Please read Luke 10:25-37 – Love God and your fellow man.
Seek the help of the Holy Spirit in understanding God's Word.
V25. What must I do to inherit eternal life?
To the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus had asked two questions of his own, very astutely, "What is written in the Law?" and "How do you read it?” The man responded by citing Deuteronomy 6:4,5, and Leviticus 19:18, citing how one must love God and their neighbour.
V28. You are perfectly correct.
This response meets with the clear approval of Jesus; in fact, one could not get a better response for an answer to a question than – 'you are perfectly correct'. The challenge was in the doing of it perfectly, that is, the keeping on doing of it without ever failing to do so. Of course, this was and is impossible because man cannot succeed in this challenge for a minute, let alone a lifetime. Jesus' response, without stating that directly, made it self-evidently clear. He wasn't telling the man how to attain eternal life through his works-righteousness; he was showing the man the futility of trusting in his observance of the Law as a way of salvation.
We are surrounded by people who think they are good, and at whatever point they don't reach the grade for heaven, God will let them in because 'well, that's what a loving God does'. They have absolutely no understanding of what the holiness and the justice of God demands in respect of his Law. That is because their minds are darkened, Ephesians 4:18. That is why we must pray for the Holy Spirit's renewing and regenerating work in their minds and hearts.
V29. Desiring to justify himself.
It's interesting to think, though, that the reply of Jesus may have surprised the Lawyer, possibly catching him off guard. It's not the answer he would have probably expected. Jesus was not known for his agreeing with the Scribes and the Pharisees, nor the Sadducees. Whatever the reason, the man quickly reacts with another question. It's a question that arises from the root of self-justification. The apparent simplicity of Jesus' answer has left him feeling a bit exposed, in the sense that everyone is thinking, 'well, that was an obvious reply, why did the Lawyer even bother asking the question?' So, he asks a follow-up question – "And who is my neighbour?" This time Jesus doesn't respond with a question of his own, well not immediately. While it is good to respond to a question with a question, to do so in quick succession would have had the crowd thinking that Jesus was avoiding the issues and just getting at the man. Jesus takes a different route to drive home his point and tells him a parable.
V30. A man was going down to Jericho.
Many of the parables, not surprisingly given the blessing of our national history, have found their way into our culture, but this is probably one of the most famous and oft-quoted when referring to someone who has gone out of their way to help another person. As we work through this parable, the point to remember is that, generally speaking, Samaritans were not viewed by the Jews as neighbours within the bounds of the Law, as stated in Leviticus 19:18. That, of course, was wrong, but it was the view they held.
The scenario Jesus paints is a common, well-known one. Jesus never engaged in esoteric teaching. It is about a man travelling down from Jerusalem to Jericho. One commentator writes, "The Jews always went up to Jerusalem and came down from it, speaking ethically and not merely physically." This journey, of about seventeen miles and involving a descent of 3,000 feet, required the traveller to go through a rugged, uninhabited, mountainous region that was known for the threat of robbery. The unnamed man, a Jew, experienced what many did on this journey if they went alone. He possibly resisted, which led to him getting a particularly bad beating, being stripped of his clothes, and whatever money he had on him. Jesus' point – this man was in real need of help.
V31. A Priest and a Levite.
By “chance”; of course, we know that everything is providentially ordered, but for the sake of this parable, Jesus uses the thinking of the ordinary man in the street as he tells the story. By chance, a priest is passing by. Possibly having completed his week of Temple service in Jerusalem, and on his way to Jericho where a lot of Priests lived. So here is a religious man, who knows that he is bound by the Law to help one in need. What else could 'love your neighbour as yourself' mean, but step in and do your best to help in this situation. But for all his knowledge of the Law, the Priest ignores the demands it lays upon him. The view that he was unsure as to whether the man was still alive, and so crossed to the other side of the road because he wanted to avoid possible Levitical contamination if it turned out that the man was dead, is irrelevant conjecture. Such contamination only happened if the person was touched, and the Priest didn't need to touch the man to find out if he was dead or not. The bottom line is, the Priest crossed over to the other side of the road because he didn't want to help the man, even though he had probably come from the Temple where the Law of loving God and your neighbour was daily taught. That is all there is to it.
The next person along the road is a Levite. A man who, like the Priest, was familiar with the teaching of the Law, and showed that he also shared the Priest's attitude to its real demands. Of course, their excuses could have been many. 'What could they do for the man? Even from a distance, they could see he was in such a bad way that he wasn't going to live.' 'Why put themselves in harm's way by taking the time to help him? Who could tell if the guys who had done this weren't still hanging around out of sight?' 'What if someone else came along and thought they were one of the perpetrators?' Too much risk, all-round; best just to leave well alone.
V33. A Samaritan.
Jesus now introduces a Samaritan. The difficulty for you and me is that we don't really understand the level of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Growing up in Northern Ireland during the so-called 'Troubles', I had a sense of it in terms of 'Protestants and Catholics'. Living in almost complete segregation in a small Protestant village, going to an all-Protestant boys’ school, bred into many a fear of, and hatred for, the 'other side'. The Samaritans were of heathen, not Jewish, blood. They "were cursed publicly in the synagogue with the prayer that they might have no part in the resurrection; were never accepted as proselytes; it was better to suffer than accept their help; the Jew never wished to see a Cuthite (base name for the Samaritan)." (R.C.H. Lenski). The fact that the name 'Samaritan' was hurled at Jesus when the Jews were accusing him of being a son of the Devil, John 8:39-48, is an indication of just how much the Jews hated the Samaritans.
So, when Jesus introduces this Samaritan and describes what he does, it is just unthinkable, it's off the page, you wouldn't have believed it even if you had been there and seen it with your own eyes. Why does Jesus say the Samarian does it? It is 'out of compassion'. This Samaritan is gripped in the pit of his stomach with pity for the Jew lying naked, blood pouring from him, in a terrible state, and so he stops. None of the blindness of the Jewish religious legalists. He is endued with love for his neighbour. Ambivalent to the fact that the man is a Jew, the Samarian gets off his donkey and begins to tend to the man's desperate needs. He applies the wine first, as an antiseptic, and then the oil to ease the pain. The man's immediate needs were addressed; the Samarian lifts him carefully onto his donkey and then slowly makes his way to Jericho, keeping a watchful eye on the state of the man as he does so. Reaching an inn, he helps the man off his donkey and into the public dwelling where he continues to care for him. The next day he invests further in the man's care by giving to the innkeeper, what is estimated to be enough for two months care, to allow the man to stay until he has recovered. The promise is made that if it turns out not to be enough, then he will settle the bill the next time he passes through.
V36. Which of these three proved to be a neighbour?
This is a story of grace. It graphically and poignantly points out that no one can truly love their neighbour without God's work in their life. A point Jesus now underscores with his question. There is no room here for theorizing and abstract answers. No space for 'well, if you look at it this way, you get this, but if you look at it from this angle, you get this.' There can only be one answer, and the Lawyer, who set out to test Jesus and then justify himself, finds that he is the one who has been tested, and that Jesus has justified the true meaning and requirement of the Law. Note how the Lawyer's level of hatred will not even allow him to use the term 'Samaritan'.
V37. You go and do likewise.
Jesus' command to the Lawyer 'to go and do likewise', is not a directive to personal works-righteousness. It is a statement to the conscience – 'go and try this, find out that you can't, and then ask the question 'why not?' and see where that takes you’. Ultimately, Jesus is leading this man to the end of himself so that he will turn and seek him as the only one who can enable him to love God and his neighbour as the Law requires. Did the man get it? We're not told. The question, though, is – do we get it?