The text for this lesson is Luke 10:25–37.
- The Lord’s call to perfection is expressed in compassion, which He exemplifies toward us, healing us from sin and restoring us to eternal life.
- Law: The command to love our neighbor is a command to be perfectly compassionate to everyone whom we encounter.
- Gospel: Though we fall short, Jesus acts compassionately toward us, forgiving our sin, binding us up, and restoring us to eternal life.
- Not much context is given for this encounter, suggesting that the essential meaning is captured in the story itself. Jesus is journeying from Galilee to Jerusalem, aware that this journey will lead to His crucifixion (Luke 9:51). Many of the events described on this journey reflect Jesus’ merciful character. His earthly ministry will lead to suffering for a time but will end as He restores God’s people.
- A lawyer in Jesus’ day would have been an expert in the Law of the Old Testament and concerned with religious piety and obedience. The lawyer may be thinking Jesus will define “neighbor” as friend or relative, to which the lawyer could respond he had kept the Law, thereby claiming honor for himself.
- Eternal life is inherited; it is not earned. The phrasing of the question in 10:25 already indicates the inherently gracious nature of salvation.
- In replying to the lawyer’s question, Jesus directs him to the Law; likewise, with us, when we seek the true interpretation or understanding of spiritual matters, Jesus directs us not to our own speculations but to Scripture. Pastors, teachers, and faithful writings help us to understand the Scriptures (as Jesus does for this lawyer in telling the story of the Good Samaritan), yet the truth is always found in Scripture itself.
- The lawyer answers correctly, essentially quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18; yet his desire to limit the extent of this command belies his realization that as sinners, we do not successfully keep these commandments. It is true that if we perfectly love God and our neighbor, we will receive eternal life. But Jesus’ story illustrates both the compassion necessary in keeping these commandments and how easily and often we fall short.
- Keeping God’s commandments is more than outward conformity to principles. The priest and the Levite could claim that they were technically trying to keep the Law by avoiding potential uncleanness (which they would have incurred were the victim dead or defiled in some other way). Cleansing oneself would take time and money and be extremely inconvenient to their everyday routine. But the Samaritan, who technically was bound by the same laws of cleanliness, demonstrates that the heart of the Law is love and compassion. To love one’s neighbor is to put that person before one’s own conveniences and daily life. To love one’s neighbor also is to help anyone who is encountered, not just those whom we know or who live next door.
- In His command to the lawyer to do likewise, Jesus teaches us that fulfilling the Law requires continuous love and compassion from the heart. This means all of us have fallen short in caring for our neighbors. Jesus, however, has not fallen short. His journey to the cross and His suffering and death there express His perfect compassion for all. Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, He saves us from sin, loving us perfectly as the perfect neighbor.