Getting the answer right

Week beginning: 13th January, 2019 | By Janys Scott | Scottish Borders

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, …

Then Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and asked:

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.'

Luke 10:25-37 (NRSVA)

The lawyer in this passage does not get a good press. He thought he could cross-examine Jesus. And inevitably he received more than he bargained for when he stood up and asked his questions.

He was told the story of the good Samaritan, the man from a despised and rejected community, regarded by all good colleagues of the lawyer as unclean and uncouth, yet a man who rescued a badly injured Jew, when two supposedly upright men from the Jewish community had passed by on the other side of the road.

Note that this story was Jesus' answer to the question "…who is my neighbour?". The neighbour to be loved was the outcast who had come and shown God's mercy. Not the expected answer. And an answer we can sometimes miss.

If inheriting eternal life was conditional on loving such a neighbour then the lawyer was going to be in difficulty. Neither he, nor we, of ourselves will satisfy the imperative of love, particularly when the neighbour, however merciful, is despised, rejected, unclean or uncouth.

In the end we need the mercy of the ultimate neighbour, Jesus himself, despised and rejected, dying as a criminal on a cross to save us.

And now we ourselves, in gratitude, must be prepared to be the instruments of God's kindness and thus a neighbour.

Prayer Points:

1. Give thanks for Jesus, who was despised and rejected in order that we might be rescued and receive the mercy of God.
2. Pray for the insight to see and receive the mercy of God, the grace to love those through whom we receive His mercy and the power to be instruments of His mercy to others.