Summary: Lawyer: Who is my neighbor? Jesus: Let Me tell you a story

January 30, 2021

The Context:

The religious Leaders were always looking for ways to trap Jesus --- either by getting him in trouble religiously or getting him in trouble politically. This was one of those occasions

It starts with a question from an expert on the law who stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus skipped right over the question and asked one of his own, “What is written in the Law?”

Lawyer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself” {Deut. 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18}.

Jesus: “Correct! If you do that you will live.”

Seems clear enough. However, having the correct answer from Scripture and living the truth of Scripture are 2 different things and here is where the cracks begin to show. The Lawyer knew his life and Scripture did not match. He knew that his definition of “neighbor” was narrow {same nationality, same religion, same political party, same social standing}, so to justify himself he asked another question, “Who is my neighbor?”

In other words, “If eternal life requires that I love my neighbor, whom, exactly does that include?”

Jesus: “Let me tell you a story” ---

The Parable {Luke 10:30-37}:

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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 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. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins 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.'

36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

The Lesson:

The key to the whole conversation is, “Wanting to justify himself…” The lawyer desires to reap the rewards of his law keeping, but he wants to do the bare minimum required because that’s what a legalist does.

It is not legalistic to keep God’s Laws correctly. To be legalistic is to misuse God’s Laws in a way He never intended.

This is what Jesus is addressing in His story. The focus of the story is not the guy in the ditch, the “guy in need”. The victim in the story is nameless and faceless – he could be anyone – we don’t even know if he recovers – his identity is irrelevant to the story, because the focus of the story is WHO is walking past and HOW they RESPOND to the guy in the ditch.

Priest: The priests were direct descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. They performed the animal sacrifices on behalf of the people. Only the priests were permitted to enter the Holy Place and only the High Priest was allowed enter the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement. No one other group was to fill the role of priest – upon penalty of death.

Levite: All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. Most Levites, descended from Gershon, Kohath and Merari, served as the caretakers of the Temple - playing music, opening and closing the gates, and standing guard, etc. {see Number 4}. They did this on a rotational basis. Likely the Levite in our story was returning home after his service in the Temple was over.

Ritual Cleanliness was important to both groups and they “used” the laws regarding ritual cleanliness to “get out of” other requirements of God.

Samaritan: The Samaritans were a hybrid between the northern tribes of Israel and people groups from other nations brought into the area by the Assyrians after 722 BC. Over time these outsiders came to follow parts of the local culture and religion.

Centuries later, when the Jews returned to Judah after the Babylonian Exile, they would not accept help from this group in rebuilding the Temple, so the Samaritans built their own temple. This is where the conflict between Jews and Samaritans began. Samaritans were hated by Jews … and the feeling was mutual. By introducing a Samaritan into the parable Jesus is making a powerful point.

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