Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stop looking at the Samaritan

So what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?

What do you think?

(Luke 10:27) And [the lawyer] 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.”

(Luke 10:28) And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

(Luke 10:29) But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Who is my neighbor? That’s what he asks him?

As if loving God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind was no big deal. But being confident in his goodness, and his amazing faith in God, he asked about his neighbor.

Now Jesus tells a parable to illustrate the answer. We all know the story. A man is walking from Jerusalem towards Jericho, and runs into some trouble. Thieves rob and beat him, leaving him half dead on the side of the road. Then along comes a priest who passes on by and likewise a Levite later does the same. At this point it is interesting to note, that of all the people who are supposed to care for others, Priests and Levites rank at the head of the list. Those listening would have been angered to hear of such actions by supposed Godly men, but were probably not at all that surprised.

“Those self-serving jerks never help any but themselves!”

Next a Samaritan happens by. Now Samaritans and Jews weren’t exactly the best of friends. Scripture records that the two wouldn’t even speak to one another(John 4:9). But Jesus is telling this story to prove a point, so what did this Samaritan do? He had compassion on him. He bound up his wounds and took him to an inn where he even paid for this man’s lodging and care.

So who was a neighbor? All of us can easily see that it is the one who showed mercy. Pretty simple right?

But there is more going on here than first meets the eye. Notice who was in need and who was the helper. This wouldn’t be so hard on those listening if the one in need was the Samaritan. They might not like them, but hey, if this poor unfortunate creature needed some help, well I guess we could lend a hand. Those Samaritans needed all the help they could get anyway.

But Jesus didn’t cast his audience as the heroes in this story. No, they were the helpless bleeding victim whose very life would have been tragically ended if it weren’t for the undeserved compassion of a Samaritan! A Samaritan! What self-respecting child of Abraham would ever NEED help from a Samaritan?

I love to read of Jesus’ interactions with others in the Gospels. One of the coolest things I see Jesus consistently doing, is answering people’s needs rather than their questions. This lawyer didn’t need to know who his neighbor was, he needed to know himself and his pride.

Look at him. First, he asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life(Luke 10:25), and then smugly answers his own question(Luke10:27). To love God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself; are answers that should provoke fear and anxiety, not confidence. Jesus replied to his answer with, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”(Luke10:28) Do this and live! We don’t have a chance. None can achieve this without failure, including our arrogant friend.

He asked with the intention of testing Jesus, yet Jesus loved him and gave him the answer he needed.

To inherit eternal life we must all see that WE are that one who is helpless and stranded, whose only hope is for mercy to be shown by another. We can not make it on our own. We need Jesus.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7
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