Luke 10:25-37 New International Version
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Here we go again. Some think this is an expanded recounting of Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34. However, neither Matthew or Mark record this question which leaves the debate unanswered, with many doubting that Luke is speaking about the same person that Matthew and Mark mention.
An expert in religious law, a Pharisee, stands up to test Jesus. He asks “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The expert would have been well versed in the law of Moses and whose job it was to expound upon and explain them. He obviously would have known the answer to this question, but was testing our Lord’s knowledge. He was in effect tempting Jesus. He was trying to determine the ability of Jesus in such matters.
The process where Jesus put the question back to the scholar is very interesting. Jesus calmly escapes the trap and hints in the slightest of manners that the question is unnecessary from one who is such an expert in the law. How does Jesus handle the situation? He throws the question back to the expert asking “What is written in the law and how do you understand it?”
We see that the lawyer responds with the exact two passages that Jesus gives with his encounter with a Pharisee expert in the law.
The religious law expert appears ready and says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said “you have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
The response Jesus gives to the lawyer’s answer is authoritative in tone. He commends the answer, as by one who has authority and the right to judge.
The lawyer feels the tone and the indictment. He doesn’t feel that he should have to justify his love and service of God. He feels he is in great shape in this regard. However, about the second part, he evidently had some doubts. So, as lawyers are inclined to do, he asked a question about the meaning of words, possibly hoping he could quietly get away. He asked Jesus, “Who is my Neighbor?”
The lawyer wanted to know just how far the obligation to love your fellow man went, most likely with the intent of not going one inch further than required.
Unfortunately, this is a common condition that mankind suffers from. We don’t want to go an inch further than we think is necessary. If someone is not in the correct political tribe, there are limitations to respect and heaven forbid “brotherly love.” We look at those of other races, ethnicities, even religions, as being people not deserving of what Jesus called the second greatest commandment.
From the emphasis that Jesus and the inspired writers of scripture placed on loving all people as God loves us, I’m sure to God, this is the most disappointing human affliction.
The question “who is my neighbor”, is answered with this beautiful parable about the Good Samaritan.
Jesus starts the parable about a certain man, a Jew, going down from Jerusalem and on the way, getting mugged by robbers. They robbed him, beat him and left him for dead. I’m assuming they left him by the side of the road or in the ditch.
Next, we see that a priest was coming down the road and when he sees the injured man, he goes to the other side of the road to pass by. Out of sight, out of mind possibly.
Think about this; a priest who should show love and compassion got as far away as possible to pass by. I suppose to ease his conscience.
Then we see that a Levite comes down the road and guess what he does? The same as the priest. When he sees the injured man, he goes to the other side of the road to pass by.
So, we have too consciences that have been eased. Both from the Levite tribe which served particular religious duties for the Israelites and from this tribe came the priests.
We have two Jewish men who were supposed to be “religious” and therefore should have looked upon the injured man with agape love and human compassion.
However, they both got as far away as possible to pass by him. They moved away from the injured man. They obviously were just too busy to get involved. Places to go; people to see. On their way, they continued.
Finally, a Samaritan who was traveling on the road, came to where the injured man was. The Samaritan didn’t do like the Jewish religious leaders and move to the other side while quickly passing the man.
No, he moved toward the man, not away. Dwell on this for a moment; the Samaritan went to the injured Jewish man, knowing full well that the man was in all probability Jewish, as he was near Jerusalem.
The Samaritan moved inward and not outward.
We must understand the history between Israelites and Samaritans to fully understand this parable.
Hatred between Jews and Samaritans was fierce and deep. This hatred was long standing and covered many years and many generations.
The Samaritans often taunted the Jews and rejected all of the Old Testament except for the books of Moses. The Jews in response hated the Samaritans, considering them half-breeds. The Samaritans were publicly cursed in Jewish synagogues and were deemed non-convertible to Judaism. Jews even felt they would be contaminated if they traveled through Samaritan territory and Jews going from Judea to Galilee would cross over the Joran river, going through Transjordan, to avoid traveling through Samaria.
Jews considered the Samaritans to be less than human. As mongrels or dogs.
Yet, of the three men who traveled this road, it was the Samaritan who went toward the injured man. The religious Jews went away from their fellow Jew.
The Samaritan not only went toward the injured Jew, Jesus says that he felt compassion for him.
The Samaritan did all he could for the injured man’s wounds, put him on his animal and took him to an inn where he continued to care for him.
When leaving the next day, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper two silver coins and instructed him to continue to take care of the inured Jew.
Furthermore, the Samaritan promised to come back and pay for any additional costs the innkeeper would incur in providing care.
We really need to let this sink in. The Samaritan didn’t just take care of the wounds and go for help. He went the full distance, in caring for someone who thought of him as less than human. He paid for the Jew’s care. He showed compassion and love for a fellow human being, without thought of being repaid. In fact, the Samaritan knew the injured Jew had no love or compassion for him and would not have done the same.
Jesus wants us to think about this. Meditate on this. Learn from this.
Jesus wants us to know that this is the type of love he is talking about when he says “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the type of agape love that Jesus commands us to have.
Let’s dig a little deeper outside the parable.
I don’t believe that Jesus is saying we must like the company and actions of everyone. There are people that everyone has in their life who they are not comfortable around. There are people that everyone has in their life who they do not want to socialize with. There are people in everyone’s life that do not like them for whatever reason.
Jesus isn’t saying we should feel comfortable around everyone, socialize with everyone and consider everyone a friend. What he is saying in this parable is we must be willing to “pull even our known enemy” out of the ditch and offer him/her help.
We must reach the point where we would definitely say the following; “If my greatest enemy; the one who does not like me and speaks ill of me; if I should see him injured at the side of the road, in the ditch, I would stop and offer all the help I could.”
That is agape love.
Unlike the priest and the Levite, who wouldn’t even help their Jewish brother, the Samaritan stopped and went beyond the call of duty to help a man that considered him a mongrel dog, and less than human.
This is where Jesus wants us to get. This is where we must get.
Can you say you are there?
If not, it will take much prayer and introspection.
We cannot have so much pride, bitterness, grudges or biases in our life, that there are some people we know we would not help. We must be able to say ‘yes I will help my enemy if I have the chance.”
Let us remember that hatred generally begins as bitterness, grudges, biases and anger.
These fester and grow as they are dwelt upon.
Think about those in your life that you really don’t want to associate with; or have any contact with for whatever reason. Then think further; if they were injured, lying by the side of the road in a ditch as you passed by, would you stop to help them or would you move to the other side of the road and pass them by?
We must hate the sin, but love the sinner with agape love.