Summary: Jesus is the Good Samaritan. He stepped into our cesspool of sin. He stooped down, soiling His hands to pick you up. He brings you to the inn of the Church, where the innkeepers, His pastors, look to your eternal needs.
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” So asked a Pharisee, a lawyer, to Jesus. The Pharisee was a man who had spent his life studying the Old Testament. And to him, Jesus was cheapening the Law, the Torah, making it into nothing.
Now, all the wrong people were thronging to the gates of heaven: tax collectors, prostitutes, poor people who stunk to high heaven, and other no-good low-lifes. This Jesus was welcoming them with arms open wide! He forgave their sins and sat down to dine with them. And Jesus was doing all this because they saw their sins, were anguishing over them, and sought His mercy!
So to see if Jesus was a ‘real’ rabbi, whether He really understood the Torah, the lawyer asks him a question. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
But Jesus’ response surprises the man: “You’re the expert. You tell me.” The lawyer knew the Law and so he stated the bottom-line: “Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer answered properly. For that is what the Law says you must do if you are going to receive eternal life.
Jesus says, “Yes, do that and you will live. Do that and you will have eternal life.” Such is the Law. It can only demand. Do this; if you do, you will live; if you don’t, you will die, even in eternity. There’s no borderland or gray area--it’s all or nothing. It’s unflinching, stark, and demanding. One mess up--anytime and anywhere--and you’ve fully failed: no excuses, no rationalizations, no hope.
But lawyers being lawyers, he looks for a loophole to give him hope where none exists. For the lawyer is squirming. You know why. He hasn’t done what the Law demands any more than you have. He’s not soaring toward light and life, but plummeting downward toward death and damnation.
But in the lawyer’s own eyes, he sees himself as a good person. And I suppose he is--in the eyes of people. But God’s eyes and our eyes see differently. Our eyes say, “Good enough.” God’s eyes see things as they really are when compared to true holiness. God sees our full corruption and complete failure!
The lawyer, for all his ransacking of the Scriptures, didn’t understand them. He saw the Word of God as life’s instruction manual, a book of living tips. He saw the Bible, in his case the Old Testament, as an owner’s manual for living a good life. It’s true: the Scriptures do teach the Christian what a godly life is. But that’s not why God unmasked His written Word to us. God made known the written Word to bring us Christ--in the Old Testament and the New (John 5:39).
For the Old Testament and Jesus teach the same truth: justification by faith, that salvation is all God’s doing. It’s woven into the words of the Old Testament. Abraham shows as much. Moses wrote that Abraham “believed the LORD, and God counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Such salvation also sings its song in the New Testament. God is the God who forgives. He is the One who covers His people’s sin and gives them eternal life.
The lawyer--as most of the Jews in Jesus’ day, as many Christians today--had twisted and mutilated God’s written Word into a book that told them what to do to get a reward. Yes, God may get you into heaven. But that’s not good enough! Now here’s what you’ve got to do to make Him smile on you, to get rewarded.
And so the lawyer begins to loophole because the lawyer’s own answer had condemned him. If you want to do something to inherit eternal life, you must live a perfect life of love--for God and neighbor. No slip ups, no failures, just pure, unadulterated burning love for God and neighbor. Ouch! God’s Law cuts no deals.
And so Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. You know the story. A man fell victim to robbers. They left him stripped, bleeding, in pain, and dying. A Priest walks by. A Levite walks by. Then a Samaritan--someone considered second-class at best--a Samaritan, who doesn’t walk by.
He stops. The Samaritan pours oil and wine, that’s the medicine of his day, on the man’s wounds. He cleans his bruises, cuts, and sores. He picks him up and puts him on his own animal. He takes him to an inn and hands him over to the steward.
The Good Samaritan takes care of all the man’s needs. He nurses him to health and clothes his fallen nakedness. He brings him food to eat and wine to drink. And as the Good Samaritan leaves, he gives to the steward of the house his riches. He then tells him to spend it--and more if needed--on the man.