Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God and Jesus had a plan as they created this beautiful universe, with it billions of stars, planets, moons, and exploding gases. God was building a home for his children that would be created in His image. Remember, man and woman are a soul, and they have a body. Many people get that all wrong. God and Jesus had created a heaven full of angels and angelic beings. God had a worship group to praise Him. He was very interested in having a family-men and women that would be created in his own image. God and Jesus spoke all the rest of creation into being, but they hand crafted man and woman, and continue to do so with each pregnancy, where God hand knits the baby together in the mother’s womb. God is personally involved in the birth of each image bearer.
God’s plan for mankind was that when you looked at one of His image bearers, you would be seeing a reflection of Him. Thus God was cranky about making any image and saying it was an image of God. Man and woman were to be the image, and all paintings, statues, drawings, likenesses are forgeries, and God said “that was wrong.”
Of course, you know that usurper, Satan, the liar and murderer, got involved and brought sin into God’s utopia.
Once Satan got involved, man began to create forgeries, and because of sin in his and her life, began to hide from God. Now God had a problem. Satan had messed up his whole plan of creating a world of carbon copies of his holiness and lovingkindness. God and Jesus had a plan, they would buy mankind back in the distant future with God’s blood and a resurrected God to show the way to God. They would teach man how to be the spitting image of God, and example him to all the world around them.
Understand why this was such a beautiful plan by the time Jesus ascended into heaven and sent his disciples out to win the world to him-to example Jesus to every culture, tribe, race, economic situation, educational situation, and financial situation. This now multi-colored, multi-racial, multi- cultural world of people were all arguing and fighting over what God looked like, God’s plan was simple. When you were talking to one of His image bearers, be they black, brown, white, tan, yellow, male or female, they would so reflect what God was like that you would think of God looking just like them. That would change with every new image bearer that you came in contact with. God would ever be like His image bearer.
God considered all paintings, statues, engraved likenesses as forgeries, and totally rejected and forbade them. God was cranky about this and had to divorce the Israelites and take captive the tribe of Judah over constant making of images and idols to false gods. This included likeness of Himself. Again, He was down-right cranky about images. He wanted his image bearers to reflect Him, His kindness, His goodness, and His love to all people.
Jesus is teaching and a certain lawyer, by the way, a very good lawyer and one that I believe had been listening to Jesus, was asking an honest question. He realized that he was not getting the real deal in the Temple, and most likely had been concerned by the answers he was getting in the Synagogue. This lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Now, you must remember that this is a Jewish Lawyer, asking a Jewish Rabbi, under the period of the Law of Moses was this question asked. The answer is wonderful, but not applicable to us today for two reasons.
The first reason, we do not live under the law, and the law was nailed to the cross and Jesus paid it in full. That is what he meant when he said, “It is finished.” Second, later on the night that Jesus was betrayed, Jesus superseded the second part of this great law just before he went to the cross. Jesus put the burden on the lawyer with, “How do you read the law?” What a fantastic question to ask a good lawyer. However, the Jewish lawyer was up to the task, and gave a beautiful answer from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ and, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.”’
Jesus answered, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Now, I want you to understand what the lawyer is quoting from God’s law. The ten commandments, and the 635 laws recorded in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and the rest of the decalogue, are all bound up in loving God properly, and loving our neighbors properly. There are many today saying, “I can do all of that and never come to church, tithe, or have anything to do with Jesus.” This is true, but our salvation today is not of law or works.
Yet, for the Jewish lawyer, that had been listening to Jesus speak the words of life, there was a problem. The problem was not who does he as a Jewish gentleman, lawyer, and good religious man consider his neighbor. The problem that he was astute enough to be concerned about was, “Who does God consider my neighbor?” Understand, the Jewish law, tradition, and culture had this question already answered. The answer: People just like you; no Samaritans, no Moabites, no Romans, no gentiles. As a good Jew you don’t have to love them. The lawyer had been deeply enough in the law to know that answer would not fly with God. He wants to justify his thinking, so he asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus is not ready to give his final answer right now, so he tells a story and lets the man figure it out for himself. On the night he was betrayed recorded in John 13, Jesus answers for the disciples, “A new commandment I give you, and that you love others as I have loved them. Jesus blew the doors off any limitations on being a neighbor.
At this point I can see Jesus turning around and looking him straight in the eye and considering the soul of this man that is standing eye to eye, toe to toe with Jesus concerning the law. The answer that Jesus was about to give was so radical, so dangerous, it could have gotten Jesus stoned to death right there. So Jesus tells a story.
Let me set the scene. Bethany was at the top of the Continental divide so to speak. The beginning of the Jericho Road that travels from Jerusalem to the Jordon River at old Jericho begins at an elevation of 3300 feet above sea level. In the little over a dozen mile trek down the road to the edge of the Dead Sea at Jericho the elevation is just inches short of 1300 feet below sea level. A drop of 4600 feet, nearly a mile, in just a few miles. This is a treacherous trail/road that includes along the way the area known as the valley of the shadow of death.
A Jewish businessman, apparently, was traveling this road and he become overpowered by robbers that beat him to a pulp, robbed him of all wealth, stripped his clothes off him, and left him beaten, bleeding, naked, and almost dead beside the road. Not a pretty sight. Understand that the beaten and naked man could have been left beside the road for bait. To attract someone else to stop by and seek to help him and also become victim of the thieves that would, beat, rob, strip naked, and repeat the crime in some innocent good neighbor Sam that stopped to render aid. Not an uncommon occurrence.
This road was basically only traveled in the daylight hours; thieves were everywhere after dark. When Lori was teaching at Colegio Biblico 30 years ago and traveling college youth to hold church camps, DVBS and the like, she was traveling with about 6 youth and was crossing the Continental Divide in southern Mexico, and on the downhill side of the western Sierra Madres and was in guerilla territory and it had gotten dark on her. She had crossed the mountains on market day, and on a one lane road at 12,000 feet elevation, cars had to back up to a wide spot for trucks to get by. She was caught after dark with about 40 miles to go. As she ran around a curve, her headlights caught a road block ahead, barrels and logs across the road. She told everyone to hit the floor, or get as close behind metal as possible. She started to down shift as if to slow down and stop. She got about 20 feet from the barricade and was in first gear when she floor-boarded the Volvo and ploughed through the road block throwing debris everywhere. The Guerillas got off one shot at the left front tire; the bullet ricocheted off the heavy metal of the fender and Lori was on her way to safety. Later she told me, “Daddy, I believe I over revved it.” The ricocheted grove was still in the front fender as the General in the Army of Guatemala drove it off from San Raymundo years later. There are just some roads you don’t want on after dark. Thus is the Jericho Road.
Now the story begins to allow the plot to thicken. Also traveling along this road on that fateful day was a priest going down the same road and he saw the man, and he passed on the other side of the road. Just don’t get too close, or you may be the next victim.
In years from hearing this story told, the poor priest as taken a beaten, I just have to tell you, religious folks can get very busy and there is not always time to do everything. I am not excusing him; I am just telling you that priest’s and preacher’s schedules can get very crowded.
I had a wedding practice in Nederland, Texas, a number of years ago. Gee, it must have been in ’75 or ’76, and I had a fantastically busy day at the motor company. I got away at about 6:30 in the evening and needed to be at the church in Nederland at 7 PM. It was 20 miles of city driving. I was zooming along Twin City Highway in my BMW company car, and ahead of me was a parked Volkswagen, a long haired fellow that had pinned a slim woman between the driver’s door and the car. He had a hold of her hair and was slamming her head against the top of the Volkswagen. I zipped past, getting all too good a picture of what was happening. This was a divided highway, and it was right at a half mile to a cross over to go back the other direction and be able to pull up behind the “head banger” to ask, “What on earth has she done to deserve that kind of treatment?” I floored the Bimmer and was soon on my way back and as I made the turn past the VW, I saw a state Patrolman pull up to handle the problem. High on my list of unacceptable things is male violence against she males. I have worked on a two minute delay or safety zone for years. However, there are just times you got to stop to help and be late.
No more had the priest dilly bopped by, and here came a Levite, temple worker that also saw the beaten, dying and naked man. The Levite is on his way somewhere, who knows? Maybe a 3 pm tee time, or an afternoon appointment. He is singing, “Zip-a-dee-do-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay… My, O, My, what a wonderful day.” Spying the man, he does the religious thing; he prays for him. “Lord, make your face to shine on that poor dude, love him and care for him, but I am out of here.”
I do not know if the man is having any conscience moments or not, but I am sure that he is praying that someone will stop and help him, show mercy to him, and care for him before he dies. His bleeding mouth is open onto the dirt and the flies are buzzing around the drying blood on his body. Ants are crawling over his aching flesh and beginning to haul off bits of his flesh.
Down the road came what I want to picture as a traveling salesman from Samaria. This is a brave man traveling in open daylight this near to Jerusalem. He is the most hated of the enemies of the Jewish people. And if you would check with the latest Barna chart of questions, this guy had a public appreciation rating this far south, somewhere below 1%. To understand, if you were a modern Jew and a Palestinian terrorist, or a Iranian politician were to come by, he would be way more acceptable than a Samaritan in that day.
This guy is well known along this trail, most likely sold pots and pans and perhaps Seiko watches on the side. He takes pity on the man and parks his donkey, and grabs his first aid kit, and goes to the man and begins to check him over. He is alive, and the Samaritan cleans his wounds with wine, and then anoints the wounds with most likely Olive Oil and binds up the wounds. Don’t try to spiritualize the wine and oil; it was just the best things in his first aid kit.
At this point the Samaritan puts the clean change of clothes that his wife has packed for him. He puts the man on his own donkey, which means he has to walk now, and they head on down the road toward the Hiltonstein Inn and Motel at exit 21 near Jericho.
The Samaritan set the guy up in a room, and ordered supper for him and continued to care for him. By now the fellow was coming around. However, he was in no condition to travel by the next morning. Our traveling man had to get on his way, so he left him in bed and sought out the Innkeeper. He checked the bill for the overnight and paid the tab for both of them. Then he did something very brave and daring; and according to most folks, dangerous and stupid. He seemed to be well known here, and he gave the Innkeeper two silver coins. Then told the Innkeeper to take good care of the robbed man, get him well, and, “if you spend any more, I will repay you on my next trip by.”
My friends, this guy just left his gold card on the table and gave total permission to put anything extra on his tab. Three times in the New Testament you find that open-hearted willingness to pay whatever. Paul later writing to Philemon, and the Apostle told Philemon, “If he owes you anything more, put it on my account; I, Paul, will pay it. I will not mention how much you owe me, your very life”. Then there was this same Galilean that is talking to the lawyer and spinning this yarn, a few years later he stretches out on the cross beams of a Roman Cross and stated, “Put it all on my account.”
Jesus is finished with his story, and he turns to the lawyer and asks his own question, “Which of the three do you think was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
The expert in the law slowly looked up at Jesus and quietly responded, “The one that showed mercy on him.”
Jesus liked his answer and replied, “Go and do likewise.”
The question, answer and discussion period was over and the lawyer walked silently away.
As I said, in years to come, Jesus would change the greatest commandment to cover everyone, not just your friends when he said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35).
God the Father and God the Son have a very clear assignment in mind for each one of us in the Christian era. We talk about being born again, and having Jesus in our heart. But what do we mean?
All through the Old Testament, the most common sin and broken law was idolatry and making engraved images. God had to divorce Israel over it, and had to take Judah captive because of idolatry and engraved images. God is just down-right cranky on this subject.
Go back in time to the Garden of Eden. God hand crafted Adam and Eve and they were in his image. They were to be his image bearers. They were the reflection of what God should look like to His world. God put them in a utopia, and when sin yanked them out of the presence of God, they became a perpetual motion machine gone berserk. God had a plan; he was going to buy them back with the blood of His partner God. Peter made it plain in the first epistle, “Not with silver or gold, but the precious blood of God”.
Ephesians 2 makes God’s position very plan. We, like the Hebrew of Jesus’ story are found, along the road of life dead. The grace of God comes, and by that grace are we saved through faith. That faith requires us to confess our deadness in sin, repent of our sin, and remember, repentance is a change of mind, change of heart, and a change of direction. Being dead, we are buried with Christ to be made all brand new in this life and for the life to come. Then Paul makes it clear that we are not saved by works lest any man should boast, that is, works of the law, then Paul gets down to the nitty gritty. We are now the masterpieces of God, His poems, works of literature, master paintings, and we according to verse 10 have been recreated in Christ Jesus, and have been placed back here on earth to do the works that God has planned all along for us to do. That main job is to do away with all the forgeries, the false images, and example to our world just what God looks like.
If you had been reading after my studies on Revelation the past six months, you would know, as a geologist, historian, and social scientist as well as a preacher of the word of God, I am concerned about the signs of the times. In the past 22 days, as of Sunday the 13th of March, we have had 9 major earthquakes of 6.5 or more magnitude. Last Friday’s (3/13/11) 8.9 in northeastern Japan shook the whole world and the tsunamis wiped out costal towns clear across the Pacific in Northern California. Today, the world needs to see what God looks like with dusty shoes, muddy hands, rolled up sleeves, with an extended hand to those lying in shock on the beaches of the world. This is the only way that we can be his image bearers. In the middle of last year, an 80 foot high wall of water, as wide as the whole town, hit San Buena Ventura in the altiplano of Guatemala. It was days before anyone knew. The bridges were out, the power lines down, and a teacher from Morning Glory on a motorcycle that could get through the debris took the word to the world. In six months we totally rebuilt, refurbished and won the hearts of that town. They saw the picture of God in the food lines, in the trucks of new and used furniture, and the new buildings. Their church priest ran, and this week money came to build and provide a minister for a Christian church in that town. Never before has it been such hard work, dirty work, and expensive work to be like the good Samaritan, the image of God to a hurting world, and to show mercy to the hurt and dying. Reflecting God is just that simple and every bit that hard. It is our assignment. Go thou and do likewise!