It's been six months since my last post to this blog. I could list a myriad of excuses, but that would be lame. So, I'll just remind my avid readers (all two of you) why I am blogging. I am a minister at Restoration Church, and this blog is the fruit of my preparation for our Wednesday Bible study and our Sunday worship service. This week we are looking at Luke 10:25-42 which contains two stories: The Parable of the Good Samaritan and the home of Mary & Martha.
The passage starts with a lawyer approaching Jesus to ask the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This question is relevant still because studies still show that 100 percent of us will die. Eventually, our bodies decay and our lives end. So, it begs the question, is that it? Do we just get 70 years to roam our little corner of the vast universe and then cease to exist? I believe the Bible teaches something different, and that is what our passage this week explores.
Jesus responds to the lawyer's question about how to obtain eternal life with another question. He says, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" Jesus is referring to at least the Pentateuch (the first five books in the Old Testament) and perhaps to the entire Old Testament. His answer is simple but profound. "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 neighbor as yourself. Jesus approves of his answer saying, "You have answered correctly, do this and you will live."
As a result of this exchange we see that the Bible has a clear answer to our question, is there something beyond our imminent expiration? There is eternal life and a means by which you obtain it. According to Jesus the means to inherit eternal life is to fulfill the Law through whole-hearted devotion to God and a love for others which is equal to our love for ourselves. As it turns out, these two simple instructions are quite challenging to carry out.
First, we must love God. As I reflect on this, loving God means to love His existence, His goodness, His authority, His created order, His saving power, His moral standard and probably a host of other things about His character which don't immediately come to mind. We ought to love Him for all that He has revealed about Himself generally through creation (Romans 1:20) and I believe specifically in the Bible. This is not an easy task to be sure. Speaking for myself, I am aware of my deeply rooted desire to have control of my circumstances. At the core, I want to make my own way. However, God calls us to yield to His purposes in our lives and often those are in conflict with the things we are trying to accomplish on our own. If I acknowledge that God is Creator and Ruler of this world, it is prideful for me to think I know how to live life better than He directs me to live.
Second, we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Loving anything more than we love ourselves is a difficult task. We naturally chase personal comfort, pleasure and achievement. And we often do so with no regard for our neighbors. Even still the instruction is that we love our neighbors more than ourselves. This is where the lawyer is tripped up. The text says he desired to "justify himself." It is as though he know there were some people he couldn't possible love as much as he loved himself and he hoped that those people weren't included in the term "neighbors." So he asks, "who is my neighbor?"
Now the parable Jesus tells to answer the lawyer's question is a familiar one to many. It is the parable of the good Samaritan. The Samaritans were held in very low regard because they were not pure blooded Israelites and because it was thought that they compromised the faith since they worshipped at Mount Gerizim in Samaria rather than Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The understanding that the relationship between Jews and Samaritans was tenuous at best is vital to seeing Jesus' point in telling the parable. With that, here is the parable:
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:30-37).
What a powerful story. The point is clear: "Neighbors" is not limited to those who live in close proximity to us or to those with whom we agree. No, according to Jesus "neighbors" clearly includes people with whom we may differ on very important issues, people who on the surface of things would be considered our enemies. This Samaritan looked beyond religious differences he had with the man left for dead on the road, and had compassion on him. He bound up his wounds, set the man on his own animal, took him to shelter, and paid for his recovery. He loved his neighbor as much as he loved himself.
The fact is, we all fail at both of these commands, whether to love God or to love our neighbors, we fall short. As a result none of us deserve the eternal life which the lawyer was seeking out in this text. Which, I believe, is exactly why Jesus came to earth. We had no remedy to restore our relationship with God, and he came to be that remedy for us. To live a perfect life and lay His life down on the cross for us. I find this statement by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 to be true: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the worst." According to the Bible, there is life after death, and that life is spent with God if we recognize our inability to fulfill the Law and accept that Jesus is our only hope, our Savior.
Thank you for reading my blog, we will be talking about this text at Restoration Church in our Sunday night service at 5 p.m. on Jan. 13. We meet every Sunday night at The Sage. We also have a weekly Bible study on Wednesday nights. If you would like more information, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.