from the right family, or knew the holy books inside and out. Samaritans to this day don't even acknowledge the books beyond Deuteronomy- but Jesus, who obviously has a special love for this group of marginalized outsiders (so much so He chose to first reveal Himself to a Samaritan woman- and not the fanciest one at that).


One of the many things I love about Jesus is that while He reiterated a high standard for holiness over and over, this holiness was not one of spectacle but of first, dedication to God and second, love for the unseen, forgotten, or the ones on the outside.



The Pharisee, like lots of us, have our in-crowd of people we do good to. To the others we wish well, send thoughts and prayers from the other side of the street where we can stay safe from their uncleanliness and not make any personal investment.


Where the cohen and levite could only offer prayers, where religion and perhaps not wanting to be bothered served as a barrier for them offering life saving help, what made the Samaritan a neighbor was his mercy and giving of himself.


Just like Yeshua, our Cohen Hagadol, High Priest, did with His sacrifice.


"Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." Luke 6:36


The Good Samaritan reminds me much of how Yeshua is. Seeing those in need and crossing the street for them. He was never afraid to touch the dead because unlike the priests of the time, He carried power of death in Him. Where people keep a healthy distance, Jesus draws near, sacrificed Himself and offers healing to all who will accept it.


It reminds me of when Lazarus died. His sister Martha was so sad. Yeshua told her, "You'll see him again. Martha said, "Yes, on the day of resurrection in the last day" thinking He meant a distant future.


Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”


She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” -John 11:25-27


May He help us all be merciful neighbors and love God with all our heart, soul, and strength.


You can also read the whole Good Samaritan story here.

 

Normally I post a video here explaining how one begins to follow Yeshua, and I'll do that below this one, but since I mentioned a Jewish lawyer, I wanted to post this video about another Jewish lawyer who had an encounter with Yeshua like I did.




 

The promises of God begin and end with Jesus because He is the reconciliation. If you've been walking through life on your own and want to walk with a Shepherd who will never let go of your hand, here's how to start.







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