On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ 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.”’
Luke 10:25-27 (NIV)
Read: Luke 10:25-37
Consider: The question put to Jesus by the expert in the law seems very straightforward. He asked Jesus: ‘… what must I do to inherit eternal life’ (Luke 10:25). The question brings to mind a similar question put to Jesus by the rich young ruler: ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luke 18:18). Both questioners wanted an answer to a deep spiritual question, but the way they phrased their questions revealed their dependence on what they could do, rather than on what God can so.
In answer to Jesus’ question to him, the expert in the law repeated two commands; one from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the other from Leviticus 19:18. The essence of these is to love God first and foremost and then to love your neighbour as yourself. The conversation then moves on to the question ‘… who is my neighbour?’ (10:29). Are we to think that the expert in the law thought he met the first criteria: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ (10:27)? This is likely because we know from the Bible account that the expert in the law didn’t seek any clarification from Jesus on how he should love God. He did, however, seek clarification on who his neighbour might be.
Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus uses examples of a priest and a Levite who walked by the wounded man, while a Samaritan stopped and helped the man. The Samaritan tended to his wounds and took him to a place of safety, where he could recover from his injuries. We must keep in mind that to Jews the Samaritans were thought of as being beneath them and certainly not part of the covenant people of God. We don’t know from this account if the expert in the law went away and practised what Jesus said.
It is important to our understanding that we notice the sequencing of the OT commands quoted by the expert in the law in answer to Jesus’ question. The sequence is God first, others second. This should be the sequence for all of us. We need to love God first (by putting our trust in Christ), then as a result we should put our faith into action by loving others.
The application for us is firstly that our faith must rest on God’s grace through Christ’s saving work on the cross and not on anything we can do (our works). Secondly, our faith should reveal itself in our loving concern for others. This raises the question for us of ‘who would be our neighbour?’. Our answer should include anyone, regardless of nationality, colour or creed. This is where we must all face up honestly to our prejudices and preconceived ideas of who our neighbours are. Why not start with your direct neighbours? It is very telling how many people don’t really know who their direct neighbours are and what needs they might have.
Pray: Father, may we always put you first in our lives. Help us to put our faith into action by lovingly caring for others. Amen