What is written in the Law?

Luke 10:25-37 SCC 11/27/11




1. The reason Jesus is questioned v 25

            There are a couple of ideas to focus upon: (1) the motive for the lawyers question is to ‘test’ Jesus. This is also the purpose for the lawyer’s challenge. On this occasion it seems that this lawyer rises to question Jesus in the midst of a discussion. So the bottom line is this man is a hypocrite—looking like he is genuinely interested in this idea he really desires to contrast Jesus’ system with Judaism to show Jesus is wrong. (2) He asks how he might receive eternal life, which is part of the future world God brings. This lawyer wants to be sure to earn this and share in the resurrection of the righteous. So the test is to see if Jesus correctly answers this question. It is a significant question for it has eternal implications for everyone.


2. Jesus goes to the source v 26

            Jesus responds with a question about the Law, which expresses God’s revealed will for that time. Jesus did not counter-punch by denying Jewish tradition but chooses to focus attention upon what it is God requires. So he takes the lawyer to the shared source of authority, namely, the Law—God’s instruction to his people. He wants to know exactly what this Lawyer thinks God’s revealed will is as related to the answer to his question.


3. The Great Commandment v 27

            He answers with a combination of Deuteronomy 6:6 and Leviticus 19:18. On the one hand, the essence of pleasing God is being devoted to Him wholeheartedly. On the other hand, this devotion is expressed in how one loves people. Both God and people are to receive love and our love of God is fleshed out in the way we treat others. So at the heart of entering into the future life is a relationship of devotion that places God at the center of one’s spiritual life and responds to others in love. It is not based on righteousness by works. Notice the energy of this devotion. It is heart, soul, strength, and mind—the entire person. The entire person responds with devotion to God expressed in devotion to others. They go together much like the message of 1 John. So to do the law means to love!


4. Jesus gives a commendation v 28

            First, Jesus commends the Lawyers response. That response was recognition of the need for devotion to God as the basis for entering into the future eternal life and that devotion expressed in how others are treated. So Jesus accepts his answer. Second, Jesus emphasizes the need for the Lawyer to carry it out in his own life. The command is ‘do so’ and the promise is ‘you will live’. The Lawyer need not worry himself about his future eternal destination. If he has this love for God, he has an eternal future life. Love that comes from the heart in devotion to God responds with hands of devotion toward others. The issue is not how to work your way into eternal life but what is the fruit of ones life like who is has eternal life.


So the point of the entire interchange is:



            Participating in the resurrection of the righteous is possible for those who are devoted to the God of the Bible with an outgrowth of that love for God expressed in love for our neighbor. This raises another question for this lawyer.


1. Who is my neighbor v 29

            On one hand, this seems like an innocent question. However, we see that similar to wanting to ‘test Jesus’ the Lawyer now wants to ‘justify himself’. He has already recited God’s revealed will in the matter—devoted love for God is expressed by love for your neighbor. But the lawyers question is not an attempt to identify his neighbor as much as it is an attempt to say there is such a person who qualifies as a ‘non-neighbor’. The real issue here is does this Lawyer love God enough to respond to his demand.


2. Jesus illustrates who is a neighbor v 30-35


A Certain Man v 30:   Here a man falls prey to robbers. The victim is only minimally described since he is really not the main focus. It is those who will react to him and his situation that will be the focus of this illustration. These bandits hid themselves on this route. Outnumbering this man they robbed him, stripped him, beat him, and left him for dead. The man is fighting for his life. Who will help him?


A Certain Priest v 31:  A priest arrives by chance. This appears to be fortunate for this man. Help is just around the corner now. Yet, when this priest sees him, he chooses to walk on the opposite side of the road. There will be no help from him. He gives no help to the man in obvious need.


A Levite v 32:  Now a second Jewish religious leader arrives at the same location. When he ‘comes upon’ this man, he tales a closer look at the man and the place where he lay but he walks away doing nothing. So, Jesus illustrates two successive possibilities but official Judaism does not respond.


A Certain Samaritan v 33-35:  Now a person arrives on the scene and emphasis is on the fact that he is a Samaritan. This is the last person the Lawyer would expect to be the hero. But it is just such a ‘despicable’ person to official Judaism who helps the man. It is he who ‘showed compassion’ to this nearly dead man. In contrast to the others who scurried past, this man lingered over the on in need. Here is the essence of being a neighbor: it is having the sensitivity to see a need and act to meet it with anyone who is in need. Jesus describes six concrete compassionate actions this Samaritan undertook:


            (1) He comes upon him. He did not try to avoid him. (2) He binds his wounds. He engages in bandaging the cuts and scrapes. (3) He anoints the cuts pouring oil and wine on them to clean them out. (4) He loads the man on his own beast. It looks like the Samaritan is going to walk. (5) He takes him to safety in an inn. (6) Here he provides comfort and care for him and apparently stays the night with him even offering money to the innkeeper for continued care running a tab. As a neighbor, the Samaritan did everything he could. He did not just dump and release. This compassionate act meant the Samaritan was taking a financial hit himself.


3. Which one was a neighbor v 36-37

            The question is ‘which one became an example of a neighbor’. First, compassion and loving response make a neighbor. Second, the obligation is not to see what can be avoided but what can be readily supplied. Third, Jesus answer to the lawyers real question is, ‘do not worry about identifying one’s neighbor, just be a neighbor to all, as this Samaritan was’. Fourth, Jesus rejects any limitation on who is a neighbor. By choosing the Samaritan as the model Jesus shows that neighbors may be found anywhere, among any racial group. The lawyer recognizes that ‘showing mercy’ is descriptive of a neighbor. He could not say ‘Samaritan’. He still needs to break through his prejudice so Jesus tells him to ‘go and do the same’. The lawyer should be a neighbor.


So the point of the illustration is:



The issue is not who we may or may not serve but serving where need exists. We are to be a neighbor to those whose needs we can meet. We are not to ask who our neighbor is; we are to be a neighbor.