Today we are reading a story that is only found in Luke’s gospel but is so familiar that even non-Christians know of it. This is the story of the Good Samaritan. Instead of dissecting the story I want to look at the man who inspired Jesus to tell it.
The man in question was a lawyer. This would probably make him on of the Pharisees sect. His aim in addressing Jesus was to “put Him to the test” (verse 25a). As any good lawyer will, this man knew the answer to the question before he asked it. He wanted to see what Jesus would answer. Would Jesus go against all that had been taught in the past or fly against religious doctrines? Here was his chance to find out and maybe trap Jesus in the process. Another Wile E. Coyote moment.
Our lawyer starts out with a deep question. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 25b). Notice how he addresses Jesus? He pretends to give Him honor with the title of teacher, but his intentions are FAR from honorable.
Jesus answers his question with a question of His own. This is a famous tactic with Jesus. “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (verse 26). As a lawyer he should know the Law very well and be able to articulate it so anyone can understand.
This next part surprised me as to who said it. I had always remembered Jesus saying this phrase because He uses these same words when asked which in the greatest commandment. But today our lawyer answers with the exact same words Jesus used. Was this because he was in the crowd when Jesus answered on the other occasion, or was it so evident that anyone would come up with this same answer?
Our LAWYER said that the law says, “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (verse 27).
Jesus’ response to him was that he had answered his own question. “Do this, and you will live” (verse 28b). This was the path to eternal life.
Luke tells us that the lawyer’s next question was made in an effort to justify himself. Is he trying to justify himself to Jesus, God, or his fellow listeners? Maybe all three. Being that he is trying to justify himself, he knows that he has failed in some aspect of his own statement. He is seeking absolution for his shortcomings. I’m going to assume that he thinks he is doing find on the first section; his relationship with God. But knows he has fallen short on his treatment of others. Who can he get away with treating badly and who does he have to love as himself?
We all know the story from here. A Jewish man was robbed, beaten, and nearly killed. Two of his own people who were supposed serve the people in God’s name chose to walk on by. No time to help, or didn’t want to get their hands dirty. Yet this man’s sworn enemy stopped and helped him simply because he felt sorry for him. The rescuer met all of the man’s needs out of his own resources instead of dropping him on the doorstep of those who should have been caring for him to begin with. He did for him what he would have wanted done for himself if their roles had been reversed. He loved him as himself.
After Jesus finished telling this story he asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (verse 36). No doubt in anyone listening’s mind as to what the correct answer should be. Our lawyer got it right on the first try too. “The one who showed him mercy” (verse 37a).
Now Jesus hits him right between the eyes! “You go, and do likewise” (verse 37b). No excuses any longer. He knows exactly who his neighbor is. He also knows that this is the requirement for inheriting eternal life through the law. I wonder what his face looked like when Jesus gave him this direct command. Was he ready for this calling? Would he walk this out later in his life? Would he walk this out in his treatment of Jesus? Would he treat Jesus as his neighbor or would he continue to try and trap Him?
I feel for the lawyer if he chose to continue on in his life trying to live up to the Law. Even this lawyer, with his new definition of who his neighbor was, would fail. That is exactly why we needed Jesus. He came to fulfill the Law perfectly so we could be saved through His work. It is impossible for ANY of us to do it on our own.
That doesn’t give us license to ignore the commandments as stated here by our lawyer, but to know that our actions alone will not be enough. Jesus still calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. He also teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The first step in this two part harmony is what enables us to do the second part. Because of loving God and believing in His Son Jesus, who completed the work for us, we can begin learning and practicing loving others as He called us to.
Father God, thank You that I don’t have to do it on my own. I make so many mistakes. I would be like the lawyer; looking for loopholes that I could still skate through with. But You sent Jesus to earn eternal life for me. All I have to do is accept His free gift and let Him be Lord in my life.
Thank You Jesus for Your mercy and grace! I just realized that I was the man in the story. I was broken, beaten, and half dead when You found me. You bound my wounds and cared for me. You also left shepherds to care for me in Your absence. I can hardly wait until You come back to settle the accounts. Then I can thank You personally for all You did for me.