This command is given after Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan as a response to a lawyer’s question. Here is the question:
Luke 10:25-29 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?
There is a lot in this interchange that calls up a lot of interesting discussions. I could go a dozen different ways with just this alone, but I will try not to for your sakes. 🙂 But I need to call your attention to a couple very important things.
First, Jesus points the lawyer to the law, quite ironically. Jesus was not saying that we need to work to get to salvation. Many people get confused about this passage because of this, but it really is quite simple, and the only reason that people don’t get it is because they are ashamed to face the law: just like the lawyer was. Jesus was telling the lawyer, in essence, what God’s standard for heaven was: perfection. The lawyer, the Bible says, was ‘willing to justify himself.’ This means that he had stuck his foot in his mouth and he was trying to dig his way out of the pit he dug (I like mixed metaphors). He is trying to figure out how to get out of the law, because he knows that he cannot meet the standard. Jesus then makes it harder for him by explaining exactly what the law means, and it turns out to be far worse than what the lawyer was expecting or hoping.
Luke 10:30-37 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 showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
I spent a couple hours or so tearing this passage apart, piecing it back together again, and studying it in context, and I came up with a lot more than can be concisely articulated in this blog post. But here are some things that I learned.
There was two things in common between all three of the men in Jesus’ parable. The first is that all three men came close to the robbed man, and the second is that they all saw him. The language leaves no room for doubt as to each man’s complete comprehension of the situation and the man’s need, as well as their equal ability to aid him. The difference that made a difference in their actions was that the Samaritan had compassion on him. The other two made it a point to get away from him.
The thing that struck me was a parallel between this passage, another in Luke 14, and a law in the Old Testament.
Luke 14:1-6 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.
3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
4 And they held their peace. And he took [him,] and healed him, and let him go;
5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
6 And they could not answer him again to these things.
Exodus 23:4-5 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
The priest and the Levite knew full well the law, and what it demanded of them (despite its complete disconnection from the civil magistrate and any sort of man-enforced punishment). The man was one of their own people, not an enemy. It was not the sabbath (at least from my deductions it wasn’t), and yet they refused to help. They treated their animals with more care than a fellow human being, just like Jesus indignantly pointed out when he healed the man with the dropsy.
The Samaritan refused to be put off by the distance of creed between him and the robbed man. He yielded to the desire and love of God, and acted on it. He unselfishly sacrificed of himself for the benefit of the other man. He had a belief that is contrary to the vast majority of modern culture (go figure). He refused to let apathy grip his heart. He dedicated himself habitually to love, which is why he was able to instinctively respond correctly to the situation thrust upon him.
What about you? Do you spend your life crossing on the other side? Do you dedicate yourself to your own pursuits, or to God’s? You do not need to dedicate your life to missions to dedicate your life to God. God wants all of your life in all its variety and depth. Are you pulling back, or throwing everything in?
With joy and peace in Christ,