Go and do likewise.

In Lent 24 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Wanting to justify himself, the Lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” But Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.”

Luke 10:25-37

Jesus was really good at asking the loaded question. And he got a lot of them, as religious leaders tried and tried again to trap him in a question whose answer would condemn him. But Jesus’ answers were never what the questioner wanted to hear and often painful for them to hear.

In this case an expert on the religious laws of the Jews came to Jesus and asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke doesn’t tell us the lawyer’s motive, but it may have been a way to affirm his own knowledge of the law or to trap Jesus in some way in the matter of who one’s neighbor is. Indeed. Who is one’s neighbor. That is the question.

True to Jesus’ nature, he told a parable to answer the lawyer. A man traveling from Jerusalem twenty miles to Jericho was beset by robbers and left to die on the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite came by the man, noticed him, and took a wide berth around him. A hated Samaritan also came by, noticed the man and attended to his wounds. Then he put the man on his own animal and carried him to an inn where the wounded man could receive care, the Samaritan paying for the care.

In a list of people who the questioning lawyer might consider to be “neighbors,” a Samaritan would never appear. Samaritans were a hated group of people with whom the ancient Jews had no association. Therefore, Jesus’ story would have knocked the lawyer back on his heels. The lawyer would have never made a Samaritan the hero of a story.

Such associations, as with the Samaritans, is the great surprise of the Bible. From beginning to end, God is always picking out the “wrong” people to become a part of God’s great plan. Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, was an unknown person from ancient Ur. His family worshiped idols of the regional gods. The daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt saved the baby Moses and raised him in the Egyptian court of her father, and Moses later became the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Rahab, a prostitute from Jericho, appears in the genealogy of Jesus. In the earliest days of the church, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, Samaritans, a Roman officer, and other non-Jews who became a part of the Jesus project. And I could go on.

The lawyer who questioned Jesus could never have imagined this. More than the surprise at Jesus’ answer would have been his response to “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37.

Something to think about: How do you think today’s God-follower might misunderstand the scope of the word “neighbor”? How do you apply that idea in your own life?

Something to pray about: O God, you promised Abraham that ALL the nations of the world would be blessed by his faithful life. You have repeated that throughout scripture, and even Messiah was the final chapter in Your plan to redeem and bless the whole world, not just a select few. Help us to embrace your vision. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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