“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 10:36-37
How do you see yourself? Do you think you stand above the common crowd of sinful people? Do you find that when you compare your life to the way other people live, you believe that your behavior is better, perhaps more God-pleasing? Do you confess that you need a Savior from your sins or do you already stand convinced that you good enough for God?
An expert in the law of Israel approached Jesus. He considered himself superior to others. He believed he had already kept the greater part of God’s law – loving God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind. He wanted Jesus to confirm that he had also loved his neighbor as God required.
So he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Who would help the man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead? A Jewish priest? A Jewish Levite? That’s what could be expected from those religious leaders, but instead they passed by the needy man. The one who did stop to help was a foreigner; he was a Samaritan who mercifully and lovingly provided for the stranger who desperately needed help.
Jesus asked the expert to confirm that the Samaritan rather than the Jewish priest and Levite in the story had loved his neighbor. “Who was a neighbor?” Jesus asked. The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
“Go and do likewise,” Jesus concluded. The expert said nothing more. We don’t know if he fully understood Jesus’ teaching. Did he reflect upon the story to see his own sin, how he kept failing to love and help people, all people as God commanded? Did he return to Jesus later with a cry for mercy, “Lord, save me?”
What we don’t know about that man, we do know about ourselves. We have failed to love God and others perfectly as God demands, and for our sin we deserve God’s wrath and punishment. All our acts cannot save us, but Jesus’ work – not ours – has saved us. He loved God and all people according to the holiness God demanded of us. He loved us and gave his life as the sacrifice for all sinners to save us from the condemnation we deserve.
Because Jesus has loved us in this way, we are moved to love all other people and mercifully help them in their needs. In love for our Savior, we will heed his command, “Go and do likewise.”