Summary: To whom should i be a neigbour?
Luke 10.25-37 The Good Samaritan
We often say of someone “they are a good Samaritan.” We have ‘The Samaritans’ who help people in crisis find a listening ear. The term ‘good Samaritan’ has become part and parcel of our everyday vocabulary. No doubt we all know the parable but I am also quite certain that we see it as a lesson about ‘who is my neighbour?’ but this morning I want to help us all to gain a fresh understanding and perspective on this parable. Turn with me to Luke 10 verses 25-37.
The context is important as always. Luke sites the parable between Jesus sending out the 72 disciples and his visit to the home of Mary and Martha. The parable is an extension of the teaching about being a servant of Christ. We read in verse 25 that an ‘expert in the Law’ asks a question of Jesus. If you look at the text it tells us that he stood up to ask his question. Traditionally a Rabbi (or ‘Teacher’ as Luke refers to Christ), sat and his students stood round him to learn of him. We could believe that this expert in the Law was showing respect to Jesus by standing to ask his question but we would in fact be being deceived by him. Like a humble student he is standing, as if he wants to learn, but we know from Luke that he is in fact trying to ‘test’ Jesus. We should note also his question – ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ The natural question of a religious lawyer would have been ‘what must I do to obey God?’ Let me pause there for a moment and ask you to consider this man’s question. What can any of do to inherit eternal life? An inheritance by its very nature is a gift. You do not earn an inheritance and it is not a payment for services rendered. The lawyer here would have known that perfectly well.
Verse 26 – Jesus does not directly answer the question but asks two questions of his own. What does the Law teach…how do you read it? The lawyer replies by summarising the Law – love God and love your neighbour. This summary comes from Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Jesus responds to his answer by telling him to live up to his own teaching. Show unqualified love to God and to your neighbour and you will inherit eternal life. The problem for this man is that the standard is ‘unqualified love’ of God and neighbour and as St Paul says in Romans 7.13-20 the problem is not the Law, the problem is we cannot keep it. This expert in the law knew he could never maintain the standard of unqualified love for God and for his neighbour.
Verse 29 but still this Lawyer is not finished. He now wants a definition of ‘neighbour.’ Look at what the text says ‘he wanted to justify himself.’ In the Bible the word to be ‘justified’ is to be saved and to be saved is to have eternal life. To be justified is to be granted acceptance before God by God. Yet this man seeks to justify himself – to save himself. He wants to achieve salvation, acceptance before God, by his own deeds – a futile pursuit. So he asks Jesus “who is my neighbour?” He, and those listening, are about to be rudely awakened by what Jesus says next.