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Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

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There is a huge difference between knowing and doing. If I am caught going 40mph in 30mph zone, it makes little difference to say that I knew the speed limit. You could argue that they should not even bother sending me on a speed awareness course because I claim that I already knew what the speed limit was. Best just to give me the fine and the points on my licence.

 

The Lawyer (A person who understood fully the Jewish Law!) should know what the law says, and demonstrates that he completely understands it; You shall love the Lord your God, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Then the Lawyer stops and demonstrates to Jesus that he does not know the Jewish Law (The Torah) at all; ‘How can I love my neighbour, if I don’t know even if my neighbour is? Who is my neighbour?’ 

 

The man passes his neighbours every day. He is a first century legalistic religious person, and as such, he is required to make sure that he does not have contact with any of these neighbours who are unclean, which defines pretty much all of them. His attitude towards these neighbours is, the fore, anything but loving. Most are considered unclean to one degree or another; almost everybody who is not a jew, Lepers, Gentiles, mad people, tax collectors, prostitutes (Which was a much broader category than we could imagine,) and of course, there were the Samaritans, who were an absolute no-no as far as Jewish social contact was concerned. It could be said that somebody who was bruised and covered in blood would certainly be identified as being, untouchable. When coming near to the untouchable, a religious person would not make eye-contact, keep their eyes to the ground, and walk past them as quickly as possible.

 

'Hmmm, who is my neighbour?’ Jesus tells a story of just this kind of response; A man was making the journey from Jerusalem Jericho, a dangerous, wilderness descent, about 18 miles long. He was beaten up and left, covered in blood in the road. Two very holy people, a Levite (another word for a lawyer), and a priest, both do exactly as the law requires; They keep their eyes to the ground and walk past as quickly as possible. 

 

What Jesus has done, has asked the Lawyer what the most important Law is, and the Lawyer has given him the wise answer and mentioned two laws that override all the others; Love God, and Love your neighbour. Could it be that out of the three passers-by, the only one that has truly obeyed the Jewish law is the Samaritan, while the others, with their obsessive regulations, have quite simply just skirted round the issue?

 

Jesus’ point was quite simply. The Samaritan has fulfilled his obligation by showing love to a neighbour, while the Priest, the Levite, and by inference, the Lawyer who has spoken to Jesus, has failed abysmally to show love to their neighbours; The Samaritans, the Gentiles, The prostitutes, the tax collectors, and indeed to everybody else; Jesus is saying to the people of Israel that in order to truly fulfil the law, they must extend their horizon and love their neighbours.

God our saviour,

look on this wounded world

in pity and in power;

hold us fast to your promises of peace

won for us by your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.

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