[Luke 10:25-37] And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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.35 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.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
The Good Samaritan
Jesus said to the Lawyer, “Which of these three, do you suppose, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”
“You go, and do likewise.” The lawyer – which means ‘expert in God’s Law’, expert in the Scriptures – had given the right answer as to what is in the Law. “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”
And this is truly God’s will, brothers and sisters. God’s Law is His eternal will. The life God has given you, as Baptized Christians, is a life of His will – that you would “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” The life of love for God above all else is the baptized-Christian-life that He has given to you.
“And a second [commandment] is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:39]. This is God’s will, His Law, for you.
And Jesus gave the Law’s answer to the lawyer’s question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What does the Law say? “Do this, and you will live.” This is how the Law works – the one who does it will live eternally [Galatians 3:12]. Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind – let every thought, and every movement of the soul, and every exercise of your strength, be love of God. Love your neighbor as your very self. Do this, and you will live.
How do I know I am loving God and my neighbor? Love is defined by God’s commands – “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” [1 John 5:2-3].
Do this, and you will live. And, therefore, the reverse is true: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” So, “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” – because the Law says, “Do this”, but you have not done it. [Galatians 3:10]
God’s will is that you walk in His Law and commandments. But your ability is not to save yourself by them. God’s Law promises life to you – “Do this, and you will live” – but, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me,” said the Apostle Paul [Romans 7:10]. And today’s Epistle, “If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” [Galatians 3:21-22].
The lawyer who came to Jesus asking, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” did not come in sincerity. The lawyer “stood up to put Jesus to the test” [v.25]. And the lawyer failed to understand what he himself was asking. An inheritance is not given by what you do – an inheritance is a gift from father to child. The lawyer’s mind is stuck on “What must I do?” He should have been asking, “Am I God’s child?” Or, “Jesus, Son of God, do you share your inheritance with a sinner like me?”
To that question, the man would have received the answer, “Yes. I share my inheritance with a sinner like you.” But to question “What must I do”, the answer of God’s Law will always be, “You have not done enough.”
Jesus shows this lawyer what God’s Law truly requires and expects. When the lawyer’s conscience sees, in itself, that he really has not done what God’s Law commands, he seeks to readjust the Law’s expectations – to slide the scale – to make it fit what he has done – to exclude from the requirements what he has failed to do. He seeks to justify himself.
He says, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the man a parable that suggests, yes, foreigners are your neighbor. People in physical need are your neighbor. People who will inconvenience you on the way are your neighbor. People who will cost you are your neighbor.
And people who are undeserving are your neighbor – “Have you not sins of your own against the Lord your God?” [2 Chronicles 28:10]
In fact, everyone along your path through life is your neighbor. The question Jesus wants to know is, “Are you being a neighbor to them?” “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” The right question isn’t, “Are they my neighbor?” The question Jesus will ask you is, “Are you being a neighbor to them?”
God really expects His baptized, believing, born-anew children to love one another, to forgive one another, to have heartfelt love for enemies, to love and pray for those who wrong us, to carry out our responsibilities for those depending on us, to be patient with others’ sins and faults, and to give real, material help to those in our world with physical needs.
There are many beat up, left-for-dead people in the world. God has provided for them by giving them you as their Good Samaritan. We see what the Good Samaritan did, and Jesus has said, “You go, and do likewise.”
“You go, and do likewise.” Thanks be to God, brothers and sisters, that when we are told to ‘go and do likewise’, we are only being told to do the very thing that Jesus, our Good Samaritan, has already done for us. Like the man beat up on the road, you have a Good Samaritan who has come to you – Jesus Christ, THE Good Samaritan.
Jesus has loved God with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength. And Jesus has loved His neighbor as Himself – He has loved you. All that the Good Samaritan did – and all the love, mercy, forgiveness, and patience God’s Law commands – Jesus has done this all toward you.
On your own, you are beat up and more than half dead. The more you try to justify yourself, the more beat up you get. And you are beat up by grief. And by fear of death. And by exhaustion. And by wrongs. And by the sin-broken world. All this – not to mention your daily sins – would leave you fully-dead, except that God has sent His Good Samaritan for you.
Jesus, God’s Good Samaritan, has bound up your wounds by His own – has carried your weight on His shoulders – and has paid the price for you by His cross. “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows – He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities – upon Him was the punishment that brought us peace – the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all – and by His wounds we are healed” [Isaiah 53:4-6].
God’s Law says, “Do this”, and it never gets done. You’d never live. The Gospel says, “Look what Jesus has done for you”, and you live because of Him.
By Him, your sins are forgiven. By Him, your grave is conquered. You inherit eternal life by what He has done. God’s Good Samaritan has had mercy on you. Now, “You go, and do likewise.” Be a neighbor to others as God in Jesus has become a neighbor to you. Amen.