Devotional Thoughts for Today
10:29, 36-7 (NIV):  But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” . . . .  “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.”
Many parables fall in the category of “a story within a story” –one story is told during the action of another story. While the parable of the Good Samaritan tells the importance of loving our neighbors, regardless of whether we like them or not, the intention of Christ is to use this parable to address a more pressing matter.
It all begins with an expert in the law who is unsure about whether he has eternal life. Having grown up under the Mosaic Law, which stipulated that “the man who does these things will live” eternally (Rom. 10:5), something wasn’t quite right and he wondered: “How come I lack assurance of eternal life despite having kept all the laws of God?” Jesus goes immediately to the root of his problem and asks, “What is written in the Law?” (Lk. 10:26). That is too easy of a question for the lawyer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . and love your neighbors as yourself” (27). If he felt validated upon hearing Jesus say, “You have answered correctly” (28a), it doesn’t last long because the Lord quickly adds, “Do this and you will live.” The lawyer is no dummy; he knows what that implies: Contrary to his own self-assessment, he has failed to, according to Jesus, love his neighbors. Disagreeing with this and somewhat offended by Jesus, the lawyer defends himself by asking, “And who is my neighbor?”
The parable demonstrates that while Samaritans are willing to help a Jew in need, the Jews, including this lawyer, will never do that for Samaritans whom they despise as unholy. When Jesus asks, “Which of these three . . . was a neighbor to the man who fell in the hands of the robber?” and the lawyer’s responds, “The one who had mercy on him” (i.e., the Samaritan), that is a self-admission of guilt: If being a neighbor means having mercy on anyone who is in need of it—regardless of whether he belongs to my tribe or not, then I haven’t kept all of God’s laws because I have not loved the Samaritans.
At no point does Jesus actually give him the gospel. When Jesus says, “Do this and you will live” (28), He shows that that path never works because “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). Since the lawyer has broken at least one law, which makes him a sinner, the reason why he cannot have assurance of eternal life is because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
Now that “through the law [the lawyer has] become conscious of sin” (3:20), he is ready to hear and then respond to the gospel: Jesus Christ, who “bore our sins” (1 Pet. 2:24), “died for all” (Rom. 5:15), and . . . by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31). If you haven’t made that decision, believe the gospel today; if you already have, then have mercy on someone of other tribe today.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 44