25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 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 neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
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. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 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.’ 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 said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
This a familiar story to anyone who grew up in Sunday School. The term “Good Samaritan” has entered our vocabulary as a common name for any person who goes out of their way to help someone in distress. And it’s all predicated by a question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
A lawyer is questioning Jesus. Is he testing the Lord in the sense that he wants Jesus to slip up or in the sense that he wants to know if this uneducated rabbi knows what He is talking about? I think it might be the latter, because his further answers seem sincere enough.
And Jesus treats his question as an honest inquiry. Jesus returns a question to the lawyer, testing him. What do you think the Law says about inheriting eternal life?
For the lawyer, a question of Law is right up his alley. He knows the law, and he comes up with the two commandments that Jesus, at one point, said summarized all of the Law and the Prophets: love God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus commends his answer and tells him to go and do that and he will live. No magic prayers. No regular attendance at a weekly religious lecture. Go and love God and love your neighbor. I continually get the sense from reading that our common evangelical interpretation of Christianity, our point of view of what Christianity is, is skewed. Repentance isn’t saying a prayer or feeling bad, though both may be the beginning of it. Repentance is embracing doing good towards others. It is a rejection of our natural mindset and our culture that emphasizes the individual and the self, and it is a focus on others and mankind and doing what is right for them.
For that is what the Samaritan in this story represents. He rejects his own cultural prejudices against the wounded Hebrew. He rejects the religious, the racial, the sociological, and the nationalist pride and conflicts that split the two people. He rejects the natural apathy that the priest and the Levite indulge in. He rejects the selfish thoughts of how stopping to help would delay his own business. He is focused on the need of the injured man, and he chooses to stop and do what is right before God. In doing so, he demonstrates more of a love for God than the two religious men who came before him.
And our neighbors are not the people who live next to us, or our families, or our extended circle of friends, our neighbor is everyone. We are all connected in a shared humanity, created in the image of God, and that is worth of our respect and our compassion. Because we live in a world marred by sin and evil, we are all called upon to stop thinking of our own comfort our own desires, and to stop and lift up the wounded in our midst. To show mercy and compassion towards those in need and towards those on whom some evil has fallen.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We love God by loving each other. God demonstrated His love for us by becoming one of us and sacrificing everything to bring us life and freedom. Our love for Him is measured in how we respond to each other, how willing we are to sacrifice for the hurting and the needy among us.