Wednesday, January 24, 2007



Now we come to probably one of the most familiar stories ever told—the parable of the good Samaritan. The story emerges from a scene where a scholar is trying to test Jesus.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

Jesus turns the tables on this “expert of the law” by asking him two questions. First Jesus asks him what does the law say about the conditions for inheriting eternal life? He refers him right back to his own text—his own authoritative Scriptures. Then Jesus presses him further with another question, “How do you read the law in this case?” The “expert” trying to put Jesus to the test is now facing a major test of his own.

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.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

Now the “expert” couldn’t let it rest here. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
And with this Jesus has him pinned up against the wall. So, Jesus shares this story in response to the question: “Who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: "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. 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.

We don’t know much about this man who was attacked on this treacherous road. All we see is that he has been beaten and left for dead. The story has to do with the three men who came upon him. The first was a priest and the second a Levite. The priest has to do with the operations of the sacrifices and the Levites were the caretakers of the Temple. Both of them saw the man and passed by on the other side. Why? Because they were fearful of being unclean. They would be considered unclean if they were to touch a dead person and this guy was as good as dead. If they were to become unclean, they would need to go through the inconvenience of purification rights. They both chose not to get involved.

Then Jesus comes to the third person who came upon the beaten man—the Samaritan: 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii 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.'

Jesus uses one of His common tactics of extreme examples to
demonstrate His point. He picks the most perceptively moral
people to represent the worst behavior, then He selects a
Samaritan who is perceived to be the worst type of person to
play the role of model behavior. The Jews viewed the
Samaritans as half-breeds and they despised them, much
worse than the gentiles.

However despised the Samaritan was, he was the only one who stopped, bandaged and treated his wounds, put him on his own donkey to take him to the inn, then paid the innkeeper for his care of the man. On top of this, he gave the innkeeper enough money to continue his care of this man.

When Jesus finished His story, He asked: "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of
robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

So here we are right back to the original question of the “expert” who was trying to test Jesus. WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? The man had no room to move—no wiggle room to make himself look better. The only answer he could give was “the one who had mercy on him” was the neighbor and not the highly religious, super-spiritual leaders. NOTE the “expert” couldn’t even say the word “Samaritan”.

The emphasis is not on knowing, but on doing that which we
know to do. So, here’s the point. A neighbor can’t be
categorized. Your neighbor is anyone who is on the path who
is in need. But here’s the bottom-line of the story. To be a
neighbor, you must be willing to go out of your way to help that
person in need—to be wiling to step out of your comfort levels
and conveniences in order to care for that person in need.

So, who is your neighbor? I was thinking. Jesus is your
neighbor and He wants you to be a neighbor to someone else.
GO AND DO LIKEWISE. NOTE when the “expert” quoted '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,” Jesus’ response was DO THIS AND YOU
WILL LIVE. Remember Jesus’ words when He said it’s not
enough to talk a good game by calling Him Lord, Lord, but only
those who DO the will of my Father will enter the kingdom of
heaven. So, how are you DOING?