26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: " '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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (NIV)
1. A love for God with all one's being, reflected in sacrificial love for others, is needed for one to have eternal life (vv. 25-28).
Jesus quotes from Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18.
He is not tricking or misleading the law-expert; these things really are required. The exceedingly high standard that is provided by the Law leaves the disciples astonished in a somewhat similar scenario, found in Matthew's Gospel account. There they ask, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus then replies: "With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible" (Mt 19:16-26).
And just what does God do for those who fall short of God's requirement (i.e. everybody - Rom 3:9-18)? To those who see their need for a Saviour and repent of their sin, He sends His Son to bear their eternal punishment (Rom 3:20-26; 6:23; Gal 3:13) and to fulfill the Law perfectly in their place (Rom 5:18-19; Jn 8:29).
2. Many "religious" individuals will try to cut the demands of God down to a manageable size (v. 29).
As other passages reveal throughout the Gospel accounts, this kind of mindset was very characteristic of the Pharisees and other law experts:
a) The Pharisee described by Christ in the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector was "confident of his own righteousness" and "looked down on everyone else" because he fasted "twice a week" and gave " a tenth" of all he got (Lk 18:9-12).
b) Jesus describes these individuals as "whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside (they) appear to people as righteous but on the inside (they) are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Mt 23:27-28).
Discussion Question 1: Is it possible that even we as redeemed Christians can fall into a trap where we a) think we need to earn or maintain God's favour, and b) try to do so by obeying the Lord on a more superficial level like the Pharisees/law-experts? How so?
3. "Who is my neighbour?" is the wrong question; rather, it is, "am I a neighbour?" (vv. 30-37)
Whereas we tend to ask ourselves, "What appealing characteristics do people need to have before I will minister to them?", Jesus is asking us, "How are you treating anyone whom you come across, regardless of whether they appeal to you or not?"
"Go and do likewise" (v. 37) - although God's people stand on the merits of Christ's work alone, they are still called by God to good works (Eph 2:8-10); while these works are not meritorious, they provide the evidence or fruit of having been saved (Mt 25:31-46; Jas 2:14-25) and prepare us for the coming kingdom (Tit 2:11-14).
Among other works, Christians are to love their enemies (Lk 6:27-36) and to forbid themselves from showing favouritism to some (Rom 12:16; Jas 2:1-13).
Discussion Question 2a: What are all of the noteworthy actions of the Samaritan in the parable? How does each action demonstrate real love, as opposed to superficial love?
Discussion Question 2b: Why are these actions so hard to do?
Discussion Question 2c: What were the Christians empowered with in Acts 2 and Acts 4? Why is this empowering a reason for encouragement, even as we face the daunting task of ministering to those whom we find hard to love?