Jesus’ first answer to the lawyer who wanted to know what he had to do to “inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25) was a question: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer (a teacher of the Mosaic Law), of course knew the answer. His answer to Jesus’ question (and his own) was: “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.”
Jesus confirmed his answer was correct: “You have answered correctly.” But he added this enjoiner, “Do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:28). However, not content to leave matters there, the lawyer sought to “justify himself” by asking Jesus to define who was his neighbor that he was to love. Jesus proceeded to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan to show him who was his neighbor.
You know the story. So I can be brief here. A man, presumably Jewish, was on the dangerous Jerusalem—Jericho road. He was waylaid, robbed, beaten, and left to die. Three persons passed by this man in a desperate state and in urgent need of help. The first two were a priest and a Levite. I suppose they were returning from Jerusalem after performing their temple duties to Jericho, the second city of Judea, where thousands of them lived. They minister on behalf of people to God, but they had not apparently learnt what, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matt 9:13 and Hosea 6:6) means.
The third person was the sworn enemy of the Jews, a Samarian. “Surely, this can’t be my neighbor”, the lawyer must have thought to himself! The Samaritan “had compassion” when he saw the desperate and half-dead victim of robbers and thieves on that Jericho road.
I think it’s useful to remind ourselves at this juncture that both the priest and Levite saw the same person, in the same desperate circumstance, and the all too obvious need for help. Why didn’t they stop to show compassion? What makes people merciful? What makes us care about others in need?
In the story we learn that only the Samaritan went to the unfortunate victim, bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, and put him on his animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Only he went out of his way, and at his own cost, stopped to show mercy.
Now that the lawyer is in a corner, Jesus springs another question on him: “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor?” Unwilling even to mention him by name, the lawyer replies, “The one who showed mercy.”
Jesus’ final answer to the lawyer’s what-must-I-do-to-inherit-eternal-life question was: "You go, and do likewise"
Pastor Robert Chew