Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
J. Paterson Smyth

Lesson III

The Man Who Kept the Law of Brotherhood and the Man Who Did Not

First read of the man who kept the Law of Brotherhood (Luke x. 25‑37.)

Now read of the man who did not (Luke xvi. 19 to end).

§ 1. The Father and the Brothers

W HAT was subject of last lesson? The heart of God. The fatherhood of God.

Now can you see that this teaching about God's fatherhood forces us to think about brotherhood between ourselves? Why? Think. If God is our Father, what are we to each other? And if the Father is caring so tenderly for His poor human children, surely it must please Him that they care for each other and surely He must be angry if they bring to each other unhappiness or wrong. So you cannot believe in the fatherhood without believing in God's law of brotherhood. Our Lord was always teaching it. You must forgive your offending brother till seventy times seven. You must be kindly even if he is ungrateful, "for the Father is kind to the ungrateful, and the evil, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust."  "This is my commandment that ye love one another."  "One is your Master even Christ, and all ye are brothers."

§ 2. The Man Who Kept This Law

Now we come to the two parables about it. (1) The man who kept this law.  Tell me the story briefly. That bit of mountain road between Jerusalem and Jericho was about the most dangerous road in Palestine. Just as in London in the stories of one hundred years ago, some of the roads outside were so infested with robber bands that travellers had to go armed and protected—so here. The mountain gorges had robber caves and travelling was very dangerous. Perhaps it was on this part of His road to Jerusalem that Jesus told this parable. You can see the whole picture. The traveller attacked, his attendants running away, the robbers assaulting him, robbing him, stripping him, leaving him half dead.

There he lies in the hot sun by the roadside, bleeding and moaning and hardly conscious. Now comes a Jerusalem priest riding by. He sees the man. He knows he ought to help him. I suppose he would say: "I am in a great hurry. There is no inn here. I could not delay to tend him. And probably the robbers are watching to fall on me, too. At any rate, other travellers will pass who can help him." So "he passed by on the other side." And the Father in heaven was looking. Then comes a Levite, who says the same thing, and perhaps feels that if the priest, his superior, could pass by, he might be excused for doing so, too. Then came a third traveller—a Jew? No, a Samaritan, a race hated and despised by Jews. Surely he might pass by. This wounded Jew would perhaps despise and insult him. But this is a large-hearted, brotherly man. He never stops to think. His kind heart is touched. He is off his ass in a moment, bringing the wine and oil, binding up the wounds, placing him on his own ass, taking him to the next inn, taking care of him, and then, when he has to leave, giving money to the innkeeper to take care of him till he recovers.

Now you remember why Jesus told the story. A man had asked him about religion, and Jesus told him in one sentence the whole of religion. Repeat it (v. 27). Yes, to love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself. That is the whole of religion—the fatherhood and the brotherhood. But this man has no idea of the great broad thought of Jesus that every man is your brother if you can do anything to help him. "Who is my neighbour?" he asks. Is it relatives or Jews, or people who believe as I do? So Jesus says I will tell you a story. And after the story He asks him a question. What? And the man saw at once. "He that shewed mercy on him." And Jesus promptly replied: "Go and do likewise." That is the law of brotherhood, and only the despised Samaritan had kept it and pleased God.

§ 3. The Man Who Did Not Keep This Law

Now we come to the man who did not keep the Law of Brotherhood.

Perhaps St. Luke knew the previous parable already. He was putting it in his book. Imagine him one day talking of it to some of the old disciples who had been with Jesus on the Road thirty years ago. Somebody asks: "Do you know the other parable that He told us about the unbrotherly rich man and the beggar? It made a great impression on us." (Tell me the story, briefly, of Dives and Lazarus). So St. Luke listens with delight to this dramatic story. He could see it before him as if acted on a stage. There was the lordly mansion and the halls crowded with merry guests and obsequious servants standing around. And the stately host, the "rich man clothed in purple and fine linen faring sumptuously every day." And "the beggar named Lazarus lying at the gate full of sores waiting for the crumbs from the rich man's table while the dogs came and licked his sores." That was our Lord's striking picture of rich and poor in Jerusalem in His day. It is very different in our day? Show this.

Why does the Lord blame this rich man? Was he dishonest? Or cruel? Or otherwise wicked? No, he was just a respectable rich man who probably went to church and paid his tithes and was rather looked up to. Now then, what did Jesus see wrong in him? Just that he had no thought of the Divine brotherhood. He never thought of Lazarus as a brother in God's big family. He did not forbid throwing him the broken meats with the dogs. But he never thought of him as a brother to be considered, to be spoken to pleasantly, or kindly treated. That was his sin.

§ 4. Dives in the Other World

Then the Lord suddenly lifts the curtain again, and shows this rich man in another world. "He died and was buried." That is all his friends saw as they put him in the grave. Is that all Jesus saw? No, he knew all about the other world where the soul had gone to. And he pictures the rich man there. Explain that "hell" here is misleading. It is not hell. It is Hades (see Revised Version), the place of the departed after death. The man is not in hell. But the man is in torment of conscience. That is the meaning of "tormented in this flame." Jesus is always teaching that death is not the end. Life goes on. Character and responsibility and memory and conscience go on just the same. But in the white light of that other world, men see more clearly. There is the poor, little, shrivelled soul in a great, vast loneliness and in torment, for conscience is now awake. The poor, frightened soul is

Alone, alone with his conscience

In that weird and lonely place.

§ 5. Loneliness

I should think he would feel awfully lonesome. He would understand the loneliness of poor Lazarus in an unbrotherly world. In the story he sees Lazarus afar off in "Abraham's Bosom." That was the Jewish name for the abode of the good after death. So Lazarus had died, too. In his lonely agony of soul, he cries, "Send Lazarus to help me." But he cannot order Lazarus about now. And I suppose it would not be good for him to be relieved of his misery—at least not yet. He must learn his awful lesson. What does Abraham say? "My son, remember." What does that teach? That we remember in that other world, just the same as here. "Remember your old life and Lazarus. We cannot help you now. There is a great gulf between us."

§ 6. The Great Gulf

Of course there was. There was a great gulf on earth between him and Lazarus and he never tried to bridge it over by kindly words and deeds. There is a great gulf between bad and good people in this world and in that world. And poor Dives learned the awful lesson, that he who digs a gulf between himself and his brothers is digging a gulf between himself and God.  And nobody crossed the great gulf to relieve the rich man. I suppose that means that in the stern discipline of God that unbrotherly man must stand unhelped in his lonely misery till he learns the lonely misery of unbrotherliness. The story does not say whether that gulf was ever bridged for him.

What does he request about his brothers on earth?

Maybe it suggests that he was beginning to learn about unbrotherliness. For he gets troubled about his five brothers on earth and wants some one sent to teach them. Maybe that means that he was learning. We don't know. We just leave him and all like him sadly and solemnly to the wise mercy of God. At any rate he has been used to teach us a solemn lesson.

"Ye Did It Unto Me"

But we must look at something much stronger still that the Lord said about brotherhood. See his great picture of the Judgment Day (Matthew xxv.) What does He specially emphasise as a reason for condemning or approving? (v. 35). He makes you feel that He has been moving beside the lonely people who longed for brotherhood—that He feels their case as if it were His own. The brotherly people did not know that He was looking. And the unbrotherly did not know, either. How do you know? (vv. 37 and 44). But He was looking, and He is now. What does He say of it? "I count it as done to myself." He says: "I was hungry and ye gave me meat, thirsty and ye gave me drink, sick and in prison, and ye visited me. Come ye blessed of my Father. For inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brothers ye did it to me." So you see He is observing to-day how we all keep the law of brotherhood.

"The Sacred Duty of Giving Pleasure"

Now learn this for yourselves—God wants brotherliness. When you grow up, help in all public efforts for the poor and the old and the children. Try always to help others. Try to make people good. And if that is too hard, try to make all about you happy. Be friendly and loving and lovable. For God lays this duty on all poor human brotherhood—the sacred duty of giving pleasure.  And the Father who is so caring for all His poor children on earth will be pleased if He sees us caring for each other.

Questions for Lesson III

1. How does fatherhood of God teach brotherhood of man?

2. Who was the man who kept the law of brotherhood?

3. Who was the man who broke it?

4. Picture the rich man in this world.

5. Now in the other world.

6. What does Jesus say about brotherhood in his picture of the judgment?