And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Comment: In this passage we have the following.
- The law summed up in two sentences. And if only we could perfectly keep it we would inherit eternal life. And we, all of us, know that we haven’t and can’t keep it perfectly and therefore in the end we either have to look for forgiveness or another way to achieve goodness.
- I don’t know if the lawyer felt that he had kept the law perfectly in relationship to God, but he knew that there needed to be some limitation as to who his neighbour was. So he asked ‘And who is my neighbour.’?
- In a complex story Jesus told of a man (not classified) beaten and deserted passed by two Jewish, religious, pious men from the lawyer’s own strata of society. They passed by, no doubt, with some reason that seemed adequate to them. They were careful to cross to the other side of the road.
- A person from the despised, seen as inferior, Samaritan nation passed by and at significant personal cost dealt with the present situation and took him to where he would be looked after in the future. He even promised to cover future financial costs in getting and keeping the beaten-up traveller well.
- Jesus never answered the man’s question as to who was his neighbour. Rather he taught that it is on the individual to be a neighbour, and challenged the lawyer (and you and me) to find people to whom we can prove ourselves a neighbour.
Prayer: I don’t know if the lawyer learnt his lesson but please help me to learn this lesson well!