Summary: There are only two options available to us for getting eternal life. Find out what they are.
Every time a fancy car raced by the family minivan, the boy sitting in the back wondered: “What do I have to do to lay my hands on one of those beauties?” His sister sitting next to him, however, was more interested in the mansions they passed. Her hope was to live in such a place one day with servants attending her every need. What would they have to do to realize their dreams? One option would be to make lots of money. Then they could buy all the cars and homes they wanted. Another option would be to marry someone with lots of money.
Money, of course, can’t buy everything. It can’t get you eternal life in heaven, for example, the one thing that we should all want to lay our hands on considering the alternative is spending an eternity in hell. Yes, heaven and hell are real places, as real as the exclusive and all-inclusive Sandals resort in the Bahamas, and as real as the World War II concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. Only heaven is better than a five-star resort and hell worse than Auschwitz. So what must I do to get into heaven and stay out of hell? There are two options. Let’s find out what those options are.
If I want to stay at the Sandals resort in the Bahamas, I’m not going ask you how much it costs. I’ll check the resort’s website for accurate prices. Likewise if I want to know what it takes to get eternal life in heaven, I need to ask someone who comes from heaven. That person of course is Jesus. Thankfully someone once asked Jesus this very question of how to get eternal life. Listen to the exchange: “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).
According to Jesus, one option for obtaining eternal life is by loving God and our neighbor. It sounds so simple doesn’t it – the way dribbling a soccer ball looks simple until you try it for the first time and can only manage a few kicks before the ball skips away from you. Likewise loving God and loving our neighbor is not easy, as Jesus makes clear through the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
In this parable a certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked, beaten, stripped and left for dead. Thankfully help came in the person of a priest who happened to be travelling the same road. But the only effort the priest made when he neared the beaten man was to cross over to the other side of the road and continue on his way! Likewise a Levite, a temple worker whom we might compare to a Church Council member, also came upon the man. But he too passed on the other side without offering assistance. These men had not robbed and beaten the poor man, but they might as well have by refusing to offer help.
Why did these men not stop and help? The priest may have thought, “I just got done serving the Lord in the temple. I’m in a hurry to get home and see the wife and kids. I can’t stop and help this man. Anyway, I’m sure God will send someone else along to help him.”
What was the Levite’s excuse? Since the road between Jerusalem and Jericho offers many clear views of what lies ahead, the Levite may have seen the priest avoid the lump on the side of the road. If a priest hadn’t stopped to help, why should he bother? Anyway the robbers who had beaten the poor fellow might still be around. It was probably best to keep going.
Now compare the priest and Levite with the third traveler – a Samaritan. The Jews had a saying about these people: “He who eats the bread of a Samaritan is like one who eats the flesh of swine.” If Jesus had told this parable to modern Jews, he would have cast the Samaritan as a Palestinian. A Samaritan was the last person you would expect to offer assistance to a Jew because of how they were treated by Jews. And yet listen to how far the Samaritan went in his service to the beaten man: “… when [the Samaritan] saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him [as opposed to stepping away from him as the priest and Levite had done] 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’” (Luke 10:33b-35).