In scripture, it says this:
25 (Luke 10) And a lawyer stood up and put Him [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
A lawyer, one who learns to define and redefine every letter of the law. Someone who can choose to use the litigation of the law for various purposes.
Concerning the law, a lawyer has great power and chooses to use that power for others, or for self gain.
Yet, a lawyer not only RECITES the law, but INTERPRETS it. Just knowing law is not enough, it takes an incident among mankind to incite the law into action and to either acquit or accuse the person on trial, by which the law is directly challenged, and a lawyer’s services are rendered.
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The lawyer does not mince words. There is no “warming up” through small talk. He asks Jesus very plainly for the bottom line….what can we do to inherit eternal life? This is the age old question in which many religions and Christian sects have fought ideological wars over. What do we need to do to receive salvation? The lawyer seems interested, as though he knows Jesus’s answer will carry weight and meaning…which also indicates he (the lawyer) is willing to place some trust in Christ’s response.
26 And He (Jesus) said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”
Yet Jesus is unwilling to submit a straight-forward, black and white answer. He answers the question with a question. How many times have we, as American Christians, immediately answered the question, “How can I be saved?” with a to-do list, by which, someone can access eternity in heaven (sinners prayer, Roman road, punitive atonement, etc)? Instead, Jesus pins the lawyer’s own reasoning back on him, in an attempt to engage him as a real person, not an anecdote.
Is it possible Jesus is more interested in the lawyer’s underlying motives for asking, even above giving him simple, pat answers?
27 And he (the lawyer) 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 neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He (Jesus) said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
All the letter of the law and all of the prophets hang on those 2 commandments (also stated in Matthew 27 vs. 37-40). In other words, THIS IS THE BOTTOM LINE. THIS IS THE WAY OF SALVATION. The entirety of scripture hinges on it.
29 But wishing to justify himself, he (the lawyer) said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Alas, the lawyer reveals himself. The lawyer’s intent becomes apparent. He wishes to justify himself. His reasoning is self-motivated. He’s not interested in an objective search for truth, or the enlightenment of mankind, only validation of his own opinions and beliefs.
Out of that wretched darkness comes the question “who is my neighbor?” and Jesus pierces it with purifying light….
30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead…
The “man” in the story, beaten and left for dead, most likely would have been assumed by the listening crowd to be an Israelite (if so, how interesting it is Jesus is already playing into assumptions…it is not uncommon for us, even as God’s people, to assume we are the only characters in the story of God and man.)
31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
A priest: to Jesus’s audience, this was understood to be a character who knew the Law of God. A priest spent their life INTERPRETING God’s law. Not only that, but they were charged with making sacrifices in the temple. How is it that someone who finds blood so commonplace in their profession does not bother to touch the blood of another human being? Why, after spending most of his days covered in the blood of animals, is he so reluctant to dirty his hands with the blood of a mutual brother who’s suffering? Was it an inconvenience? Was it too shameful? Did the priest know he would not be in violation of the law if he just left the man alone to die?
32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
“…passed by on the other side. ” As though to express an absolute separation from and disdain for. A Levite was/is understood to be a man of law and ceremony. Constantly, his hands prepare the vessels of the temple, yet they seem so unwilling to help a man of his own tribe and nation.
How is it the same hands that prepare and mend the vessels of the temple are so unwilling to mend the vessel of another man’s broken body?
When did those who hold the highest religious office among the people lose touch with God’s reality?
33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
A Samaritan. In Jewish tradition, there could be no one lower in the social order, except for a Gentile. But Jesus doesn’t use a Gentile. He uses the example of a Samaritan. The image of a Gentile is too easy. In the mind of Jesus’s audience, a “Gentile” is a generic label. It could be as simple as imagining a centurion, a Roman citizen, an Egyptian, a foreigner, etc. Someone without the good fortune of being born into the tribe of God’s people. Someone they could patronize. A gentile might only refer to someone who admires God’s chosen people, but is an outsider, at their mercy to receive the one, true God.
But a Samaritan represents something very specific. A Samaritan, in the eyes of a Jew, is ideological repugnance, not only for their Samaritan cultural practices, but for their religious beliefs. Their faith is “lesser-than”, a bastardized version of Judaism. If the tables were turned, any pure and chaste Jew would know to deliberately pass a Samaritan on the opposite side of the street. They represent something ideologically and diametrically opposed to the Jewish belief and way of life.
Yet, Jesus describes the Samaritan as feeling compassion. This man, so culturally different than the man in the ditch, doesn’t look and see a Jew. He doesn’t look to see if the man is an enemy or an ally. He looks, and feels empathy. He is able to move beyond social strata and racial judgement. To the Samaritan, the man is not a statistic, or a preconception based on his personal worldview. He is simply human.
34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’
The Samaritan not only tends to the wounds of the victim, he also looks out for his long term needs. He does not just give him temporary food and shelter, but long-term care, in which he promises to return and repay any debts that are owed. The Samaritan blesses the Jew in a personal and financial way….his compassion is incarnate and relevant.
I wonder, how will the man who was robbed welcome the Samaritan when he returns? What kinship and mutuality will they both have gained from this experience?
How is it that a misguided heathen, someone who has little understanding of the one true God, can live out the foremost commandment (….love your neighbor as yourself) ? How is it this lowly Samaritan seems more in touch with God’s reality than God’s own chosen priest and Levite?
36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he (the lawyer) said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
Once again, Jesus draws out the lawyer’s internal self. Jesus is not interested in lecturing this man into truth, only asking the lawyer questions until he arrives on his own.
Jesus tucks the answer in a parable, He knows the truth…but He doesn’t exploit it. The lawyer’s motives have been revealed, the lawyer has incriminated himself. Jesus has brought his point home, yet, in no way does he place himself in a “higher” posture above the lawyer. He does not swoop in and humiliate or condescend. He simply asks a question, and let’s it hang in the air. As we see in Christ’s example, knowing truth is not only an arrival point, it’s a journey…and Christ holds the journey to truth in great esteem.
No matter what the facts are, delivery is everything. Without love, honor, compassion, empowerment, and humility, they are not facts at all, but simply manipulation of one human over another. Facts mean nothing when presented by those with improper motives.
“The one who showed mercy….” The lawyer is now accountable to his own words.
Jesus gently instructs him, “Go and do the same.” Those who love and follow God, know that there is always a command to “go and do the same”. A command to physically express the love and compassion God has expressed to us. Those who profess to know God, yet are without love-in-action, do not know Him at all.
CHURCH OF NORTH AMERICA, CHRIST HAS THIS AGAINST YOU:
“You do not have eyes to see, you do not have ears to hear, and your tongue has defiled you. You have violated the foremost commandment and defiled the entire body.
‘Who has done such things? We love you lord!’ You may say. I tell you, even on the feast day of the great wedding, others will say the same, yet the bridegroom will cast them out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Your love is as grotesque as a decapitated head. If you love Christ, feed His sheep. If you care for God, learn to love your enemy. Love your fellow man without selfish ambition getting in the way. If you INSIST on only seeing others as allies or enemies, then know this, you are the enemy of Christ, and your “love” for Him is nothing but an odious smell in His nostrils.