The parable of the good Samaritan is one that most people have heard. If you have grown up sitting on the pews then you have likely heard this parable many times. I do not want you to shut off your mind and ears at this point because you may think you already know this one. I want to focus our attention this morning on the part of the story that is often and easily neglected in our rush to interpret the parable.
The Question (10:25-28)
The first thing we must observe in the story is that a lawyer is asking the question. When we read of the lawyers in the scriptures we cannot think of trial lawyers like we have today. A lawyer means that he was an expert in the Law of Moses and an expert in Jewish law. He knew the laws of God and spent his time studying and teaching the Law. The second thing we must observe in the story is the motive behind the lawyer’s question. Luke clearly reveals for us that this lawyer is trying to test Jesus. We have seen in our study of Gospel of Luke that the religious leaders of the day were doing anything they could to discredit Jesus. They will ask him questions to try to trip Jesus up so that he would say something or do something contrary to the Law of Moses. This is the effort of this lawyer. Therefore, when the lawyer asks the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he is not asking as a genuine seeker. This is sad because this is a very important question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? It is a question that should be on the minds and hearts of every person. What does God require of me?
Jesus’ response is appropriate. Since a lawyer is asking the question, he should be the one to know the answer to the question. Therefore, Jesus asks, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Jesus responds by teaching that we look for the answer in God’s law. What does the word of God have to say? This must be how we answer every question of life. What do the scriptures teach? The answer is not, “What do you think?” The answer is not, “What feels right to you?” The answer is always, “What do the scriptures teach?” This is Jesus’ answer to this lawyer. What do you read in the Law? What is written in the Law?
The lawyer answers that the law says to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. The lawyer continues that one is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The lawyer quotes to passages found in the Law of Moses. The first is from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and the second is from Leviticus 19:18. Using these two texts the lawyer answers that this is what one must to do inherit eternal life. Jesus agrees. He says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he gave the answer that this lawyer gave. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.
I want us to consider a couple of thoughts. First, if we were ask the question today, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” what would you answer? We might come up with what has been called the five steps of salvation (as if that is all one must do). Would we have responded with this answer? This is the correct answer, but I am afraid that many of us would not give this answer. Jesus said that all of God’s law hangs on these two commandments. If you are doing these two things, then you will be doing what God commands because you will have the heart of obedience.
The second question is simple. Have you done this? Have you loved the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your strength, and with ALL your mind? Have you loved your neighbor and done for your neighbor as you want done for you? We have a problem just like this lawyer because we have not done this. I hope you feel the corner that Jesus puts us in with this answer just as the lawyer felt it. If you want to inherit eternal life it is really simple. But who has done this? We love ourselves with all our heart. We do what we want to do. We do not act with all our strength in love toward God. We ask questions like if we have to come to services. Do we have to go to Bible class? Do we have to come to a gospel meeting? Do we have to come back tonight? No, you don’t have to do any of those things. But do you understand that you are to love the Lord with all your heart? Do you understand you are to love the Lord with all your strength? Our actions and these kinds of questions reveal that we are far from inheriting eternal life. Inheriting eternal life is not calling ourselves Christians. Inheriting eternal life is not Sunday morning attendance. Inheriting eternal life is not that you were baptized. Inheriting eternal life is loving the Lord with all your heart which leads to a showing of that love. Loving the Lord this deeply as the scriptures teach will compel us to love our neighbor. It will compel us to study his word. It will compel us to come worship him. It will compel us to join together with other believers. Feel the weight of what Jesus has done. Who has loved God wholeheartedly? Who has loved others in a supremely selfless way?
Need A Savior (10:29)
This properly frames verse 29. The lawyer desires to justify himself. Why is he trying to justify himself? The same reason we are trying to justify ourselves in our minds. He had not done what is required for eternal life. We have not done what is required for eternal life. We have two options. We can try to be like the lawyer and make excuses for ourselves. We can try to justify ourselves by finding a loophole in God’s law. Notice the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor” in an effort to justify himself. Remember that the lawyer has approached Jesus trying to trip him up by putting him to the test. Jesus has turned the tables and now the lawyer is on the defensive. Rather than Jesus being shown as inadequate, the lawyer has been shown inadequate. To inherit eternal life the lawyer needs to justify himself. His thought is that he can lessen the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We can also go down that road. We try to justify ourselves and make excuses for ourselves as to why we do not love the Lord with ALL our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves. One example I can think of is taking the scripture where Jesus teaches that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. People come along and say that there was a gate where the camel had to kneel down to enter. Yet there is no evidence for this assertion. We are simply trying to justify ourselves rather than be cut to the heart that we are the rich and few of us will make it. In the same way, Jesus says to love the Lord with all your strength and we try to justify why that is not possible. We talk about having to provide for our families, having responsibilities, or come up with other excuses. We can act just like the lawyer. Can I beg you not to try to justify your actions? Jesus does not want our excuses. Jesus does not want us to try to justify ourselves.
He wants you to see that you need him. How differently the rest of this story would have gone if the lawyer had fallen down on his knees before the feet of Jesus in verse 29! If he would have been convicted in the heart to beg for forgiveness. He needed to beg for mercy. He needed to ask for salvation. Instead, he tries to justify himself. Jesus is trying to get us to see that you need a Savior. We haven’t done what God demands. We need to cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Since the lawyer is trying to justify himself as we often attempt to do, Jesus must go deeper. Therefore, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37)
By telling the parable, Jesus has challenged the lawyer’s assumption. The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Look at what Jesus asked in verse 36. Jesus changes the question. “Who do I act like a neighbor toward?” Do you see the reorientation that Jesus demands in our thinking. We think like this, “Okay, who is my neighbor?” Jesus is asking to whom are you acting like a neighbor? Loving your neighbor as yourself is not about defining who is your neighbor. Loving your neighbor as yourself is about being a neighbor to everyone, even people you would avoid. Who will you love as yourself? Who will you show the love of Christ toward? The parable shows the breaking down of “neighbor boundaries.” It is the Samaritan who helps the Jew in the story, not the priest or the Levite. Being a neighbor breaks through ethnic and racial lines. That is what this parable is teaching. There are two different races: Jews and Samaritans. They hate each other. But being a neighbor breaks through racial lines. Being a neighbor breaks through religious lines. Being a neighbor breaks through economic lines. Being a neighbor breaks through moral lines. We think there are people that we do not have love as ourselves because they are immoral, or too poor, or too rich, or have a different set of beliefs, or don’t believe in God, or are Muslims, or look different than us. The parable is teaching us that there are no boundaries to whom we are to act as a neighbor. There are no limits to who we are to love as ourselves. We are to be the neighbor to everyone.
How do we be a neighbor? Jesus asked in verse 36, “Who proved to be the neighbor?” The answer is found in verse 37, “The one who showed him mercy.” This is how we are a neighbor. We show mercy without boundaries. We do what is good and right to everyone. We show mercy even when mercy is not shown to us. We do not retaliate. We do not treat people as they treat us. We show mercy when we are not treated right. The greatest way we show this mercy is by teaching others the gospel. Tell people about Jesus and show them the mercy of God. Who proved to be the neighbor? The one who showed mercy. Jesus then commands, “You go and do likewise.”
Jesus has answered the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” You have not done what God demands. Jesus says that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Further, we are to be a neighbor to everyone, showing mercy, loving them as ourselves. We have failed. We need a Savior if we are going to inherit eternal life because we have come up short of his righteous demands. But that does not mean the requirement has been erased. Jesus commanded this lawyer to still go and do likewise. We do not throw up our hands and say we have failed. If you want to inherit eternal life we must love the Lord with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. When we fall short then we humbly beg for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The blood of Christ bridges our failures and brings us into eternal life. But some of us are not even trying. We are living for self, justifying ourselves, and making excuses for why we do not worship, study, serve, and obey as we ought. Our lives must reveal our love for God.