What does it say?
Previously (Luke 9:51), Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. We enter into a section of Luke’s gospel that focuses on Jesus’ ministry as he moves forward toward Jerusalem and the crucifixion that awaits him there. Here in Luke 10 Jesus sends out 70 other apostles and sends them to announce the coming of the kingdom of God with instructions and authority similar to that of the Twelve. An expert in the Law tries to trap Jesus by asking him a question and Jesus responds with the correct, textbook answer (10:25-28). Frustrated and wanting to save face, the law expert asks Jesus to define who is his neighbor (10:29). Jesus’ answer is the story of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37) told only by Luke. The chapter ends with Jesus visiting the house of his good friend Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha in Bethany (10:38-42).
What does it mean?
Jesus’ missional focus never wavers. Even approaching what he knows to be the end of his earthly ministry he sends out ambassadors to announce the kingdom of God. When the expert in the Law tries to trap him, Jesus demonstrates that he understands that the essence of the Law is to love God and neighbor. The lawyer’s next question about who is our neighbor is the issue here. The Jewish leaders of the day would define neighbor as people like them. Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story with the hero being a despised Samaritan and the Jewish leaders in the story are portrayed as disconnected and self-absorbed. The message is simple – kingdom ministry is to all people, not just those like us.
On another front, the story of Jesus in Lazarus’ home further expends the focus of the kingdom. The contrast between Mary and Martha is more than just Martha needing more help in the kitchen. Mary has taken the position of a disciple sitting at Jesus’ feet. Everyone expects Jesus to rebuke her and send her back to her female chores, but he does not. Another major theme in Luke’s Gospel is how Jesus turns society upside down by treating women equally and respectfully.
How will I respond?
Do I seek out people who are not like me? Do I reach out to people of different ethnicities, gender, backgrounds, and socio-economic status? Do I truly understand how missionally important it is to be aware of my neighbor as Jesus defines the term? What will I do this week to grow in this understanding and experience?