Related Verses: Luke 4:16-19; 10:25-37; Matt 5:13; Is 2:8; John 4:35-38; Matt 13:3-9
Matthew 4:23 provides an opening thought for this week’s lesson. It reads, “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”
This week, we take up the subject of Jesus and the work he did alleviating distress in the areas in which he lived and worked.
The lesson begins with the recitation of a very interesting event in the life of Jesus. It is recorded in Luke 4:16-19, a familiar incident in which Jesus was in the synagogue in Nazareth, the town he grew up in, and he is to read the scripture portion for the day. He reads from Isaiah 61:1,2 a passage that is known to be a messianic scripture, one that points forward to the “one who is to come,” who preaches good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind, release for the oppressed, and a jubilee restoration to those down-trodden. Jesus stopped short of the next phrase, “the day of vengeance of our God” leaving people to contemplate the up-lift work that was to be done by the Messiah. Jesus then added the famous words, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears” indicating that he was the Messiah and that he was about to take up the work of delivering people from their various forms of bondage. Studying his example, then, becomes informative for those wanting to emulate his working.
Probably the most famous of Jesus teachings comes in the form of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable is precipitated by the inquiry of a very good man as to who his neighbor was. As is true today, it is common to consider those who are like us to be our neighbors. But the parable teaches something far more radical, that those who are in most need are our neighbors. The astonishing and surprising element in the parable is that the man who was most despised ended up doing the most righteous thing. And the lesson is clear, that the distinctions of race and social status are not to be determinants on who we count as neighbor. Whoever is in most need is our neighbor.
It is also significant that the Samaritan inconvenienced himself while being of help. Not only did he go out of his way, he paid expenses that must be thought of as costly. We are left to contemplate when we last acted in a manner even remotely similar to the actions of the Good Samaritan.
Another interesting element in the lesson arises from Jesus comments, “You are the salt of the earth. And if the salt has lost its savor, of what use is it?” The indication here is that those who would spread the influence of the Kingdom abroad, may work quietly but they do need to work, spreading influence around even if subtly.
It becomes a serious question to consider, how believers today may do in our context what Jesus did in his context, working to alleviate the struggles of those who are down-trodden right where they live.
- Of what value is a congregation that has nothing to contribute to the well-being of the community in which is exists?
- How would you reach out to people who senses they had no need of anything?
- What ideas can you come up with that would enable believers to mingle with those outside their fellowship and do so in ways that are advantageous to Kingdom purposes?
- Should Christians become involved in the various political functions where they live with the intent of using them to aid good deeds?
- Tell the parable of the Good Samaritan in modern terms. What ideas come to you after doing that?