Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 2:24-4:14 / Luke 10:25-11:4 / Psalm 41:7-13
Fred Rogers was a beloved, gentle, famous and influential television personality who hosted 895 episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” from 1968 to 2001. Every show began with Mister Rogers putting on his sneakers and a cardigan sweater. He did all of this while singing, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?... Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Mister Rogers displayed the true meaning of a neighbor.
It’s too bad the Mosaic Law expert didn’t see Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood because he could have learned a thing or two about being a good neighbor. With an arrogant and self-righteous attitude he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus had just told him he was to love his neighbor as himself and in a condescending spirit asked Jesus whom specifically he “needed” to love.
Jesus shares the story about the Good Samaritan and answers his question practically and simply…it’s about mercy! A man who was traveling down the dangerous 17-mile road from Jerusalem to Jericho was jumped, beaten, robbed and left for dead. Three men passed by and all of them had a different reaction. Only one, the Good Samaritan, saw not only with his eyes but also with his heart.
There is a difference between seeing with physical eyes and seeing with discerning eyes. There are people all around us who are beaten up by the world and satan. Those people sometimes look like they have everything under control but inside they are empty, hurting, frustrated, abused, weary and left for dead. They live next door, punch the same time clock and shop at the same store as you. God opens our eyes so we can be moved by compassion and reach out to them in mercy.
In the story, the Priest and Levite came upon this beaten man and by the nature of their profession and calling, should have assisted this broken man. They passed by him because they were too calloused and busy. The Samaritan stopped, bound up his wounds, took him to an inn, tended for him and paid the innkeeper to provide care for the man. He was moved by mercy and willing to give whatever it took to restore the broken man. Mercy costs us something… our time, finances and energy.
The Samaritan was not supposed to be merciful because he was despised and considered an enemy and outcast by the Jews (the beaten man was a Jew). For him, the nationality and reputation of the needy man did not detour or diminish his mercy and compassion. The man, who was considered to be his enemy, was really his neighbor. He was deeply moved by pity and sympathy. Mercy does not look at the external but sees the internal. Mercy reacts compassionately despite the external differences and shortcomings. You don’t have to wear sneakers or put on a cardigan in order to love others and be a good neighbor. Just don’t ignore what your eyes see, what your heart feels and what God wants you to be…put on mercy!