We often think that Jesus using a Samaritan, whom the Jews despised, to show kindness to a Jewish man was just to answer the question, “And who is my neighbor?” but the ‘And’ indicates that this parable goes much deeper. There was a previous question posed by the lawyer: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
I. Luke 10:25-28. Since we discover later that the lawyer was seeking to justify himself, his use of ‘Teacher’ was perhaps a bit smug. He believed he knew it all, but Jesus, who knew all men’s hearts, answered both questions posed to Him in this passage as a great teacher would–with questions of His own. The puffed-up lawyer answered correctly, but Jesus said he did not fully understand the implications of what it meant to love God with ALL of his heart, soul, mind, and strength nor his neighbor as himself (Matthew 5:43-48). Love as Jesus loves, and he will live (John 15:12-13 and Romans 5:6-8).
II. Luke 10:29-35. Speaking to Jews, Jesus first tells of two among them–a priest and a Levite–who ought to treat well a fellow Jew who has been beaten and robbed. They don’t, however, as they pass by the poor man without taking any loving action to ease his distress. It is a Samaritan, one who was not in the covenant with God and lived in the land that was once part of Israel, who had compassion instead. More than just broadening their concept of who was their neighbor, Jesus challenged them on how love was defined. An enemy of the Jews took sacrificial actions to care for and serve one of their nation (James 2:14-17). Would they have done the same in return?
III. Luke 10:36-37. Then turning the lawyer’s question back to him, the Teacher makes his student apply the head knowledge of the Law, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor …?” Perhaps not able to say the name of his enemy’s race, the lawyer answers in honesty, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus’ command, then, to what the lawyer must do to inherit eternal life is a command to us as well, “You go, and do likewise.” Having found freedom in Christ, how should we use that freedom, then? Not to indulge in sin but rather to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13-15).