The Good Samaritan – Have We Gotten it Wrong?

Luke 10:25-37–
25. And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26. He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27. And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28.And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30. And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34.And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37. And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

No doubt you’ve heard sermons preached on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Usually they’re about how we should be a good neighbor, or they raise the question of who our neighbor is.

It’s those messages on being a good neighbor which hit the mark.

It pains me to admit this because too many sermons about being a good neighbor and doing good to others have left out the Gospel. Anyone can do good to others, but it’s been said that the devil wants us to do good–without Christ.

But back to the Scripture passage quoted above. It starts with a lawyer asking Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Rather than answering directly, Jesus quizzed him on how well he knew the law.

In turn the lawyer quoted the top two commandments of greatest importance. Jesus assured him his answer was correct. It was well that he knew truth. All he had to do was live up to what he knew to be right.

But that wasn’t good enough for the lawyer. Apparently he thought knowing the law was enough to get him by. So he focused on a technicality and asked Jesus who his neighbor was. Who was it that he was supposed to love as he loved himself.

Rather than give the lawyer a direct answer, Jesus told a parable. Two prominent Jewish religious leaders didn’t help the man who had been victimized and left for dead. Like the lawyer Jesus was speaking to, the leaders in the parable knew the law well.

It was a Samaritan–despised by the Jews–who showed compassion and helped the wounded man. Most likely he wasn’t a scholar of the law.

Jesus asked the lawyer who the neighbor was. The lawyer knew right away it was the Samaritan–the one who showed mercy. Jesus told him he should do likewise.

The bottom line? The lawyer’s understanding of the law needed to be acted upon. It wasn’t enough to know the law. The whole message of the law was to love God to the utmost and love others as much as we love ourselves.

We can debate all we want about who our neighbor might be. But I believe Jesus deliberately didn’t answer that question. His emphasis was on telling the lawyer that he needed to be the neighborly one.

Never mind the fact that the Samaritan was not someone the lawyer would have wanted to emulate. Jesus taught His lesson in a poignant way to drive the message home.

A few other Scriptures reinforce the lesson for us today.

Micah 6:8–He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Romans 12:18–If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Galatians 6:10–As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

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