The Parable of the Good Samaritan
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he [the lawyer] answered, “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, and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37 ESV)
For many of us, this story Jesus told brings back memories of flannelgraph figures, and the priest and Levite who were too busy to help a wounded man on the path. I remember one scene with a path that was narrow, with mountains on one side, and a steep cliff on the other. The Levite and the priest had to step over the wounded man to continue on the path.
Some recent events in my life have caused me to think again of this story. I’m trying to look at it with new eyes, to really put myself into the events and the purpose. Jesus “only did the will of the Father,” (John 6:38); Jesus was purposeful and intentional with every word, every story, every miracle, every step He took throughout His time on earth.
Why choose a story about a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan, and a man mugged by robbers, to tell to a lawyer who asks Him about eternal life? Jesus knew the question was meant to be used against Him later; Jesus drove straight to the man’s heart. A lawyer was also a religious expert; he knew the Jewish law from left to right (couldn’t resist, sorry)
Actually, the lawyer answered well. Jesus also summed up the law in this way elsewhere in the gospels. But, instead of asking Jesus, “how do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, strength?” he asks, “who is my neighbor?” That question must be one of the most “hair-splitting” questions of all time! To ask Jesus, after having recited correctly the “greatest commandment,” to define exactly who he should and should not love is, frankly, absurd and insulting!
I really like John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible:
10:27 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God – That is, thou shalt unite all the faculties of thy soul to render him the most intelligent and sincere, the most affectionate and resolute service. We may safely rest in this general sense of these important words, if we are not able to fix the particular meaning of every single word. If we desire to do this, perhaps the heart, which is a general expression, may be explained by the three following, With all thy soul, with the warmest affection, with all thy strength, the most vigorous efforts of thy will, and with all thy mind or understanding, in the most wise and reasonable manner thou canst; thy understanding guiding thy will and affections. De 6:5; Lev 19:18.
Before continuing on with the story, I think I will meditate on “the greatest commandment” for a while. My God is certainly worthy of my most intelligent and sincere, affectionate and resolute service. . .