“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 neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a question from a Jewish lawyer. This lawyer was not like modern lawyers: he was an expert in the law of Moses, the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. It was his job to interpret the law and guide others who had questions about it in relation to their lives. He asked Jesus that one question that is on the minds of many, then as now “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”
Often people ask this with a genuine desire to learn the truth, but not this lawyer. He asked this question to test Jesus, to try to trick Him into saying something incriminating. The lawyer was a legalist. He thought salvation, the way to eternal life was a matter of was a matter of works, performing religious deeds.
Jesus, like any good teacher, turned the question back on the man. The lawyer cited Deuteronomy 6:5 concerning the love of God, and Leviticus 19:18 regarding love of one’s neighbor. Jesus commended the lawyer’s answer, for it is true: if we want to enter into eternal life we must love God with our entire being. We must dedicate every aspect of our lives to serving him. We are to hold back nothing.
For sinners who lack faith and the Holy Spirit, this is impossible. No one can enter eternal life, because no one can follow God’s law perfectly. But this lawyer thought this was doable. To him, loving God was a matter of external religious actions for he thought love had limits. He had only to love just enough to fulfill his obligation. So he asked a 2nd question. He was looking for a loophole, for a limit to his obligation. How much loving does he have to do? The Jews of Jesus’ day believed that they were obliged to love and show mercy only to other Jews.
Jesus taught that love is boundless. It flows freely from a heart and lifestyle filled with humility, compassion and mercy. This love is exemplified by the Samaritan. He placed compassion before everything else: prejudice, safety, his time, his energy and his money. He loved someone who he did not know, who most likely hated him just because of his nationality. He didn’t care. He saw the need and went out of his way to help. Jesus wants us to do the same.