Summary: I love Jesus’ parables. Sometimes they’re like exploding birthday cakes. Sometimes they’re like a mirror. Sometimes they’re like an onion. And sometimes, like Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan,” they can be all three.
I love Jesus’ parables. Sometimes they’re like exploding birthday cakes. Sometimes they’re like a mirror. Sometimes they’re like an onion. And sometimes, like Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan,” they can be all three.
[Read Luke 10:25-37]
Let’s begin to examine the different layers of this parable and Jesus’ encounter with this lawyer to see what it reveals about Jesus and about us, shall we?
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem where there is a cross awaiting Him. At the beginning of chapter 10, Jesus sent out 72 of His disciples into the countryside to prepare the towns and villages to receive Him as He made His way to that cross. As the disciples return to Jesus, many of the people from the towns and villages that the disciples visited followed them back to Jesus. Jesus was speaking and teaching a crowd of these people when a lawyer stood up and asked: “Teacher … what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 25). Luke says that he asked Jesus this question to “test” Jesus.
On the surface, the lawyer’s question doesn’t seem like much of a test. It was a standard theological question that was thrown at Jesus from time to time in His ministry. In order to understand the nature of the lawyer’s test (or trap), we have to go back to the point where Jesus sent out the 72 disciples. Before He sent them out, He gave them these instructions:
"The Kingdom of God has come near you. But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into the streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. (v. 9-12)
“Whoever listens to you listens to me and whoever rejects you, rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me.” (v. 16).
The consequences of that rejection is not exaltation to Heaven but being brought down to Hades.
THAT was the answer that the lawyer was expecting. If the people wanted to “inherit eternal life,” if they wanted to get into Heaven then they had to follow the Law (of Moses), which had been handed down to them by God Himself. If Jesus repeated what He said to His disciples, “whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me,” then the lawyer could accuse Jesus of blasphemy for preaching that faith in Him and not obedience to the Law was all that one needed to do to inherit eternal life. Blasphemy of the highest order!
What the lawyer wasn’t expecting was for Jesus to refer him to the Law and then command him to follow the Law! “What is written in the law?” Jesus asks. “What do you read there?” (v. 26). And the lawyer answers by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (v. 27). And then he adds something: “And love your neighbor as yourself” (v.27). Hummm … the same words that Jesus Himself used when He was asked what the greatest law or commandment was. Love God. Love your neighbor. “You have answered correctly,” says Jesus. “Do this, and you will live” (v. 28).
The lawyer, desiring to justify himself, asks Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” (v. 29). This question – “Who is my neighbor?” – reveals the true heart of the lawyer’s intent. Jesus had already answered his question. Well … actually … Jesus had gotten him to answer his own question. “What does the law say?” “How do you read it?” If you love God, you follow and keep His laws, amen? If you keep God’s laws, guess what? You love and take care of your neighbors. As Jesus said, all of the law can be summed up in these two thoughts. If you love God, you keep His laws … His laws which outline how we are to relate to Him and how we relate to and get along with our “neighbors.”
The law of God IS love and Jesus was the embodiment of that love. He never ceased to have compassion on His neighbors. The very reason for His coming into the this world was because God had compassion on His people. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have” … have what? … “eternal life” (John 3:16).
When the Lord Jesus walked the face of the earth, He had compassion not only for the people of Israel but for all His children … for all the children of God. He ate with sinners and tax collectors … with prostitutes and … gasp! … Samaritans. Remember the Samaritan woman by the well? He shared the good news of the Kingdom of God with her and with everyone else in her village. Stayed with them, ate with them. God is compassionate by nature, as evidenced by Jesus’ love and compassion for everyone that He encountered.