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Gospel according to Luke 10: 25-37 (NIV)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He 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 neighbour as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii 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 neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The expert in the law framed his questions not to elicit information but to test Jesus (verses 25 and 29). Jesus, on the other hand, framed his questions (verses 26 and 36) to help the expert in the law to learn about the kingdom of God. The expert in the law seemed to be motivated by a sense of superiority; Jesus was motivated by a genuine desire to help this man and to guide him as his understanding moved from head knowledge to the realm of heart knowledge.
Regardless of the significance of the details of the parable, by describing as “a Samaritan” “the one who had mercy” on the man attacked by robbers, Jesus emphasised that the one whom Jews might consider less likely to be a neighbour was the one whose actions should be emulated.
Do you find it interesting that, in both of Jesus’ commands to the expert in the law, he used the imperative “do”? “Do this and you will live,” he said, and then, “do likewise”. Jesus was not assigning a greater importance to what we do than to our having faith; rather, he emphasised the importance of love. To love as required by the “two great commandments”, to love God and to love neighbour above all else, is to adopt an attitude of the heart. Such an attitude can only be maintained through faith in the one true God; without such faith the significance of love is diminished to the extent that loving is easily ignored.
Let us also “do likewise”, love God with all our hearts and souls and strengths and minds and love our neighbours as we love ourselves.