Luke 10:25-37, And, behold (to fix the eyes upon, to see with attention, to direct or fix the mind), a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27And 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. 28And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30And 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. 31And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34And 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. 35And 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. 36Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
The story of the Good Samaritan, told by Jesus, is one of the most familiar stories of the Bible.
The Good Samaritan story is a demonstration of our Lord’s statement in His prayer to His Father given to us in Luke 10:21.
“I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
The Father has chosen to hide from the self-wise and the self-prudent, the truths of the kingdom of God.
In this story, it is the scholars — the “wise and intelligent”—who are exposed for what they are.
This is done by comparing their actions, which are governed by the law as they see it, to a Samaritan who is not known as a scholar of the law.
So we are privy to what Judaism, the religion of the day in Israel has produced versus a man without that religion.
This story is prompted by two questions asked of our Lord by a certain lawyer and in answering these questions the story of the Good Samaritan is used in His answer.
The two questions are: (1) “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and (2) “Who is my neighbor?”
We will look at these questions, the first being: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Now the man who asks these questions of Jesus is a lawyer but not the kind of lawyer who we may hire to represent us in court or to provide legal services.
He is called a lawyer because he is an expert in Old Testament law, specializing in the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, commonly called the Pentateuch.
Luke tells us that this man stood up to ask these questions with the purpose of ensnaring our Lord Jesus Christ in some error by his so called superior knowledge of the law.
Over and over in the Gospels we see this kind of attack against Jesus Christ by the wise and the prudent.
The lawyer was not there with a sincere heart, wishing to learn, but he was there to teach the Lord Jesus from a superior position intending to entrap him.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, we are told.
He attempts to show himself a seeker of truth but he truly is not, for his intention is to test Christ and to find Him inadequate as far as the law is concerned.
He is not really seeking to be taught by the Lord Jesus, nor is he interested in finding the way to eternal life.
For he, thinking himself superior in the knowledge of the law, believes he understands all these things.
He does not believe that Jesus, who the leaders of the Jews viewed as an uneducated man, could possibly teach him anything.
He pretends respect for Jesus as a teacher of the law, but he is only seeking to test Jesus by questioning Him so that he can then say, “Your teaching is not consistent with the law.”
Notice how he phrases the first question. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life,”
The Old Testament talks nothing about inheriting eternal life.
The Old Testament law says, “Do this and live.”
The lawyer is using the terminology of Christ, as a way to get Jesus to go against the Old Testament scriptures.
Christ is the one who uses a grace word, a gift word like inherit.
For example He used this word in the following scriptures:
Matthew 5:5, Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 19:29, And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Matthew 25:34, Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
None of these verses include law keeping as a prerequisite for everlasting life.
But Jesus Christ does not yield to this lawyer’s offense and goes on the offensive himself by asking the question, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
One thing you can count on is that Jesus Christ would never condemn the law nor contradict the law.
His issue was not with the law but with those that subverted the law.
This is shown by what he said in Matthew 23:3,4
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
It was not the law that was wrong, it was those who pretended to observe the law that were wrong placing heavy burdens on others.
Jesus Christ is saying, “Their teaching is not wrong, but their practice is wrong because it is hypocritical.
Listen to what they say; do what they say, but don’t do what they do because they are hypocrites.
They say one thing, and they do something else.”
Therefore, Jesus is willing to say to the lawyer in our passage, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?”
He points the man back to the scriptures as the basis for discussion, avoiding a tennis match of opinions.
And the lawyer’s response draws together two Old Testament texts.
For he says: 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 (which is from Deuteronomy 6:5) ; and thy neighbour as thyself(which is from Leviticus 19:18).
The answer the lawyer gives Jesus is absolutely correct
For Jesus says: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
Our Lord’s reply, “Do this and thou shalt live,” is a quotation from Leviticus 18:5, Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
The answer of the law is, “If you would attain to eternal life by the keeping of the law, then keep the law. Do it and live. Keep on doing it and live.”
The words of the law, cited by the lawyer, go even further.
They not only require that a man keep the law; they require that he keep the whole law perfectly.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.
You must not only love your neighbor, you must love him as yourself.
The law must be kept, all of it, without any omissions or failures.
In other words, in order to be justified under the law, a man must be perfect.
This is certainly not what this lawyer wanted to hear.
If the lawyer believed that Jesus was making eternal life too easy, by requiring only one thing, belief in Him, he just fell into the trap of saying that his system made eternal life impossible, for no one could possibly keep the whole law perfectly.
And this is exactly what the law required.
So when Jesus told the lawyer: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live, he was saying eternal life could be had by keeping the law but it would have to be kept perfectly.
Listen to what the apostle Paul writes on this point:
Galatians 3:10, For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
The law commands us to do what we cannot and persistently do not do, for our basic nature is in opposition to the law.
Our basic nature is to not love God, to not love our neighbor.
If you want to be saved by your works, by law keeping, then you must be saved by keeping the whole law; not most of the time, but all of the time; not in most of its commands, but in all of its commands.
It is very important that we understand this:
Jesus is not teaching works as a means of salvation here;
He is actually teaching that doing good works (law keeping) cannot save anyone, because no one can keep the law perfectly.
This man asks the question, “How can I be saved?” Jesus answers, “You tell Me, according to the law.”
He responds, “One can be saved by perfectly and persistently obeying the whole law, with one’s whole heart, soul, mind and strength.”
The lawyer is now on the spot.
The system he is seeking to defend, is a system that cannot save anyone for all have sinned and sinners cannot measure up to the law.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
In this case the glory of God is the law, the perfect law which anyone in a sinful state cannot reach.
Every reach of man comes short of the requirements of the law.
Every attempt to be perfect is thwarted by a man’s basic nature which cannot be changed by a man.
So in seeking to condemn Jesus, the lawyer has just condemned himself and the whole world.
Our lawyer tried to put Jesus on the defensive, to force Him to justify Himself.
And now, without warning, it is the lawyer who is on the spot and by his very own words.
So instead of admitting that he is not up to the standard of the law he uses a diversion tactic for he now feels obligated to justify himself.
Otherwise he would have to admit that he needs a Savior desperately.
The law cannot save a sinner nor was the law meant to save.
This does not mean that the law of God is bad, it simply means that I cannot meet its demands.
The standards required to be a major league baseball player are outside of my reach but that does not mean that those standards are bad!
The law of God is good for it reveals to me that I am a sinner and in need of a Savior.
It tells me that it is inadequate to save me.
A sinner must absolutely, positively, have a Savior.
So instead of concluding this from the law the lawyer asks Jesus a second question.
But he, willing to justify himself (this means keeping his beliefs intact for he has invested his whole life in them), said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
This Old Testament lawyer now begins to look for a technicality in the law itself.
He is seeking to find some excuse from the law that gets him off the hook.
He is trying to limit the set of people who are his neighbors.
He certainly wants only to love people like himself, people worthy of his love.
No use loving people like the heathen or even the Samaritans, he infers.
So who is my neighbor? Let’s get down to brass tacks and define this for me?
And make sure the list of neighbors is not very long.
I want to love neighbors that look like me, act like me, think like me and worship like me.
But the story of the Good Samaritan does not define the list of who is my neighbor but instead emphasizes the need to be a neighbor.
But Jesus Christ will not be drawn into a debate with this lawyer.
Jesus could have argued with this lawyer, and easily won!
Most likely this lawyer would have limited his neighbor to his fellow Israelite and he would base it on Leviticus 19:18.
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
There is a way in which his answer looks right on the basis of this verse alone but we are to rightly divide the word of truth and make sure that our conclusion fits the whole consul of God.
We are told elsewhere in the law that God loves the stranger; that is, God loves the non-Israelite.
Deuteronomy 10:18,19, He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and He loves the stranger; He loves the non-Israelite as well as the Israelite.
But in the Jewish mind, the law belonged to the Jews and no one else.
But God says that the law applies equally to Jews and non-Jews, and we are not to interpret it differently.”
Leviticus 24:22 tells us, Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.).
There are not two sets of laws, one for Israelites and one for the Gentiles:
Numbers 15:15,16, One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. 16One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.
Deuteronomy 1:16, And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him..
Leviticus 19:34a, But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God..
Jesus Christ would win any debating contest of Old Testament truths and he could have brought out these verse without a moment’s thought but he did not.
Instead he responds to the lawyer’s second question by telling a story, the story of the Good Samaritan.
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. 31And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34And 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. 35And 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. 36Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.