Jesus shows us the worthlessness of legalism and bigotry and points us to live in God’s way of mercy and love.
Luke 10:25-37 (focus on verses 29-37)
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.”
We are called to live as Jesus did, to love and give and forgive as he did. It isn’t easy to deal in mercy and forgiveness – certainly not as easy as it is to give out our own wisdom or to share our achievements.
When studying for a big English exam, I (Maddie) was enthralled with Shakespeare, up to my ears in sticky notes and had more highlighter on my fingers than on the actual paper. Needless to say I was deep, deep in study mode and I finally felt like I had a grasp on the slippery subject.
However, my friend, sitting directly beside me, was struggling and I was completely blind to it. So when she kindly asked me for help, I barely heard the question. I was too deep in my own mind to even notice.
I had to push down the rising frustration at the interruption so I could help someone rather than yell at them. Because what she needed wasn’t a smart-alec or a tutor or even Shakespeare himself, but someone who had words of encouragement and kindness. It didn’t matter that I had more of a clue or even that I managed to grasp more, but that I could stop my own work to help her – even if it was just for a few minutes.
My act is negligible next to the example we read in Jesus’ parable. His may be an illustrative story, but it’s representative of the serious troubles of this world.
In the tale Jesus tells (vv. 29-27), he teaches the law expert and us that loving mercy is central to living his way. The beaten traveller was in serious need of help, but the religious elite and pedantic law keepers showed the injured man no mercy or kindness. Their legalistic and ultimately worthless view of ‘following’ God is exposed as self-righteous and self-serving. It is antithetical to God’s true way – the way of love and mercy shown most clearly by Jesus’ loving sacrifice.
Here we’re shown the example of love and mercy by the acts of the Samaritan traveller. And how generous and rich it was! Not only did he put himself in physical danger and stress, but he opened his wallet, gave his time, and he did it for someone who he didn’t know, from a nation his own people resented.
In turn, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, such as the self-justifying legal expert. But it’s clear even to him that, by acting in love, the Samaritan was the beaten man’s neighbour, and thus the beaten man is the Samaritan’s neighbour. Our neighbours are those we can show mercy to, and our legalism or prejudice must not get in the way. Indeed, Jesus’ aim is to put these to death, and to have hearts ruled by love. The challenge for us is to hold our selfish motives and preconceptions up to the light of Jesus’ love, as reflected in this parable.
Head: Are there people who you think don’t deserve your help? Are they the refugees, drug users, ‘foreigners’, the unemployed, the rich, the arrogant, those politically different from you? What do you think Jesus’ parable has to say about your view?
Heart: What tempts you to be legalistic or self-justifying? Try reading through Luke’s gospel to focus on Jesus’ love.
Hands: Identify how you can show love to a neighbour this week.
Prayer: Father, we confess that we can try to justify ourselves like the legal expert in this story. Thank you that Jesus loved us when we were helpless like the beaten traveller. Please move our hearts to live by mercy and to genuinely love our neighbours. Show us how to live this out in practice. Amen.
A song to listen to: Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)
Geoff Pryde and Maddie Pryde – Living Church Creek Road