Day 102 – Why Didn’t Jesus Answer the Question??

Something has been bugging me about the Good Samaritan tale in which a lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life (in today’s Luke reading). Jesus basically turns the question back to him and the lawyer responds that we must love the Lord with our all and “love our neighbors as ourselves” in order to inherit life.

Then the lawyer tries to qualify the command, to limit it, so he asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus launches into the Parable of the Good Samaritan – the one where a Priest and a Levite pass by an injured man, failing to help, but a Good Samaritan stops and does the right thing. The Samaritan even takes the guy to an innkeeper and leaves some money for the man’s continued care.

At the end of the story, however, Jesus does NOT answer the lawyer’s question. He doesn’t say, “Your neighbor is anyone in need.” He leads the lawyer to say that the neighbor “was the one who showed [the injured man] mercy.”

My ESV Study Bible sure has some good notes! It finally answered MY question! Yay!

My Bible notes point out that the lawyer asked the WRONG question and that Jesus responded to the question the lawyer should have asked!! Jesus answered the RIGHT question!

The lawyer asked a question that would hopefully give him an out to help only certain people who have needs – the people he wanted to help.  The lawyer didn’t want to serve: he wanted to have eternal life on his terms.

The Priest and Levite in the story should have been experts in obeying the law – like the lawyer. Yet they were so self-righteous and racist that they walked on past the half-dead half-breed Samaritan. They probably used excuses like “I’m late to temple” or “He’ll make me unclean and unable to serve at the temple.” Sort of like our excuses. The lawyer wanted the same consideration not to help others. He wanted to avoid the half-dead half-breeds, too. So he essentially asked Jesus, “Which neighbor can I avoid serving?” That’s the wrong question to ask.

Jesus would have none of it. He led the lawyer to answer a completely different question, the question he SHOULD have asked in the first place, which is this: “How can I be a loving neighbor?” (Thanks ESV!)

And that’s what Jesus told him. You want to be a neighbor? Help ANYONE in need.

The lawyer was a neighbor. And I am a neighbor. We are all neighbors. Neighbors receive love when in need and give love when others are in need.

When we were wholly dead, wholly enemies of God, Jesus didn’t just cross the street to care for us. He gave up His rights as God and crossed the universe. He left paradise and eternal bliss with the Trinity, moved into the world, took on flesh, and died a criminal’s death on the cross. All to bind up our sin wounds. Then he left some money with the Holy Spirit to take care of us after He left.

We were loved by our neighbor. Now it’s our turn to love.

Without limits.

Today’s Readings: Joshua 11:1-12:24, Psalm 44:4-19, Proverbs 14:1-2, Luke 10:25-42. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).

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3 thoughts on “Day 102 – Why Didn’t Jesus Answer the Question??

  1. Good note about the right question.

    As for limiting our obligations… seems to me there are or should be some limits. Even Jesus did not deal with every sick and sinful person — individually, in person — on the earth while he was living here. He even took steps to keep the number manageable — telling folks not to tell anyone about what he did, for example.

    And in the parable, the Samaritan is not going out looking for people to help, and he does not take on the entire responsibility for the injured man. He comes across the guy while traveling on his own business — and takes enough time to help with immediate needs and then delegates the rest of his care to the innkeeper. Still a sacrifice, still a good service — but also limited.

    • Totally, totally agree with your points. I even started to go there in the blog, but figured people are less likely to be doing too much than doing too little. That’s another blog topic. And of course the limitations the lawyer wanted weren’t based on practicality as much as on prejudice.

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