My Musings – As was usual in His parables, Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head with some surprising twists.
Pleading His Case – “Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NIV 1978). The question implies a works-based salvation (“what must I do?“) So, unlike the fairly straightforward answer given to Nicodemus, “you must be born again,” Jesus asked the legal expert what he thought. “He answered: ‘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, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV 1984). Jesus’ response appears to imply that a works-based salvation is indeed possible – “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28, NIV 1984).
Seeking A Loophole – Apparently the legal expert felt he could love God sufficiently (all his heart, soul strength and mind – really?), but might have a problem being a neighbor to some, since his only question was “and who is my neighbor.” (Luke 10:29, NIV 1984). Notice his question was who should be his neighbor, rather than who he should be a neighbor to. To drive home this point, Jesus told a most unlikely parable.
Examining The Crime Scene – “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30, NIV 1984). The road to Jericho was called the “bloody way”, with winding roads and hidden turns, where robbers often laid in wait concealed in the rocks. A dangerous route.
The (Un)usual Suspects – “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:31-34, NIV). Priests were Levites descended from Aaron. They served the higher duties in the Temple. Of course, not all Levites were descended from Aaron and were not priests. As a result, they served in lower functions in the Temple. But both would have been expected to have compassion, but they did not. Samaritans were “half-Jews” of the northern kingdom who had inter-married with Assyrian colonists. They were despised by “pure-bred Jews.” The Samaritan was an unlikely candidate to have compassion on the injured man (assumed to be Jewish), but he did.
The Cross-Examination – Jesus turned the legal expert’s question back on him. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36, NIV 1894). It must have been hard for him to reply, “the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984). He couldn’t even use the word Samaritan. To bring this parable up to date might have included a Catholic priest, an evangelical Christian (ouch!) and a Muslim or an illegal alien. Guess which one would have compassion in the updated parable?
The Verdict – “Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).
My Advice – Attainment of eternal life is not a matter of scrupulously following the rules. “Do this and you will live” is more rhetorical “if you could do this you would live.” The lawyer appeared to understand this because he sought to limit its application and find a “loophole.” And so do we all. But all is not lost. Jesus became a “neighbor” to us to bring salvation. But we should still have compassion and be a neighbor to all. Not to gain salvation, but to imitate the Master. “Go and do likewise.“